Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving in the White House.

"Obama is more like a cold shower."
Maureen Dowd

"Whose side is Obama on?"
Steven Pearlstein - Washington Post

David Seaton's News Links
Disenchantment seems to have set in among the formerly enchanted.

Like mushrooms sprouting after a rain, all of a sudden dozens of articles have appeared from among some of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters criticizing  the president; not just his policies, but his personality too.

That is what interests me, the disappointed supporters, I don't pay much attention to the ultra-right frothing at the mouth; I only wish that Barack Obama was half the evil socialist that the teabaggers make him out to be. I am interested in this breaking of the spell and where it may lead.

I am surrounded by the formerly enchanted, most people I know, friends, family and the people I correspond with all belong to the enchanted. I, alas, having never been enchanted  have often felt like the poor little lame boy who could not run fast enough to follow the Pied Piper of Hamlin, when, as part of his debt collection policy, the piper took away all of Hamlin's children and left the wistful little cripple alone without his dear playmates.

So I am a bit at a loss to find so many of my old chums straggling back, apparently having weighed up the piper and found him somehow wanting.

I use the word "enchanted" and talk about "pipers" because since I don't fancy myself smarter than everybody else I feel that a spell has been cast on everyone and I have somehow been mysteriously spared from its mind-clouding effects

I am still where I started with Barack Obama. I still don't know who he is. Nearly a year has past and I still find him mysterious. His actions don't give me any more clues than his words do. Things don't fit, don't fall into place.

I tend to believe that the truth is just lying there staring you in the face most of the time and that it is very  difficult just to see the obvious. To counteract this I often practice the art of "what-you-see-is-what-you-gettism" to good effect. So using that method I have come to a tentative conclusion. Nothing fantastic, it's very simple and it goes like this.

Barack Obama, in my opinion, has an almost supernatural gift which enables people to project all their fantasies on him. The teabaggers think he is Lenin cum the anti-Christ and his supporters think of him as Lincoln cum the Christ-Christ. They all see and hear exactly the same things, but up till now, at least, they all see and hear what they want to: they, not Obama, do most of the real work.

This is the essence of Obama's magic: to be a screen on which one and all can write their dreams or nightmares. Or like the clouds which seem to take shapes that different people see differently.

If we removed Obama's fabulous "gift" for a moment and imagined the same actions taken by a president without it, we would simply see a three year US senator, who spent most of that time running for president, someone who did a bit of time in a state senate, someone who, except for having lived abroad as a child, has no particular experience in foreign affairs, who has never managed any organization before in his life, who has never even worked as a junior executive in any large organizations before, whose staff is a pick-up team of individuals that come from previous administrations, not people he has discovered in long years in public office, with even the men closest to him, Axelrod and Emmanuel on loan from Chicago's Mayor Daley.

So just imagine the same presidency without the "gift".

Without the "gift", his indecisiveness and ineffectual stumbling from "historic" speech to "historic" speech with nothing achieved between speeches would be seen as perfectly normal. What would you expect?

Of course reality being as inconveniently obtrusive as it is, even the "gift" is not enough.

It doesn't surprise me that people of the left are waking up, they are supposed to be smart. I am waiting for the right to wake up too and realize that their nightmares are no more likely to materialize than the liberal's dreams. That might get him reelected.

I wonder when Obama himself will wake up. Maybe he has, maybe that is why the charm seems to be breaking. DS


Mike Doyle said...

But isn't it just a variation on the same old story? Meet the new boss - same as the old boss.

The difference this time was that a majority in the middle and to their left were desperate to see the back of the Bush gang who had so betrayed our precious American values. And among the 'vetted' serious candidates that we were allowed to consider was a particularly well packaged and very smooth talking empty signifier who promised change we could believe in.

But those who knew Obama from his community organizer days were not impressed; e.g. Adolph Reed (Prof Poly Sci, UPenn): "He's a vacuous opportunist. I’ve never been an Obama supporter. I’ve known him since the very beginning of his political career, which was his campaign for the seat in my state senate district in Chicago. ..." And similar from Paul Street et al. at BlackAgendaReport: "Barack Obama and The Audacity of Deception: The Manufacture of Progressive Illusion" Dec 2007.

But it's hard to imagine that anything other than an opportunist & empty signifier could get past the gatekeepers at AIPAC, Council for Foreign Relations, and Wall St to become a 'serious' candidate for POTUS. e.g. L. Shoup "Stunning aspirations of ruling class elections in the US" - Zmag (2008).

What is different this time, which I think is your point, is that we (the bottom 90% of the citizenry) are, through the internet, better equipped to see through the PR fog and recognize the scam. Witness the problems they're having in pushing thru the healthcare 'reform' bill.

Looking at the socioeconomic pyramid, the ruling class likes to keep the dividing battleline vertical- between left and right (RW patriots vs liberal traitors, guns, God and abortion). This prevents us from seeing the real dividing line which is horizontal: the 1% on top and the rest struggling below.

Forensic economist said...

It isn't on the web yet, but the print edition of Rolling Stone has a feature article by Matt Taibbi titled "Obama's Sell Out." The cartoon at the front of it pictures him drinking champagne with top hatted pigs while homeless people outside the window warm themselves with burning "Yes We Can" posters. The disenchantment is here.

I am not surprised at the economic policies and foreign policy continuation of the prior administration. I am surprised at the lack of restoration of civil liberties - he still uses signing statements, he has not stopped "extraordinary renditions" (ie kidnapping), he has not rolled back warrantless wiretapping. I thought we were getting Bill Clinton again. It looks more like George W Bush but with more style.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

"Bush with more style"
You've nailed it there.

Anonymous said...

Isn't "empty signifier" just another fantasy being projected on him?

The circularity of the argument demonstrates that this analysis is not that useful.

The truth is that this presidency inherited a situation of almost unprecedented toxicity.

Instead of feeling "disenchanted" and "betrayed" why isn't the Left organising to drown out the teabaggers and push for the change it DOES believe in?

Stephanie said...

'Isn't "empty signifier" just another fantasy being projected on him?'

Odd kind of fantasy. Those of us who worried during the election season that Obama was an inexperienced empty suit about which we knew almost nothing except what he had chosen to tell us didn't actually want to see him that way. I'm still hoping at least part of this assessment is wrong and he's not an empty suit.