Obama, Or the Idea Of Obama?

Are Democrats supporting the real Obama, or the idea of Obama?

In his best-selling book “Breaking the Spell,” the philosopher Daniel Dennett proposed that a large number of religious believers didn’t really believe in the dogma and tenants of their particular religion, but instead in the idea of belief itself. That is to say that they wanted the effects, or the idea of religion to be true, such as eternal life, forgiveness of sins, the possibility of healing and other miracles through prayer, etc., but if forced into a corner didn’t really swallow virgin births, talking snakes, worldwide floods, and the rest of the nonsense. Such “believers in belief” will pick-and-choose which of their religions’ dogma’s they will believe, which they will ignore, and which of the principles they will follow, and which they will not. As an example, the overwhelming majority of “practicing Catholics” ignore the Vatican’s admonitions concerning birth control, and most (according to surveys) are unaffected by the church’s weak response to the problem of pedophile priests. You can imagine the uproar if it was, say, an atheist group systematically raping small boys, but even though the current Pope managed a good deal of the cover-up, the organization is still functioning, and still has its share of “believers.”

We are seeing the same phenomena in this presidential election cycle, on both sides of the debate, but especially on the Democratic side. A large number of Democratic voters (most of whom call themselves Liberals) want so much for the idea of Obama to be true that they are willing to forget or ignore most of his actions over the last four years. In a likewise manner, they want so much for the idea of America to be true that they still believe that elections can make a difference, and somehow, if Obama has another four years, he will stop the killing, bring the jobs back, restore the Bill of Rights, lessen the inequity in wealth distribution, take steps to mitigate the effects of global warming, and restore the “American Dream.” They can engage in such magical thinking because they have developed the skill of ignoring not only the current political reality, but also the reality of who Obama is, and who he’s working for. Their magical thinking allows them to accept behavior from Obama for which they would excoriate a Republican, such as murdering women and children by the hundreds in an illegal drone war waged over an entire region, and approving any scheme by the oil companies, no matter the cost to the environment. 

They can see the reality of the Republican slate and platform well enough, and react with the appropriate disdain  but then, like an addict comparing their own insides to other people’s outsides, they compare that regressive platform with the idea of Obama, not the reality. If they were looking at the reality of Obama, they would see a President who toed the Wall Street, big oil, multi-national corporation line throughout his presidency, doing their bidding at every opportunity. They would see the man who appointed Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, signaling Wall Street that his administration would be conducting business as usual. They would see the man who cut a deal with the health insurers precluding single-payer, or even a public option before the negotiations even started in the House. They would see the man who abandoned card-check, and the union workers in Wisconsin, after running as pro-union.

A realistic look at the Nobel Peace Prize winner would reveal the man who tried every diplomatic trick in the book to keep us in Iraq past the expiration of the Status of Forces agreement, until we were finally thrown out kicking and screaming. And then there’s the escalation in Afghanistan, and the drones, always the drones. Without a doubt, they’re the finest creator of terrorists ever devised. I don’t intend to go into the whole extended litany of Obama’s actions; I think you get my drift.

Obamapoligists insist that those of us who see him for what he is are comparing our expectations to his performance, and ignoring the Republican obstructionism that seemingly thwarted his every effort. What they fail to realize is that, in most cases, Obama either capitulated to Republican demands, or compromised before negotiations even began, such as during the health care debate. We are not judging him upon the basis of his performance; we are weighing him by what should be universally accepted standards of truth, justice, and human decency, and finding him seriously wanting.

Running as the “peace” candidate, then increasing our commitment in Afghanistan, trying to extend our occupation of Iraq, increasing murderous, illegal drone warfare, and extending it to additional countries, these things are deal-breakers for some of us, and should be for all progressives. He campaigned as an environmentalist and then sold us out to big oil at every turn. He made a show of “vetoing” the Canadian sludgepipe, then turned around and approved the southern half. He allowed drilling and fracking everywhere, and did virtually nothing to further the development of renewable resources. A Constitutional lawyer, he signed the NDAA with the provision allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens without due process. Even though he assured us that he would never use it, his Justice Department is vigorously appealing the decision of a Federal judge which declared the provision unconstitutional. This, coupled with his insistence that he can murder Americans without due process, so long as he declares them “enemies of the state” is another one of those pesky deal-breakers for some of us.

