Monday, November 08, 2010

Democrat for a Day

Peter Daou has a blistering post up today, On 60 Minutes, President Obama apologizes to America for being a Democrat. On the whole, the most shocking thing about this post is how little analysis Peter has to put in on it. Most of it is Obama digging himself in deeper and deeper. It was so cringe worthy I had to force myself to keep reading. Most damning to me was this:
“I think that what happened over the course of two years was that we had to take a series of big, emergency steps quickly. And most of them in the first six months of my administration. Each of them had a big price tag. You got intervention in the banks. You’ve got the auto bailout. You’ve got a stimulus package. Each one with a lot of zeroes behind it. And people looked at that and they said, “Boy, this feels as if there’s a huge expansion of government.”

“But necessity created circumstances in which I think the Republicans were able to paint my governing philosophy as a classic, traditional, big government liberal. And that’s not something that the American people want. I mean, you know, particularly independents in this country.”
Actually, history has shown that Americans precisely like classic, traditional, big government liberals, and voted you in thinking you would be one, Precious.

I agree with pretty much with what Peter says in his commentary, but I differ in my final judgment. I think that most of what Daou says about Obama is better applied to the Congressional Democrats - namely that they are too timid to seize and use power with the same verve and ruthlessness that their opponents will be doing in the weeks to come. Like Krugman, Peter sees lack of conviction and/or lack of nerve as the central problem.

Simply put, the party has failed to act like one. Losing moderates is not a bad thing in a political situation when one opponent is bat-shit crazy. You've got to move strongly away from that pole and then hang together, because power is at stake. In two years, strong liberals need to be running for those moderate seats. Yes, they may very well lose, but unless you want to camp out with the yellow stripes and dead armadillos, you'll gain nothing by swerving right. You did that and you constituents stayed home while the pissed off members of the other group went to the polls in sufficient numbers to hand you your indecisive asses.

Back to Obama.

VastLeft on Corrente has posted a criticism of Daou's analysis typical of many Obama skeptics, that Obama is governing according to his convictions, which are illiberal. The other major criticism of Obama is really more of a snark, and is that the guy doesn't have convictions. I agree with VL that Obama is not merely drifting or being timid and that he is doing what he wants to do. I don't think he has any driving political passion, vision or philosophy, which is different than saying he doesn't have convictions. His convictions just aren't political in nature.

His convictions, like those of his adherents, are moralistic, even punitive. As The Precious himself says:
“It’s not just a matter of how many bills I’m passing, no matter how worthy they are. Part of it’s also setting a tone in Washington and for the rest of the country that says, “We’re responsible. We’re transparent. We’re open. We’re talking to each other. We’re civil.” You know?”
Yes, sweetie, we know how civil you are to the people who are planning to impeach you. What he does get worked up about are charter schools where you can throw out the under-performing (teachers and students alike). He gets worked up about people being bitter and clinging to guns and God. He lectures parents who feed their kids fried chicken. He doesn't like pushy women or insistent blue-collar workers. He really doesn't like being told he isn't doing enough. He shares with Whole Foods Nation a fascination with dictating the details of ordinary human lives and finding fault with those of us who don't floss regularly, fail to eat brown rice instead of white, and don't shop locally for organic produce picked under a pale moon by warbling elves. The punitive measures he likes are those aimed at individuals, not institutions.

Where I differ from Daou is I think that Peter has put the cart before the donkey. Obama's fundamental conviction, and perhaps his only semi-political conviction, is that he does not believe in government's ability to do good. He replaces the wishes of the public that elected him with his own desires - that he isn't going to have a classic, traditional big government administration when their explicit desire is to experience a return to that classic government form. Notice how three of the big spending plans he identifies in the first paragraph above are bailouts of corporate entities, not classic spending on social programs or public works. Even the third plan, the stimulus spending, was a drop in the bucket compared to the size of previous Democratic endeavors.

