Expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed

voting-paper-ballotsIf Arianna Huffington is too edgy for you, here’s Joan Walsh of Salon. She’s another tribune of presidential powerlessness. Once again the naive Obama critics harbor a foolish belief in a magical president. Once again Cornel West is name-checked, succumbing to “cruelty and irrelevance.” Cornel, cruel? The dude loves everybody! How could he be cruel? I sure don’t love everybody, and I can be cruel.

The article subhead is “what the left must really do to defeat the wingnuts.” (Spoiler alert: the answer is stop being lefty, shut up, and vote for Democrats.) Walsh tries to have it both ways. She has criticized Obama too, really. In fact, most of the column is about bad Republicans. This gives her the right to lecture us on not expecting too much.

Let’s tick off a few things Obama could have done, that did not depend on the Congress, but didn’t.

1.  He could have said, every day, that additional deficit spending, lots of it, would facilitate the otherwise anemic economic recovery.

2.  He could have prosecuted miscreants in the financial sector, instead of putting that task in the hands of a fellow in DoJ who ended up joining that sector.

3.  He could have reduced the rate at which U.S. drones blew up wedding parties and unindicted U.S. citizens.

4.  He could have defended the right of assembly of Occupy and Ferguson demonstrators, and freedom of the press for reporters who covered them. (Walsh calls this “stagecraft,” rather than “statecraft.”) He could have restrained the NSA and prevented them from lying to Congress.

5.  He could have provided a word of encouragement to the folks who besieged the Wisconsin state capital in 2011.

I could go on  . . . The point is that Obama could continue promoting policies that the Republicans have blocked, and he has had free rein to screw up foreign policy, homeland security, and the administration of justice. And he doesn’t need permission to speak. So the Green Lantern/magical president memes are just crap. Apologetics for the DP: shut up and vote.

The common thread is the desperate need of electoral obsessives to deny the possibilities of independent (of Democrats) political organization. I vote Democrat, and I encourage all to do so, but there is no actual party to join. It’s a machine to harvest your credit card and get you to the polls. Outside of that, there is nothing there. Your contributions pay for elites to hobnob with each other. That’s the party. You’re not in it.

It is not even necessary to specify here where independent action should go. I’ve got my own preferences. The point is the conversation should proceed from there. It is the starting point for progress. Vote-nagging is not progressive politics.

By the way, we did vote for Obama like good little boys and girls, and still . . .shit


Expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed — 4 Comments

  1. Sigh. While the timeline of old MaxSpeak has vanished in the mists of my mind (very misty indeed) I am thinking that me and like minded folk like Barkley Rosser were making the point here (and we did elsewhere) that while Obama might well be a marginal improvement on the Rubinista-Clintonista-Economistas he sure wasn’t demonstrating a single bit of that by making his first three economic hires to Obama 2008 Goolsbee, Cutler and Liebman. At which point any belief that Obama was going to be some Hopey-Changey Paul Wellstone should have gone up the pipe, for chris-sakes he hired a guy that (I shit you not) fricking George Will named his favorite Democratic economist to head his initial team. Well that didn’t bode well and frankly Barkley and I and half the other commenters at the old MaxSpeak can rightly be patting ourselves on the back (at the risk of dislocating a shoulder) at the outcome.

    Obama back in late 2007 or early 2008 made the conscious decision to form his initial economic team around the most liberal member of the Chicago School of Business (Goolsbee). Or a guy that couldn’t quite find his path all the way to the rads running the Third Way. Me I made the prediction that early Obama macro policy would echo Goolsbee, early health policy Cutler, and early retirement policy Liebman. Because why else would they be hired? And later hires didn’t add much confidence, it turned out that Goolsbee was maybe a placeholder for Furman and the other two for their former and future boss Larry Summer, but it wasn’t like Obama was mining the ranks of the folk that ultimately transformed MaxSpeak to EconoSpeak once Our Leader shuttered the door.

    Which is all a little Inside (Not-So) Heterodox Econ Baseball. But lets just say that Obama (love him or loath him with the fires of a 1000 FirePups) was never going to be some new Kennedy/Wellstone economic populist.

  2. My post is directed at what is to be done, not the fact that Obama isn’t something he is not, and even less who knew about this when. I wrote a column whimsically titled “Impeach Obama” in 2008.

  3. I agree with Simon Wren-Lewis:


    If Obama and Hillary can keep us out of major wars with Russia or Iran and the economy keeps improving thanks to Yellen holding the line (big ifs), we could see a sea change despite how conservative and compromising Obama and Hillary are. He just have to keep pushing and demanding more as Max and other are.


    “So if you wanted to critique my (and Kalecki’s) characterisation of the views of the wealthy, you might say that keeping unemployment above its natural rate is not a sustainable strategy (and therefore not rational). To which I would respond maybe, but there could be a reason why now, like the 1980s, is a particularly important time to keep unemployment high for a while.

    The reason for this is that the aftermath of financial crisis is extremely threatening to the neoliberal political consensus and the position of the 1%. I remember saying shortly after the crisis that the neoliberal position that government regulation was always bad and unregulated markets always good had been blown out of the water by the crisis. This was politically naive, in part because a crisis caused by unregulated markets was morphed by the right into a crisis caused by too much government debt, or too many immigrants. But that fiction will not be sustainable once a strong recovery has reduced both government debt and unemployment. For the 1%, these are very dangerous times, and they want to be on favourable territory for the battles ahead.”

  4. As you say Max, the problem is what to do going forward. Me, I’m not an optimist from that perspective. The genius of democracy as it is in 21st century America is that when progressives, and even more radical idealists, begin to bang their heads against the wall of obfuscation they find it not to be hard and impenetrable. Rather the wall of neo-liberal government is spongy and seeming to be absorbing. No, the Democratic Party elites don’t fight for any significant change. Nor do they care much what their more progressive brethren believe is best for the masses. They don’t represent the masses. The Democratic Party represents the professional and upper-middle class political ideology. It’s not change that counts, but the fight for a point of view that they believe in and which will promote their loyalty as measured by dollar donations. I’m not a pessimist in this regard. A cynic maybe, but more likely a realist. If we’re going to wait for any significant economic equality in wherein those in the row boats and life vests really do begin to benefit from some rising tide, we’re going to be waiting a good long time. More likely things have to get worse by large measure before the top is blown off its perch. Maybe never.

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