If you support Obama as a candidate, you are saying that you are in favor of these actions, and want these policies to continue. To believe he’s going to do anything differently in his second term is engaging in more of that magical thinking that got us into this mess in the first place.

I’m tired of hearing the argument that “Romney would be a disaster,” or “the Supreme Court would be more conservative.” Actually, if it were possible for Romney to win this election, it would probably be the best thing for the country in the long run. Why? Obama can get away with doing anything, as far as the left is concerned. After the election, he will “make a deal” on Social Security, lowering benefits and increasing the retirement age, in fact, he’s already said he supports it. The left will go along with it, because he’ll sell it as the “best deal he could get,” just like he sold the insurance company bonanza that is Obamacare. The left will go along with his approval of the northern half of the sludgepipe, and probably the bombing of Iran as well. Actually, there’s almost nothing he won’t be able to get away with.

Romney, on the other hand, won’t be able to get away with anything. He’ll do the exact same things Obama would have done, but the left won’t stand for it. Not for a moment! Romney doing the same things, might even put hundreds-of-thousands of people in the streets, which will be the only way this country might have a chance of surviving.

The system we’re living under is rotten to the core. Our government, all three branches, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of our banks and major corporations. We’ve run out of time for incremental changes and tweaks to the system, it must be replaced. The effects of climate change: the food and water shortages, relocations, and increasingly violent weather, are going to be combined with another major economic crash, and coming energy shortages due to the effects of peak oil, and upsets in the Middle East.

Our government is fully aware of these facts. Why, for goodness sake, has Homeland Security purchased and distributed millions of rounds of .40 hollow point ammunition, which is illegal under the Geneva Convention? Why have police forces all across the land been equipped to the point where some of them could defeat most countries armies? Why has our society become the most heavily surveiled in the entire world? Do you really think that voting for one candidate or the other is going to change where all this is headed? If you do, I’m afraid that you’re just engaging in more of that magical thinking I mentioned.

The forces governing this country, under our system of Inverted Totalitarianism, aren’t afraid of elections, speeches, petitions on Facebook, and certainly not the media they control. They’re only afraid of what the American people could do if enough of us rise up and just plain refuse to work within the system any more. General strikes, peaceful civil disobedience in large numbers, removal of funds from major banks, filling the streets, that’s what might get their attention, not voting for a “green” candidate or one of the duopoly.

This election is merely a distraction. They’re counting on American’s propensity for magical thinking, and that most of us will vote and carry-on because we believe in the idea of America, and don’t look deeply enough to see the reality of what it’s become.



12 responses to “Obama, Or the Idea Of Obama?

  1. A very good read…

  2. Excellent article. That’s exactly what is going on.

  3. How utterly asinine.

    No, I support Obama because he actually has done some good for working people in the country. Because my sister could have her baby on my mother’s insurance and my cousin can now serve proudly in the United States Air Force without hiding who she is. If Mitt Romney had been elected in 2008, neither of these things would be true.

    I highly dislike his foreign policy and his environmental record, neither of which should be surprising given that he’s presented himself as a center-right hawk from the beginning (“peace candidate?” You’re either ignorant or lying; he ALWAYS talked about committing more forces to Afghanistan). The fact is, you and other dinner party socialists are engaging in the Nirvana fallacy and reasoning that because Obama could be doing better that we shouldn’t support the Obama that exists. Fact is, the only realistic alternative is one which continues or exacerbates every single bad Obama policy and reverses the good he has accomplished. If you give a damn about gay rights, womens’ rights, and workers’ rights, then live in the real world and stop this tiresome kvetching and hand-wringing that it doesn’t live up to your precious ideal.

    I swear to Christ, people like you are the reason the Left in America will never take power. Getting your hands dirty would mean you’d lose your precious sense of moral superiority, and lord knows you’d gnaw your own hand off at the wrist before giving up your endless whining.

