July 12, 2011
By J.R. Dunn
It appears that the left is washing its hands of Obama. In recent days we've seen a number of left-wing spokesmen ranging from Bill Maher to Frank Rich dismissing Obama as a disappointment -- too centrist, too moderate, not at all the American Lenin they'd ordered. Even Mark Halperin, who would fracture his nose if any Democratic politician ever stopped short, dismissed the messiah as a "dick" on MSNBC.
On the face of it, this is nonsense. Barack Obama stands as the most left-wing president on record. No other president comes close to matching him. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a pragmatist, willing to try anything that worked, even when it didn't. He was also pliable enough to be manipulated by people like Adolf Berle and Rexford Tugwell, authors of the NRA and AAA, and both pure leftists. (In the Goldbergian sense -- they both admired fascism just as much as they did communism). Lyndon B. Johnson exhibited a political split personality in combining a domestic leftism with an international anti-communism that made no political sense and finally wound up destroying him. As for Jimmy Carter, he probably matched Obama for left-of-center tendencies, but he was so ineffectual that it went nowhere. Bill Clinton, under the direction of Dick Morris, governed as a moderate conservative, whatever his personal proclivities.
Which leaves Obama standing alone in the far-left twilight. The seizure of GM and Chrysler, ObamaCare -- the most blatant left-wing attack on individual rights in my lifetime -- the endless efforts to push carbon regulations, the college-kid Keyesianism, and the bitter contempt for American exceptionalism, leave no room for argument.
Not so, say Frank Rich and Bill Maher. (Aren't this pair an example of the collapse of the liberal intellect all by themselves? A half-century ago it was people of actual intellectual accomplishment like Lionel Trilling and Reinhold Neibhur. Now the best they can do is a stand-up comic and a washed-up drama critic.)
ObamaCare, insists Maher, is "a pro-business very Republican healthcare plan," which of course explains why the GOP has sworn repeatedly to overturn it. Darling Frank, for his part, believes that Obama's fatal flaw lies in his failure to carry out a "legal, moral, or financial reckoning for the most powerful wrongdoers" involved in the financial crisis, overlooking the fact that this would send half the Democratic Party to the jug. (All the same, I was deeply impressed by his New York magazine piece -- close to 5,000 words and not once did Frank leap up and start bellowing "there's no business like show business"
The explanation for this is quite simple: Obama has failed, but the ideology must go on. Obama's biggest achievement was kicking off the Tea Parties, possibly the most serious threat to left-liberalism of the past thirty years. Movement conservatism has always been limited by its connection with Northeastern elitists, while the Neocons, though much more effective, appealed to an urban university-oriented following. But here we have an actual middle-class, middle-American movement, enlightened, informed, and outraged -- the darkest nightmare of any thinking leftist. And who created it? Obama and none other. It would take a lot of accomplishments to outweigh that single error, and Obama can't show any. His gimcrack auto company scheme worked only with aid of bogus paperwork. His "health-care reform" will not outlast judicial testing.
His attempt to revive the New Deal as a solution to 21st-century problems is a sour joke to millions of unemployed. He is racing for the exits in Afghanistan, the leftist "good war," like a scalded rat. And now his deeply corrupt Justice Department is blowing up in his face. I've said all along that he would spend his last two years overwhelmed by the problems he created in his first two, and it is coming to pass in detail.
The facts of the case are that Obama has revealed the hollowness of liberalism. He had it all his own way the first half of his term, and was able to push through the complete left-wing domestic agenda in all its Keynesian, Newer Deal glory. It went nowhere -- as anyone could have predicted -- and that is the end of it.
But here's the thing: from the liberal point of view, Obama does not exist as a separate entity, but only as a momentary expression of the liberal dogma. Liberalism will still exist long after Obama is gone -- or so they hope. So if it comes down to a choice between the messiah on one hand and the creed on the other, the messiah has to go. (I need scarcely point out that this is the traditional fate of messiahs -- false ones in particular.)
This is why Obama has been stung so badly by such deep thinkers as Halperin, Rich, and Maher. They are performing a salvage job, assuring that there will be plenty of daylight between Obama and liberalism by the time November 2012 rolls around. We will hear a lot more of it before then, covering all of the administration's policies, everything Obama has ever touched. It is their own version of the stab in the back legend -- everything would have been fine if it hadn't been for Obama, that centrist, that moderate, that traitor. Revolutions always eat their own -- the moderate social democrat Aleksandr Kerensky was a hero in early 1917 only to flee Russia one step ahead of the Bolsheviks six months later. Obama is undergoing he same process as regards his own failed revolution.
The most interesting point here is that the left is turning on Obama now, sixteen months before the election, even as his billion-dollar campaign swings into motion. It's still early in the game and they've already written him off. Do they know something we don't or do they simply see what he is on an even deeper level than even the most perceptive tea party advocate?
And we've still got the latest revival of the civilian terror trial obsession and O's "reasonable" gun-control plan to go. As Napoleon put it: "never interrupt your enemy when he's committing suicide."
J.R. Dunn is consilting editor of American Thinker, and author of Death by Liberalism.