Friday, July 8, 2011

Obama's Failure: Our New Wilson

I think it's not so much that Obama himself is a stealth Republican (though he is by consequences of his actions) as that he has a truly naive belief in politics as usual, in a democratic process by compromise. This is, after all, his greatest skill; if one takes nothing else into consideration, the passage of the health care bill would be an extraordinary achievement--but there is no democracy when perhaps fewer than 15% participate in the process, and an even smaller minority control those who do. This is not because so few vote, but because the majority don't have the money to buy those elected, or to pay their way into positions where they can become servants of the powerful few.

Obama's failure is that he doesn't seem to see this, or refuses to acknowledge it, or thinks that he can compromise the oligarchy into surrendering their winning hand--as though he were playing poker and after a player showed his 4 aces, he thought he could talk him into giving 3 of them to the other players at the table.

In this, the president he's coming more & more to resemble, isn't Lincoln, but Wilson: a brilliant, well-intentioned man utterly blinded by a conviction of his own good will.


  1. What Obama is actually accomplishing is as good as willing it, no less painful... or shameful. But I differ in my reading of what I'm speculating he THINKS he's doing. And I think there's a painful lesson here--that were he all you say, replacing him with someone who ardently believed that making deals with the devil was what the whole purpose of his office was about, who was supremely convinced that this is what the democratic practice demands (democracy isn't always pretty" Obama said...), that this was the way to promote justice and bring about incremental progress... the results would not differ, & it has to be by the results that we judge his actions, not by his motives--so I'm making no apology here on his behalf.

    I think he's doubly deluded by power, and his sense of his own inherent goodness... not that unlike Wilson, who ran on a peace & isolationist ticket & then joined the country in perhaps the most useless, unjustified bloodbath in history--trampling the Constitution to stifle descent...and then presiding over a treaty that contributed in no small part to bringing on the second World War. That's leaving out his economic policies and what happened to labor organizers, to the intensification of Jim Crow and violence against blacks across the south--all on his watch. Wilson, as enlightened Democrat, as 'progressive' was one of the worst presidents... as Obama has become.

    In short (1) it's not enough to be "good" & (2)what that should suggest is that laying the blame on the individuals is playing into the game--as you know.

    It's not the man, it's the rigged game he's in, a game where he's playing dealer. If anything--Obama's noble, American admiration for individual aspirations, and his own place in that mythical history, is the log that won't let him see that to 'do good,' you gotta change the damn game, not play by its rules.

  2. Frances! I'm so sorry--I accidentally deleted your comment in repeatedly editing and deleting my comment.

  3. Here's from Frances Madeson: copied from my email notice.

    I was reading the other Russell earlier, Bertrand, and he was so eloquent about the fact that what was required to make the transition from Newtonian physics to Einsteinian physics was imagination, a leap of mind. Necessary here too, Jacob. Obama is not "compromising" in my view; he is the venal bag man in what will be the biggest heist ever perpetrated. Call it The "You Can Keep Your 40 Acres And A Mule, Thank You Very Much" Big Bang Boondoggle. Is it so hard to conceive that the grandfathers of the current crooks said to FDR, sure, let them go ahead and establish (a false sense of) social security, save all those trillions. It will foster a sense of stake in capitalism and then when the time comes that the petro dollars run dry (as they knew they one day would) we'll pop the real estate bubble, crash the economy, reneg on the promise of compounding interest for the masses (though presumably it's still available for hedge fund investors, usually a minimum investment of $250,000, you can check out the income requirements in Rule 144 for private equity offerings) a little shock and awe, and grab the loot for ourselves, another revenue gusher for the few dynastic families who are in on the deal. It's strategic planning 101, and Obama because of the hope he embodied is the perfect figurehead to help obfuscate the sheer criminality of the swindle. If someone as astute as you is delayed in seeing through the scrim, think how long it will take everyone else. And the economic and material scarcity in which you conduct this stage of your life will look like abundance some years hence, and your beautiful sons, and grandchildren if they come, will have even less than you do, unless...

  4. Well here's a syllogism for you, sweetheart. In every significant policy way except for the health care bullshit which is a temporary gain for some and more political theatre, Obama = George W. Bush. Ergo if Obama is noble then George W. Bush is also noble. So says Jacob Russell? This should give you serious pause, darling.

  5. What's nobility got to do with it? I'm parsing varieties of self-delusion. Wilson and Obama are failures of a similar type. Your taking an analysis of type for a defense or apology--when it's nothing of the kind. Obama is no Bush, he's far more dangerous.

    We seem to be on different pages here. You're about how bad he is. I'm trying to diagnose the malady.

  6. Did you not say on FB that Obama was noble, Dr. Russell? Perhaps I misread. I'm not "about" how bad he is(--are we teenagers?). The malady is a fallacy of American democracy from the outset--that we did, would, could, compulsory education notwithstanding, ever have an educated engaged citizenry to hold anybody accountable or otherwise meaningfully participate. Built in systemic dysfunction from the get-go. The crooks are, have been, and will always be running this show. That they shared the loot with some of us for a couple of generations retarded our ability to see it for what it is. But now that the people are wholly extras in a Mel Brooks extravaganza, to call Obama a Wilson is to say exactly nothing meaningful and could even be viewed as a variety of self-delusion. The democracy experiment brought to us by the very smart, prosperous sneaky landed, slave-owning slave-fucking gentry has failed, and miserably so, as it was meant to. The provision that counted blacks as 3/4 of a human being was but one of the spoiling ingredients. Beautiful Soul Syndrome writ large. Time, no, we're seriously overdue, for a new theory of governance.

  7. Have been reading Margaret MacMillan's PARIS 1919, and found much of what she said about Wilson suggested aspects of Obama, both in their self-perception, and in how they rationalized their being used.

    If I used 'noble' for Obama, it would have had to do with how he see's himself. I find nothing 'noble' about the man...and for that matter, nothing admirable in the idea of 'nobility,' in any of its connotations.

  8. Again, he ain't being used. This is the maddening part of your analysis. He's a killer through and through and there is no way that he didn't know that was the essence of the job description. Just ask the guys in Guantanamo. If you want to understand Obama's psychology you'd be better off reading some mafia profiles or other literature on sociopathy.

    So how bout coming up with a new theory of governance for us? Use that big beautiful brain of yours to get us out of this mess.

  9. What absolutely won't get us out is a 'new' theory of governance. As long as you have only the existing material reality to construct it from, any theory will be stuck with reproducing variations of what IS. Action before theory. Action releases imagination--the capacity to imagine the real.

  10. I should add--though I don't find arguments about individual culpability very helpful when it comes to those in power--but just to clear this up: when I say he has been used, I mean something rather different than someone being taken advantage to further ends not his own. I mean, he's become where he is.
    Because he evidences no ability to stand OUTSIDE the game, he's become the game. By insisting on only playing by its rules, he becomes the game's instrument.

    Stop fussing over to what degree so & so is to blame. Change the fucking game! Only way I know to do that, is finding acts... gestures... however small, not governed by the rules of the game. Than observing what happens. Thinking about what happens.
    See what may have become possible because of that action. We need to do this together.