He is not apologizing for being a Democrat. He is griping that people are calling him one when he has made clear he wants none of it. That is not his tribe. It is not so much a lack of conviction as a mismatch between the party and the politician. In all of his campaigns, in all of his sales brochures, whenever he has spoken about himself, he has disavowed his connections to the governing philosophy of the Democratic Party, again and again praising the opposition for their anti-government, anti-democratic principles. His current apologists should have believed what he said way back when.

He only ever wanted to be a Democrat for a day, election day.



Anonymous said...

Someone once said that the secret to Obama's success isn't that when he lies his supporters believe him. It's that when he tells the truth they don't.

Koshem Bos said...

From the beginning, I had a more primitive/simplistic view of Obama. My view doesn't contradict Daou's or your views of him. I may serve as appendix.

Obama lost all his debates with Hillary without her working too hard. In my book, Obama is simply not very intelligent. Talking smartly is not a sign of intelligence. Comparing him to Big Dog is a joke.

Obama has never done anything, apart from study, before becoming president. As a result, his value system is limited and parochial. He has never dealt with any serious level of politicking. His simplistic views are that politics=compromise. The isolation of the presidency did help. Compare to Big Dog who is always open, sometimes too much.

He sat on Rev. Wright with comfort neither accepting Wright's view nor rejecting them. Morally he is was nonstick; came through one ear and came out from the other. Low caloric morality; he just stays in shape. (Several of his secretaries are friends from the basketball court.)

He became a Democrat not out of conviction, a moral stand, admiration to larger than life Democrats such as FDR, being a liberal. He was black and that was a reasonable solution; alternatives were worse. I don't believe that he had a sufficiently developed sense of conviction to even understand fully what liberalism means.

What we have is Bush who grow up in Illinois without oil rigs and a better intelligence.

A little night musing said...

I think you have it that Obama wants none of being "accused", so to speak, of being a Democrat. I was appalled at the number of references to "bipartisanship" he made during this interview. Appalled, but not (alas) surprised.

We are in desperate need of bold action, and we get...

Alessandro Machi said...

Barack Obama is afflicted with Munchausen's disease. If the money doesn't first go through his hands, so he can literally see it enter and exit his hands to the causes of his choice, he believes he's not governing or leading, that is how he thinks, and its killing the democratic party.

Bob Harrison said...

You and all the commenters and Daou are correct. Obama is a Republican in Democratic clothes. I don't know what he'll have to do to convince people that he is in fact George Bush.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he has any convictions whatsoever, other than to serve his own ego. True, as Anglachel mentioned, he shares the Whole Foods nation's disgust with fat people who don't eat "right" and so on. But that is more of a prejudice than a conviction. He is prejudiced, the way a lot of the so-called "liberal" elite is, against anyone and anything and anyplace not their own. Religous people are stupid. Blue collar people are stupid. People who are into guns are stupid. People from the South, small towns, and rural areas are stupid. And so on.

Obama is a guy who is faking his own ethnicity/race. He consciously (and cynically, in my view) adopted an identiy (African American) that is not his own (not by birth, upbringing, culture, environment, etc.) in his twenties, after he had already graduated from college and was a grown man. Join a Black church, marry a Black woman, live (however briefly) in a Black neighborhood. Fake a Black accent when convenient. Obama is not a Christian either. No, he's not a Muslim. Most likely, he's an atheist. He joined Wright's church for political reasons, after having been raised by agnostics/atheists his whole life and never showing any interest in religion. He seems to hardly have paid any attention to what was preached at that church. Then he dropped it for equally political reasons, when he had already sold the notion that he was "African American" and now needed to appeal to white people. Notice, he did so only after the last of the Southern primaries, after stealing the Black vote from Hillary had already been accomplished. Since then, he has not shown his face in a church. And, of course, the statement about the bitter folks who cling to God. Mind you, I'm an atheist myself, and see nothing whatsover that is "wrong with" being one. But it's not good for electoral politicians, so Obama hides it. And does so in a particularly sanctimonious way.

Anonymous said...

