Monday, August 24, 2009

Reality Politics

Ross Douthat, NYT's new conservative columnist, has a very insightful column today on President Obama, the Democratic Party, the progressives/liberals, and the national media. Example:

Throughout the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama’s most loyal constituencies were
the national press corps and the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Those on the left loved him because they thought he was one of them. They
tolerated all the happy talk about bipartisanship because they were sure that
deep in his community-organizing heart Obama shared their premises, their
passions and their goals.

The media loved him because he was a great story and a great
campaigner. The press favors dreamy liberals, but it worships success, and Obama
was the best of both worlds — a soaring rhetorician with a ruthlessly competent
political machine.

But now both groups are turning on him. As the health care debate
enters its decisive weeks, the left doubts President Obama’s commitment, and the
press doubts his competence.

These are spot-on observations. Most progressives did love Obama, and thought he was a progressive. I loved him (and love him still, in a certain kind of way), but I was always skeptical of his progressivism. I thought him more a centrist economically and internationally, but still wanted to believe him to be a progressive. So when he began to act as a neo-liberal centrist from Day One, with almost all his appointments, I was horrified but not really surprised.

Interestingly, those of the true Left (like Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch) had Obama's number from the beginning. They pegged him for what he has turned out to be, a neo-liberal Clintonian centrist, with more than a touch of self-serving megalomania. (Note his wide-eyed love of 'Airforce One'.) And they warned everyone about it, but few were heeding their warnings. Most of us were thinking wishfully, hoping that he was truly a progressive or an American social democrat, and not a corporate capitalist and neo-liberal, neo-globalist internationalist.

And Douthat's view of the Democrats is accurate too. It is, unlike the Republican Party, a truly coalition party, made up of progressives, centrists, neo-liberals, a few neo-conservatives, and probably a bunch of non-ideological pragmatics who are in it mostly for themselves.

Given this makeup, the resulting laws on health care passed by a Democratic majority will not be progressive at all, but a blended mishmash of political compromises that will turn out to be just like our current health care system--too expensive because they are serving the corporations and not the people, and not universally applicable because that would be, um, too expensive and too intrusive on people's 'freedom'. Terrific.

Make way for a return of the Republicans to power in 2012. To be followed in 2016 by President (Hillary) Clinton. (How's that for a prediction!)

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