Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wishful Thinking

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama was the Rorschach candidate -- what people saw in him depended more on their hopes than on what was actually there; and after eight years of Dick Cheney and George Bush there was a lot of pent up hope in the land. Obama took full advantage of it and won handily. Then, slowly but inexorably, came the crash. By the end of the summer, disillusionment was already a mighty force. If, as expected, Obama announces a major escalation of the Afghanistan War next week, expect disillusionment to be triumphant; expect all but the last redoubts of Obamamania to fall. In just a year after that Grant Park moment, Obama will have succeeded in disappointing nearly everyone; even those of us who never expected much. There are exceptions, of course; they can be found on Wall Street, in the military, and in the board rooms of corporations engaged in health care profiteering, environmental degradation and similarly nefarious exercises of business as usual.

To be sure, Obama is still better than Bush – much better. But Democrats know they cannot pin their hopes for the 2010 and 2012 elections on that; not in what Gore Vidal calls the United States of Amnesia. That’s why the wishful thinkers have transferred their hopes from Obama himself to such cartoonish characters as Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Lou Dobbs. If only these worse than Bush GOP “leaders” will run, baby, run! Or, failing that, if only they’ll do to “moderate” Republicans what Doug Hoffman did to Dede Scozzafava in up-state New York. Then, the “moderates” will stay with Obama, even if hardly anyone any longer believes it will do much good. Then, reduced to its base of misfits, losers and godly looney tunes, the GOP will effectively cede the election to its POP rival, the Party of Pusillanimity and now of Wall Street too.

Maybe, but don’t count on it. Like the idea that Obama would be an agent of change, this is wishful thinking. The lunatics now run the Republican asylum, but the more sophisticated pillars of American capitalism, the “malefactors of great wealth” who brought them on board, still have the resources to call them off and take their party back. With disillusionment in the erstwhile Rorschach candidate mounting, they won’t have to take very much of it back to win handily.

The question for progressives, though, if not for party functionaries is: why care? There is some reason – bad as things are with Pelosiites in power, a Republican controlled House and Senate would be worse. So, yes, by all means, lets hope Democrats win; lets even vote for them faute de mieux. But the main thing is what the lunatics do understand: that what really matters is not how many elections they win, but how much influence they have. Sarah Palin’s fans, few as they may be and oblivious as they are to the facts and to reason, have already had an enormous influence over policy; they have dragged the healthcare reform debate even farther to the right than it already was. Blue Dog Democrats in the House of Representatives and “moderate” (right-wing) Democratic Senators, not to mention Joe Lieberman, know this too. When will what passes for a left in the Lesser Evil Party catch on? If they don’t soon, forget about even the small “changes” that are still possible under Obama – as he capitulates far more than need be to the darkest forces of American capitalism, and as he takes over leadership of the Party of War.

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