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View Diary: What if Barack Obama weren't a leftist? (278 comments)

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  •  Pure genius (37+ / 0-)

    Obama's marketing. He's not of the left but he and his team certainly understands a certain kind of liberal. I rememeber a very smart acquaintance of mine who was quite taken with the President for having said his favorite character on The Wire was Omar. Talk about niche marketing. Yes, genius, the way he both likens himself to Gahndi and then goes to accept his Nobel and explains why the Gahdni approach is just too naive for the "real world."

    This preference for symbols over substance, and this unwillingness to stick to a morally clear if unpopular course, is where Obama decisively parts ways with the transformative political movements from which he has borrowed so much (the pop-art posters from Che, his cadence from King, his “Yes We Can!” slogan from the migrant farmworkers – si se puede). These movements made unequivocal demands of existing power structures: for land distribution, higher wages, ambitious social programmes. Because of those high-cost demands, these movements had not only committed followers but serious enemies. Obama, in sharp contrast not just to social movements but to transformative presidents such as FDR, follows the logic of marketing: create an appealing canvas on which all are invited to project their deepest desires but stay vague enough not to lose anyone but the committed wing nuts (which, granted, constitute a not inconsequential demographic in the United States). Advertising Age had it right when it gushed that the Obama brand is “big enough to be anything to anyone yet had an intimate enough feel to inspire advocacy”. And then their highest compliment: “Mr Obama somehow managed to be both Coke and Honest Tea, both the megabrand with the global awareness and distribution network and the dark-horse, upstart niche player.”
    In truth, though, this analysis feels a little dated, because I think the DFH's have mostly won the argument about his essential neoliberalism, with his defenders left to argue that the system is such that this is the "most" that could be done, that he's more liberal than most other presidents, etc. As if political ideology was always relative, as if liberalism and social democracy had no meaning. How many times have I heard peolple describe a bill as "progressive" because it represents progress? If that's the case, let's ditch the term, because it's meaningless.

    The President's ability to sell himself as man of the left reveals a epidemic of misunderstanding. Consider how many times we've been told that President Obama finally accomplished what the left had been trying to accomplish for decades -- universal health care -- when he passed a bill that will at best provide crappy health care to about half the uninsured via corporations.

    End rant.

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