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. He struck me then as a vacuous opportunist, a good performer with an ear for how to make white liberals like him. I argued at the time that his fundamental political center of gravity, beneath an empty rhetoric of hope and change and new directions, is neoliberal.
His political repertoire has always included the repugnant stratagem of using connection with black audiences in exactly the same way Bill Clinton did—i.e., getting props both for emoting with the black crowd and talking through them to affirm a victim-blaming “tough love” message that focuses on alleged behavioral pathologies in poor black communities. Because he’s able to claim racial insider standing, he actually goes beyond Clinton and rehearses the scurrilous and ridiculous sort of narrative Bill Cosby has made infamous.
It may be instructive to look at the outfit where he did his “community organizing,” the invocation of which makes so many lefties go weak in the knees. My understanding of the group, Developing Communities Project, at the time was that it was simply a church-based social service agency. What he pushed as his main political credential then, to an audience generally familiar with that organization, was his role in a youth-oriented voter registration drive.
The Obama campaign has even put out a misleading bio of Michelle Obama, representing her as having grown up in poverty on the South Side, when, in fact, her parents were city workers, and her father was a Daley machine precinct captain. This fabrication, along with those embroideries of the candidate’s own biography, may be standard fare, the typical log cabin narrative. However, in Obama’s case, the license taken not only underscores Obama’s more complex relationship to insider politics in Daley’s Chicago; it also underscores how much this campaign depends on selling an image rather than substance.
There is also something disturbingly ritualistic and superficial in the Obama camp’s young minions’ enthusiasm. Paul Krugman noted months ago that the Obamistas display a cultish quality in the sense that they treat others’ criticism or failure to support their icon as a character flaw or sin. The campaign even has a stock conversion narrative, which has been recycled in print by such normally clear-headed columnists as Barbara Ehrenreich and Katha Pollitt: the middle-aged white woman’s report of not having paid much attention to Obama early on, but having been won over by the enthusiasm and energy of their adolescent or twenty-something daughters. (A colleague recently reported having heard this narrative from a friend, citing the latter’s conversion at the hands of her eighteen year old. I observed that three short years ago the daughter was likely acting the same way about Britney Spears.)
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Buyer's remorse - "progressive" style
From The Progressive