Summary: The illness that cloud’s America’s mind and soul affects the entire political spectrum. So far center, left and right all point to others as the cause of our problems — all guilty of an inability to assume responsibility that prevents clear thinking about our problems and renders invisible most solutions. Perhaps Obama’s failures will give liberals a clarity of thought about their role in our political crisis.
During the Bush Jr. administration conservatives joked about massive deficits, increasing government power, open borders, and foreign wars — “This wouldn’t happen if we elected a Republican!” But other than a few whines, conservatives enthusiastically supported Bush Jr. America’s problems were attributed to the usual suspects: liberals, foreigners, etc.
Now the wheel turns, putting liberals on the spot. Their great hope, a blank slate on which they projected such grand dreams, has revealed himself to be a center-right president. No open ballots for union election, no carbon tax, no cap-and-trade, no single-payer national health insurance (bargained away for support of the health industry). Continuation of the Bush Jr economic and national security policies.
So far they’ve remained silent, whined quietly, or took refuge in delusions (e.g., Matthew Yglesias applauding the great liberal accomplishments of 2009-10). Only slowly have some admitted their mistake. As in this interview at Harper’s website with Roger D. Hodge, author of The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism. Of course, he shows no recognition of liberals’ responsibility for electing President Bush-lite. Perhaps in 2011 they’ll admit this. Until then liberals will, in general, remain pawns of their rich sponsors (as are conservatives).
Like Bill Clinton, Obama often prefers to solve his difficulties by means of redefinition. He promised to close the concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay and then sought to keep his promise by moving prisoners into other facilities where they would continue to be detained indefinitely, thus preserving the doctrine that made Guantánamo objectionable in the first place. He has declared an end to the war in Iraq by redefining the mission of the 50,000 troops who remain there. Yet the war continues, our soldiers fight and die, and Iraq still lacks a functioning government.
We’ve seen much the same thing with ObamaCare. As with the Iraq War, Obama has merely redefined the mission. Far from being the universal health-care system that the country needs, Obama’s health program is best understood as a bailout of the private health industry that seeks to guarantee some 30 million additional customers for insurance companies and continued obscene profits for large drug manufacturers. The paradox here is that in a system aiming at universal coverage, the actuarial role of insurance companies, which is to determine the precise odds of paying unprofitable claims on a given class of customers, has become obsolete. Although the law contains some praiseworthy measures, for the most part it merely entrenches our system’s most irrational elements.
Meanwhile, having squandered all his political capital in passing the health bill, Obama stands helpless as the economy begins to shrink once again and unemployment remains painfully high. The Democrats now have little hope of passing vitally needed additional stimulus measures, and anger over the health bill appears to be a strong factor in the current Republican resurgence. If an average citizen loses his job tomorrow, there’s a good chance he’ll have to decide whether to give up health insurance or default on the mortgage, and yet partisan Democrats and policy technocrats can’t understand why Americans aren’t more grateful for their efforts.
For more information
See the FM reference page Obama, his administration and policies.
A few post about Obama from before the inauguration (it was obvious what we were getting):
- Obama would prove a poor president, 26 February 2008 — As our problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern.
- A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012, 1 March 2008 — What is next in Iraq? None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future. Obama has been quite explicit about his plans.
- Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay, 3 March 2008 — We elect leaders with vast ambitions, but can no longer afford them.
- How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents?, 21 March 2008 — The 7th year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being what nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Obama.
- Is Obama running for the office of Chief Shaman?, 6 June 2008 — Weirdness from our next President.
- America gets ready for new leadership (or is it back to the future?), 14 November 2008