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Monday, April 26, 2010

Obama's Underappreciated Success

Yes, it's true, I'm quoting Mark Halpern:
Barack Obama's right-wing opponents cast him as a socialist failure. His left-wing hecklers see him as an overcautious hedger… But by Election Day 2010, Obama will have soundly achieved many of his chief campaign promises while running a highly competent, scandal-free government. Not bad for a guy whose opponents (in both parties) for the White House suggested that he was too green in national life to know how to do the job — and whose presidency began in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis that demanded urgent attention and commanded much of his focus.

This is far from the whole story, of course: to "appreciate" Obama's successes cannot properly mean to be reconciled to them, but to appreciate the transformational forces they make available to us.

This is especially so for those of us on Obama's left who grasp the ways in which corporate-militarism, wealth concentration, and climate catastrophe are scarcely checked at all by all this middling "success" in their ongoing obliteration of democracy's prospects and even the prospects for human survival. But I also think it is true that no one who would address themselves in earnest to these larger problems is telling anything like the whole story of their remedial address unless they accept the substantial force of the political agency playing out at the level of the successes Halperin is pointing to here.

It is as wrong to mistake the inadequate for the insubstantial as it is to mistake it for adequacy. And it is hard for me to see from what will come the finally adequate if not from nudging at the substance of the as-yet-inadequate actually at hand.

2 comments:

Thanatz said...

Funny how the dangers you list as "scarcely checked at all" are exactly the domains where inaction and inadequacy simply serve to implicitly validate the conservative narratives that the MOST PROGRESSIVE MOSIACH EVAH was supposed to deliver us from.

But hey, since politics itself can apparently be boiled to a series of contentless victories and defeats, I guess all that doesn't matter because our side is winning! So what are we waiting for? Let's bring on the Debt Commission, open GITMO-Chicago and give Liz Fowler a comfy chair so she can get to work. It'll all be worth it as long as the Mark Halperin's of the world say we're winning the horse race, right?

Dale Carrico said...

It'll all be worth it as long as the Mark Halperin's of the world say we're winning the horse race, right?

I certainly don't think so, nor did I imply otherwise. Why do you want to paint this post as making that claim?

politics itself can apparently be boiled to a series of contentless victories and defeats

"Apparently," according to whom, according to what? I do disagree that inadequate equals "contentless" -- as I said in the post itself. You seem to see things otherwise.

I do hope the standard on the basis of which anything at all counts as a victory with content isn't so utterly remote from reality that no difference makes any difference to you at all. I fail to see how that kind of indifference makes any kind of sense or does anybody any good at all, though it does make for dramatic rhetoric online.

I'm certainly not going to argue with you about it anymore "Thanata" -- this is a tune you never tire of rehearsing here in the Moot, after all, so I get the general idea by now. I suck, I'm an assimilationist tool (despite the whole secular social democratic anti-racist anti-militarist anti-corporatist vegetarian atheist queer green thing), blah blah blah.

Best of luck to you. Do your best, and here's hoping you find what you're looking for.