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Works and Days

Our Obama Saga. Part One—Chapters One to Four

January 31st, 2010 - 4:41 pm

Chapter One — The Liberal Hope and Dream

I think our Obama collective story will some day be written something like this. The leftwing anointed vision of America got stalled with the failures of the Great Society, and the high tax, big government discontent of the 1970s and 1980s.

Abroad after Vietnam, the gospel that America was the problem sputtered out — with the fall of the Soviet Union, the rejoicing in Eastern Europe with the liberation from communism, the market reforms of China, and the general rise of a murderous radical Islam, coupled with the later 9/11 attacks.

In short, doctrinaire liberalism, now to be recast as progressivism, was in trouble. About all that could be hoped for in lieu of ideological governance were entrenched liberal congressional enclaves, which served traditional Democratic constituencies — and offered occasional opposition to conservative excess and corruption of the Abramoff sort.

Jimmy Carter was simply too inept, self-righteous, and inexperienced to retake Rome from the barbarians. A gifted Bill Clinton might have; but he was too savvy for subservience to an unpopular ideology, too enslaved instead to his multifarious appetites and too malleable and worried about Bill Clinton to be a principled avatar of hope and change.

So the media, academia, the unions, the foundations, and the elite on Wall Street kept waiting for the Great Stone Face to appear — the saintly deliverer who would at last have the requisite skill and pedigree to bring a benevolent liberal statism to the unwashed, who for so long in their ignorance and selfish, petty agendas had resisted what was good for them.

Chapter Two — The Perfect Storm

Then the unexpected occurred without warning. The Iraq War was successfully demagogued as Vietnam redux. Indeed, we still apparently think it was lost, and the surge a failure. The Republican Congress by 2006 was mired in corruption. After eight years of Republican rule, conservatives of the base had tired of 50/50 deal making that had resulted in more big government and big deficits.

John McCain almost seemed more interested in losing majestically to our first serious African-American presidential candidate than conducting a hardball successful campaign. He too had alienated his base in the past, and many never forgot it, as their lackluster emotional and financial support attested.

Barack Obama, in contrast, offered to many an irresistible win/win proposition: centrist, bipartisan governance, and absolution for past sins through the election of a president of color. That Obama was young and patterned himself after JFK in his eloquence and pizzazz made a nice antithesis to George Bush’s tongue-tied speeches. And that the world promised that they would like us again only made it all the sweeter for the gullible.

Chapter Three – The Ascension

So Obama came in, quickly shed his thin centrist exoskeleton, and started in on the long promised bigger government agenda. In short order, we saw the absorption of some of the private sector, attempts at statist health care, and appointments that reflected an equality-of-result philosophy, mandated and enforced by a guardian class of Ivy-League technocrats, immune to the protocols they enforced on ignorant others, although, unlike Plato’s overseers, subject to no harsh regimen.

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