    • The “Obama that exists” is going to lead the country deeper into fascism, and those of you who are addicted to the ideal, and willing to do the same things over and over, expecting different results won’t know what hit you.

  4. An excellent article on what sorts of believers occupy both sides of the same coin. It is sad to say that despite the overwhelming evidence of Obama’s activities in support of outright fascism, that people who think themselves “Liberals” are shunning the truth. Here is my contribution to bring clarity, truth and voice to what BOTH parties have done to decimate public education over the last 17 years. I hope it’s also read and disseminated widely. Thanks! http://www.scribd.com/doc/106337306/THE-CHICAGO-PUBLIC-SCHOOLS-ALLERGIC-TO-ACTIVISM

  5. the fucking obot jt williams makes the author’s point very well. had any coherent thoughts the last four years jt?

  6. I agree with J.T. Williams. Couldn’t have said it better. This article reeks of the sanctimony of the right–albeit with a slightly different rationale. The author might want to look for an internship with Matt Drudge. In the end, the result would be the same: Attack Obama from the right and the left, no matter what he does. Thankfully, the jaded opponents of the center who cheer destructive extremism are far, far outnumbered. Quoting Dennett’s excellent work on religion to support this farce? You ought to be ashamed. The real world of politics is messy and complicated–all grey and no black or white. Your mistake is you think somewhere there’s good and bad guys wearing black and white hats. With that mindset, of course, you can’t possibly see that most Obama supporters are fully aware of his flaws.

  7. One more point: There’s no guarantee whatsoever that the kind of right wing destruction promised by Rmoney would be in any way reversible. The only hope we have now is with the courts to roll back Citizens United and restore what’s left of democratic institutions. Let those fall at the level of the Supreme Court, we lose it for a generation. And given the other forces of resource scarcity and climate change mentioned in the article, along with the sure economic destruction of further tax cuts and deficits promised by Rmoney/Ryan, what makes *anyone* think the American system would *ever* be restored? Remember, these GOP candidates running for office hate government and want to see it “drowned in the bathtub.” Which leaves us completely at the mercy of the multinational corporations (and other governments). Soderman wants to pull the plug on the last vestiges of corporate regulations, the last vestiges of social democracy and the safety net? This to *fix* the country he doesn’t even see fit to live in anymore (but will accept its pension payments)? With (expat) friends like that, America needs no enemies.

  8. Pete Soderman

    Believing that there are viable political solutions to the problems facing America is the primary form of magical thinking engaged in by both sides. There are not. Too many on the left believe that politicians are working for us in good faith, and if only the make-up of the congress could change, Obama would do all the things he talks about, and all would be well. Sean, the social safety net is as good as gone, and it will die by Obama’s hand, slowly over the next four years. Oh, not all at once, but the death of a thousand cuts. Budget “deals” that are “the best he could get,” incremental funding bills that can’t be vetoed because the “country would default,” allocation bills that fall short in critical areas, but can’t be sent back to congress.

    We know that this is how Obama will act, because this is precisely how he acted in his first term, in everything from the healthcare deal (which almost all Obamapoligists ignore), to the continuation of the Bush tax cuts, and right to the NDAA, which he’s now vigorously defending. Believing that he will do otherwise isn’t based upon evidence of any kind, it’s based upon faith. Faith and magical thinking.

    Yes, politics is a messy business, with lots of nuances, but if you take a long view, and look at what the current end game appears to be, you realize that there IS an agenda, and it’s not going to work out in our favor anytime soon.

  9. Republicans have used the Law of Primacy. To block almost all legislation then blame the Democrats is and has been using the the law learned by Hitler passed on by Koch brothers. Lie about almost everything and have people believe Them. Magical Republicans what big money can buy.

    • Pete Soderman

      Sure, the Republicans blocked a lot of legislation, but on many important issues, especially early on in his administration, Obama capitulated or compromised well before it was even necessary. On other issues, such as global warming, and the Employee Free Choice Act, he never even tried.

  10. Pingback: Obama Takes a Dive? | A Few Random Thoughts…

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