Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reality check

Those who think that they have just voted to legalize Utopia (and I hardly exaggerate when I say this; have you been reading the moist and trusting comments of our commentariat?) are preparing for a disillusionment that I very much doubt they will blame on themselves. The national Treasury is an echoing, empty vault; our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation of Bush-Cheney; the lines of jobless and evicted are going to lengthen, and I don't think a diet of hope is going to cover it. Nor even a diet of audacity, though can you picture anything less audacious than the gray, safety-first figures who have so far been chosen by Obama to be on his team? (...) In other words, there is something pain-free and self-congratulatory about the Obama surge. This has happened before, of course, with the high-sounding talk about the "New Frontier," the "Great Society," and "Morning in America." It's just that this time it's more than usually not affordable. There are many causes of the subprime and derivative horror show that has destroyed our trust in the idea of credit, but one way of defining it would be to say that everybody was promised everything, and almost everybody fell for the populist bait. Christopher Hitchens - Slate
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There are many who still believe that history is made from the biographies of "great men", when in fact political reality is the product of the interacting forces generated by the natural conflict of interests of the sum total of the world's inhabitants who press against each other individually and collectively in their struggle to obtain some acceptable result... Some groups, notably the wealthy and the powerful press more than others, but the total interaction is infinitely complex and individuals have little effect on its outcome.

For a long time, many of the most scientific political thinkers were sure that the synthesis of all these conflicts would lead inevitably to a result that would benefit humanity and so the process was called "progress". Today most would agree that we are moving somewhere, but nobody knows really where, and almost no one thinks that we will ever "arrive", or if we did that we would be much pleased with the result.

We are talking about a process.

Truly no man or woman or woman living is above or outside this process.

Barack Obama is a product of the same social and political process that produced and elected Eisenhower (To go back any further than Eisenhower, before the days of television is to engage in political archaeology), JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H. W. Bush, Clinton and... has elected and reelected, George W. Bush.

Many seem to feel that Barack Obama has been anointed more than elected and that he is somehow absolved of the same law of gravity that weighed upon his predecessors, illustrious and otherwise.

The major difference between Obama and his predecessors is not his color or his intelligence, it is the greatly diminished power that he will inherit.

Just as it is a very different thing to be the CEO of General Motors today then it was when "Engine Charlie" Wilson declared that what was "good for General Motors is good for the USA" (and by extension the world) so it too is a very different thing to be President of the USA today then it was in the Reagan period.

It’s another world.

At the end of WWII the United States was “the last man standing”.

At the end of the Cold War, the USA was the unquestioned hegemon.

That has all changed.

Not only is the USA now flat broke, its only unquestioned superiority, its massive military power, is proving ineffective in producing favorable and predictable outcomes.

Another massive change is that the Anglo-American version of capitalism is being seriously questioned, this, in economic terms, is as if Pope Benedict had hung out a “gone fishin’” sign on Saint Peter's, a great vacuum exists where recently there stood a temple of legitimacy.

Everyone around the world is pleased thst Obama, right down to his color, is nothing like Bush, but that doesn't mean that the hard men and women who manage things are so pleased that they will forget for a moment what their objectives are: nor will the stream of events open like the waters of the Red Sea to Obama's "soft power".

I think everything will be sweetness and light with Obama exactly until - and not one moment longer - he tries to show “leadership”: meaning trying to push people to go where they don’t want to go.

At that moment he will be just one more president of a bankrupt USA that loses wars and destroys shareholder value. DS


forensic economist said...

Comments on the election:

55% of white people voted for a hillbilly over a black constitutional law professor. This was actually about the same percentage of whites who voted for Bush in 2004. This time, many more non-whites voted, and voted for the democrat.

1. There are a lot of rednecks in America.
2. Slowly but surely, the percentage of non-whites is growing.
3. The Republican party was never going to get the black vote. By appealing to the redneck "base" it threw away the Latino and Asian vote as well.

Other thought: the newly registered black voters in California voted for Prop 8, against gay marriage. Obama's supporter are not united on what is generally perceived to be the "liberal" side of issues.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

California's prop 8 is the giveaway on how fragile this victory was and how difficult it is to read or administer.

Philip said...

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

"California's prop 8 is the giveaway on how fragile this victory was and how difficult it is to read or administer."

David, as usual you are spot-on with this observation. This was my thought as well.

I always said that I might give up my expat status if democracy was ever restored to the U.S.

I am not packing.

I was thrilled (and wept) for the symbolic victory of a person of color being elected to the nation's highest office.

However, I believe that Mr. Obama is a blank slate upon which multitudes have chalked their personal fantasies (most of which are probably directly in conflict with each other).

As you have pointed out frequently and eloquently, we have no idea who this man really is. We have just rolled a giant pair of dice. So all I can say is: "C'mon...Daddy needs a new pair of shoes".

Absent Lady Luck, I think we have met the undertaker.

Buenos Aires

Stephanie said...

"55% of white people voted for a hillbilly over a black constitutional law professor."

Um, I think the top of the GOP ticket might have had something to do with it, too.

The vote on Proposition 8 showed a real divide in the Democratic ranks but the GOP can't take immediate advantage. African Americans are lost to them (of course, they always were). I think they can get back some of Bush’s Latino voters with the right candidate and the right message but I leave it to the GOP to figure out how.

RC said...

As I have long opined, an Obama Presidency offers plenty of entertainment value. And with January 20 still a long way off, the show has already begun.
For starters, the economic dance troupe seems like it is doomed to accomplish even less than the Paulson Pals have. But, I am willing to wait until about Easter to see if anyone in the new administration lifts the shroud on the American Economy corpse and finally admits that the poor thing is "daid" and stinks to high heaven, and no amount of lucky billions will revive it. If that happens, well, maybe there will be some new tricks in Washington -- if not, for the US citizens it may be time to apply the labia to the glutei and bid adieu.
Yet, near as I can tell, the economic monster is still Georgie's
pet until January 20.
Let's not start getting ahead of ourselves.
And as for reasons to not vote for a Republican this year, there were Oh So Many.
Again, the Obama economic team has to cut to the chase and deal with the derivative filth, but I very much doubt they will.

Marcy said...

Thought of you when I read this in Chris Hedges' recent piece at Truthdig:
"The core values of our open society, the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense indicate something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to understand historical facts, to separate truth from lies, to advocate for change and to acknowledge that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable, are dying. Obama used hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign funds to appeal to and manipulate this illiteracy and irrationalism to his advantage, but these forces will prove to be his most deadly nemesis once they collide with the awful reality that awaits us."