Obama is not "from Chicago" either. He is either from Hawaii, or he isn't from anywhere (like an Army "brat"). Obama never laid eyes on Chicago until his mid twenties, after he graduated from college and had already lived half of his life, to date. After that, he spent 3 three years in Cambridge going to Harvard law school, and spent a good deal of the rest of his time in Springfield and Washington (as a State and then a US Senator) and on the road (hawking his books, giving speeches, lining up super delegates, etc.). He hates the cold. He is clearly a bi coastal guy (he loves the beach) who, other than for reasons of expediency, has no reason to go to Chicago. We can go on and on....a "civil rights lawyer" who never argued (never mind won) an important civil rights case, a "Constitutional scholar" who never wrote an academic or scholarly article or book about any legal or constitutional topic, or any other topic for that matter.

What does this all add up to? A guy with astounding ambition, the drive to achieve his goals, and a certain amount of intellect and cunning. I don't believe his is stupid. He knows how to use multisyllabic words, and can study for and pass academic tests. And he is craftly and clever and has an eye for the main chance.

But he doesn't stand for anything, other than his own self. That's what really fires him up...talking and writing and obsessing about himself and his supposedly "inspiring" life story. Everything else is simply a means to an end. As has been said, he's a Democrat simply because that was the most logical route for him to take his political career. He's an "Africa American," a "Christian" and a "Chicagoan" for the same reasons. He doesn't have the conviction to write down anything more controversial than a self glorifying account of his own life, to such an extent that he wouldn't even write an academic article. His "great" speeches, when you right down to it, are full of empty puffery, high sounding but meaningless phrases, conventional wisdom, and platitudes. All trimming and no tree.

Obama set out to build a persona and a resume that would take him to the top, and do it quickly. He created a false racial, religous, geographic and political backgroud for himself. He did just enough to "earn" the labels of Harvard Law Review editor, U of Chicago law "professor," and "civil rights lawyer." Just enough to have a formal claim on these titles, without doing anything of substance to really deserve them. To do more would have been boring to him, and, more importantly, a waste of his time and effort. Once a ------ (fill in the blank), always a -----. No one will notice or care that he didn't really do the hard spade work that those titles imply.

So, no, his "convictions" are not liberal or even Democratic. He's not a liberal, but he's not really a moderate or a conservative either. He was whatever he had to be to become President. And he will do whatever he has to do win another term. Because losing would mark him as a failure, not because there is any substantive policy he wants to see enacted. He was all things to all people in 2008. Now, he'll probably try to appear as just moderate enough to paint the GOP as crazy, and to do the absolute minimum required to hold on to enough of the liberal base.

With Obama, it's not really about the money. His financial future, and that of his family, is assured. The books alone that he will inevitably write will ensure that. Nor is it power that he seeks. I don't think he "gets off" on pushing people around. No, what he wants is endless fame and adulation. He wants to tell his "life story" over and over again and have people swoon over him. That's his only ambition, thats his "conviction." All ego, all the time.

CoyoteCreek said...

Bob: maybe this will help convince people...

Anonymous said...

His supporters were all Republicans in Dem clothes. Voracious consumers, haters of women's rights, corporate shills ...

There are two kinds of people in American politics: confident conservatives (Republicans), and insecure conservatives (Democrats). There is no such thing as a liberal.

Palomino said...

@ ruddyturnstone:

You wrote, "Obama is a guy who is faking his own ethnicity/race."

I agree that Obama doesn't share the same history of slavery and oppression that is typically an element of African American experience. At the same time, Obama's skin color alone, and his genetic makeup, would have been more than enough to make him a slave in the antebellum South. And if Obama were an anonymous citizen, his skin color alone would be more than enough to get him lynched in some precincts of this country. So I can't agree that Obama is "faking his race." Anyway, like Tillie Olson, I don't like the term "race." I'd rather just use the term "racism."

Anglachel said...


I won't be posting your latest comment. I understand the point you are making, but it is overly contentious and I don't want to referee that debate in my comment thread.

Please take the argument to your own blog. You may post a link in the comments.