The Pity Is That It's True

Commenting on a piece by The Financial Times columnist Clive Crook on Barak Obama’s likely economy policies if elected, The Economist manages to interject a point desperately depressing, but spot on: “His voting record suggests that, if elected, Mr Obama would be the most economically left-wing American president since … well, it’s hard to say. Richard Nixon?”

The Economist has had Nixon in their sights ever since he briefly introduced wage and price controls in August 1971, violating a core tenet of Chicago School orthodoxy, but on reflection they have a point. Nixon was the last president who was willing to seriously entertain the use of government to fundamentally regulate the economy not solely at the behest of Wall Street and corporate interests. The Friedmanite orthodoxy which was religiously embraced by so many around Reagan and which has subsequently stripped government of the will to regulate the unchecked greed machine of the market was viewed as a sectarian movement, very nearly a cult, by Nixon and his principal economic advisors.

But it says a great deal about how much the progressive movement in the Democratic Party has surrendered that the principal organ of neoliberalism, The Economist, finds that the worst thing it can say about Barak Obama is that he might pursue Nixonian economic policies. Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society are beyond the realm of possibility, much less Roosevelt and the policies which underlay the New Deal. And they are almost certainly right. Obama is as much a captive of the corporate-worshipping wing of the Democratic Party as Billary (the principal reason that Hillary Clinton won’t release her joint income tax returns is that they would reveal that husband Bill has been openly a wholly-owned subsidiary of major U.S. and foreign corporate interests since leaving the White House, just as he was more clandestinely since his first days in Arkansas politics).

With Edwards and Kucinch out of the race there’s very little to enthuse me about a contest between a product of the Daley machine in Chicago and the Democratic Leadership Council’s anointed one. I suspect strongly that Obama will be just another case of “run to the left, govern to the right.” I only wish The Who’s lyrics were right: We won’t get fooled again. But I wouldn’t make book on it.


  1. I’ve been a bit of an Obama skeptic, myself, and didn’t vote for him in my state’s primary. I have my doubts about who he is and how and why he got where he is.

    However, there’s no denying the amount of hopes and dreams people are investing in him. This is more like JFK fervor than Reagan fervor.

    I was reading today an essay about Don Quixote (in an 1995 issue of New York Review of Books, author forgotten for the moment), in which Mark Van Doren’s point was repeated that Don Quixote started out imitating a knight errant, a ridiculous thing to do, especially since knights errant had not existed for centuries, if at all. But, at the end, he had become a knight errant. He became what he had pretended to be.

    Sometimes people really do grow into the role. Sometimes they surprise you. I’m hoping that Obama will become President and live up to peoples aspirations for him.

  2. It is precisely the hoopla that makes me doubt the goods on offer.

    Although there wasn’t really a JKF “fervour” per se in 1960 (the Kennedy-Nixon election was a very close thing) except retrospectively as Kennedy was anointed a secular saint in the aftermath of the assassination, there is a bit of the glamourising of a relatively insubstantial, good-looking, glib politician with an equally glamourous wife that I recall from the Kennedy era which resonates with the Obama phenomenon. JFK had little in the way of accomplishments (although he had an actual record of heroism in WWII) and and a much more conservative economic outlook than either the traditional Democratic left (Stevenson and Humphrey) or the New Deal Southern Democrats (Johnson). His assassination tends to blind us to the fact that he was a rather mediocre president, much more conservative on economic issues and civil rights than Johnson (who had actually been an FDR protege during the New Deal).

    It is perhaps boorish of me to point out that Don Quixote is a character of fiction, and like most characters of fiction is not bound by the mundanities of reality, especially political reality. All the wishing and hoping isn’t likely to turn Barak Obama into Don Quixote.

  3. John wrote: I have my doubts about who he is and how and why he got where he is.

    I am EXTREMELY suspicious of any candidate who is as idolized by the mainstream media as Obama is. Something just doesn’t compute.

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