Archive for October 26, 2017

The Obama Presidency was a Disaster for Establishment Democrats: 3

October 26, 2017 2 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about why electoral success of Obama in 2008 and 2012 presidential elections did not translate into gains for the democratic party at either the national or state level in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. To make a long story short, Obama’s electoral success was largely due to the fact that the republicans candidates in both elections had way more negative baggage than him. Also, Obama’s presidency was reasonably free of personal scandals and outright PR disasters, such as those which plagued the previous two presidents.

As I have documented in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, a number of things which were allowed to occur (legalized impoverishment of black families, greatly increased enforcement against undocumented hispanic immigrants, continued hollowing out of the 99% through more “free trade” treaties) or not allowed to occur (transition to single-payer health care system, any real reform of the banking and financial sector) show us that his presidency was about furthering the interests of neoliberal establishment types who financed his rise to power. As I have mentioned in a previous post of this series, Obama44 is best understood as the more media-savvy and black version of Reagan40.

Obama worked to further the interests of the neoliberal establishment and their “professional” flunkies while pretending to be in “touch with the common people”. While it was plainly obvious that he was a neoliberal shill as far back as 2004, many chose to believe otherwise. The especially disastrous second term of Bush43 and financial crisis of 2008 had left people desperately seeking a modern-day messiah who would finally ‘reset’ the system. It certainly helped that his main opponent in the democratic primary (Hillary Clinton) and presidential election (John McCain) simply did not look like they could effect change.

The decisions made by Obama mentioned in the first two parts of this series, from ignoring the needs and concerns of black and hispanic voters to blocking progress towards universal single-payer healthcare and promoting “free trade” policies, damaged the democratic party by reducing enthusiasm and turnout of predominantly democratic voters. However, there was another category of.. shall we call them.. “social trends” which occurred when Obama was president that may have further damaged the cause of establishment democrats. I have sorta talked about issue in a standalone post from a few months ago.

To recapitulate, the main point I made in that post was as follows: elite support for fringe cultural and identity based movements under the guise of promoting social justice is a way to distract the 99% from talking about systemic socio-economic exploitation while simultaneously feeling morally superior to them. But what does the rise of elite support for fake social justice have to do with the Obama presidency? Isn’t most of the rise of such pseudo-activism related to generational changes in the worldview of people? The answer to that is a bit complicated.

There is no doubt that some changes in social norms are generational. Examples include support for gay marriage, marijuana legalization, inter-racial dating and marriage, single payer healthcare etc. Readers might have noticed that these widely accepted generational changes are about greater fairness, equality and rationality. In other words, the most broadly popular generational changes in worldview are about more rights for more people and more humane treatment of other people. Their broad popularity is, therefore, hardly surprising.

Now contrast that with far less popular changes such as censoring idiots (campus activism against right-wing provocateurs), agitating on fringe issues few care about (ambiguous sexual identity in children) or empty political activism to become a paid spokesperson for some cause which most people do not care about (gamergate controversy and ‘woke’ feminism). The biggest difference between the very broadly popular generational changes and the largely unpopular ones is the later, rather than the former, have far more corporate and media support. But why?

Well.. as I mentioned in that standalone post, supporting attention grabbing fringe “social justice” causes allow corporations to feign social responsibility while providing cover for continued exploitation of everybody else. It just so happens that democratic establishment went full-bore in that direction after 2008. To be clear, Obama is not the only reason for establishment democrats supporting attention grabbing pseudo “social justice” causes. The neoliberal credentialed “professional” class being their second most important class of supporters was definitely an important contributing factor.

Having said that, there is no doubt that the peculiar public relation style of Obama was widely copied by other establishment democrats because it was seen as successful and respectable. And what was that style about.. Short answer, it was almost completely about perceived style and image management over substance and actions. Readers might have noticed that many positive media stories about Obama were about him meeting and acting nice towards people disadvantaged in a ridiculously uncommon but attention grabbing manner. You might also remember that Twitter, FaceBook and popular listicle sites used to have daily stories about Obama meeting some disadvantaged or ill person almost every single day since 2010.

It is my opinion that many establishment types in his party saw that type of fake behavior and subsequent positive MSM coverage as key to winning elections- especially after he won re-election in 2012. The fact that they had no real progressive socio-economic message for voters made them double down on that strategy. The net result was that establishment democrats put an inordinate amounts of effort in publicly supporting causes which bolstered their pseudo-enlightened image but were not popular. Doing so also allowed them to ignore truly popular causes such as raising the minimum wage, implementing single-payer healthcare, reigning in corporate monopolies etc.

They assumed that portraying themselves as more enlightened and credentialed republicans combined with inevitable demographic changes would help them become the permanent ruling party without having to support real progressive causes. They assumed that all those non-white voters would just vote for them in even larger numbers than previous elections- because they had no options. It turns out that many, if not all, their major assumptions were wrong and they lost the presidential election to a second-rate reality TV star, could not win back the house or senate and not win back almost any of the over 1,000 seats they have lost in state legislatures since 2009.

What do you think? Comments?