Obama and the Suspension of Disbelief

The One Percent, the 99 Percent, and the 47 Percent

Race was another fissure. In 2008 and 2012 the word “old” flooded the airwaves and the web in association with “white.” In this new trumped-up war, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and good whites were opposed to the virtual neo-confederates who clung to the vestiges of unwarranted privilege. Old was supposed to be tantamount to “in the way.”

The one percenters were to be cut off from the 99%. It did not matter again that America’s most affluent counties voted typically for blue candidates, or that Obama raised more one-percenter money than any previous candidate. In this old war between rich and poor, there was also a new Obama wrinkle: the good rich who lived in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, who were generous like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and the old bad rich who trafficked in carbon fuels and ran casinos like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. In other words, only with Obama could you be rich and good at the same time, like a grandee of the Middle Ages who might safely maintain his keep and bailey by purchasing his exemptions from the local Church potentate.

Obama captivated the media in a way that trumped even the old JFK/Camelot fixation. Even their present and temporary partial disenchantment will soon pass, given that it arises not from true anger at or a sense of betrayal by Obama, but only from passing embarrassment that it is not wise to continue to act as state megaphones when the president’s approval polls temporarily hover at 40%.

With Obama for the first time since the era of FDR, the liberal media envisioned a presidential candidate who was an ideological warrior and yet at last had a chance to win, due to his youth, charisma, and race. For the media, they saw an opportunity that would not be seen again in their lifetimes. To pursue Benghazi or the IRS scandal or to investigate the text of Obamacare in 2010 was somehow to set back race relations, the environment, the 99% and all those who had claims against the traditional conservative hierarchy.

Finally, Mitt Romney was naïve but not wrong in invoking the 47% barrier. Republicans keep whining about the unsustainable debt, the out-of-control expansions of food stamps and disability insurance, the need for tax reform, and the disaster of Obamacare.

But disaster for whom?

Do those who pay no federal income tax want the present exemption “reformed”? Does the half on federal support worry about the cost? Will those who receive redistributed health care object? For the half who are not paying income taxes and are likely to received federal redistribution, “they” -- the rich, the polluters, the racists, the homophobes, the sexists, the nativists, the old guys -- will have to worry about paying the debt. Obama is a sort of payback for our sins. And if the only way to force the privileged to pony up what they owe is to borrow huge sums of money, then so be it and let those who deserve to pay it back one day pay it back.

In short, judging Obama on what he achieves is about as helpful as evaluating Miley Cyrus on her dancing ability, or Kanye West on his poetic talent, or Kim Kardashian on her acting prowess. A totem need not be real. It only requires a “suspension of disbelief.”

(Artwork created using modified Shutterstock.com images.)