Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The mood of the country

Paul Krugman is not happy about Obama's interview with Business Week
Just to be clear: what freaks me out about [the interview] isn’t what it says about Obama’s policies, it’s what it says about failure to read the mood of the country. The president seems solely concerned that someone might think that he’s anti-business, without — in this interview, at least — appearing to consider it necessary to say a thing about the pervasive sense of unfair Wall Street privilege. He doesn’t have to bash bankers every step of the way, but to respond to a question about bonuses solely by praising free markets and comparing bankers to baseball stars is … clueless.
Clueless? Only if you think it's in Obama's interest to read (and respond to) the mood of the country.

Obama got to the White House in no small party because of big business, and the Democratic party owes its congressional majority to big business. That's not the only reason they won, but without the support of big business, or its active opposition, they would definitely not have won.

I have no good idea why big business supported Obama over the Republicans. Perhaps they saw the crash coming and figured only Nixon could go to China, and only a Democrat could sell the bailouts and other financial shenanigans. There's something heavy going on between the factions of the capitalist ruling class, but it seems pretty clear by now that no faction has both the interest and will to appease the working class. So Obama must please big business, can't directly please the people, and can only pray the Republicans will fuck up their propaganda and he has a chance in 2012. Deviate from the first two, and he will definitely lose.

The Randian faction of the capitalist and middle classes, the Republican party and the Christian fundamentalist popular base, however, are still showing exceptional discipline and focus, which is overcoming their disconnection with reality. The Republican party is using every trick in the book to block Obama's agenda, and the Democratic party is letting them get away with it. The pundits and propagandists are keeping up the full-throated "socialist, traitor, terrorist sympathizer" roar with no sign of embarrassment or weakness.

Remember that Obama is an intelligent and charismatic man, and he was running against a party in an unpopular war, in an uncertain and declining popular economy, against an opponent noted for his lack of charisma and only half-hearted party support. Even with all these advantages — as well as a lot more money from big business than McCain — Obama was trailing in the polls until the financial crisis hit like an avalanche, and he won by a much narrower margin than he should have.

Franklin Roosevelt was a capitalist, imperialist bastard, but at least he wasn't a Randian fascist. He knew what it took to defeat his fascist, Nazi-sympathizing political opponents and he wasn't afraid to defeat them. And he exerted leadership, he mobilized and organized his faction of the capitalist ruling class in a way that Herbert Hoover failed to do. (Hoover shared many of the same policy and political attitudes as Roosevelt, as was by all accounts a terrific guy. But Hoover was himself clearly not a leader of his faction, trying to please everyone and pleasing no one. At least part of his failure was probably simple timing: he was the poor sap who had to try all the standard remedies to pave the way for Roosevelt's more radical solutions.)

Other than timing, the biggest difference between 1932 and 2012 is that in 1932 it was the Randian faction that was complacent and too-cautious from decades of nearly unchallenged rule. The proto-Keynesian, liberal faction was organized, disciplined, focused and ready to win. Today, it's the Keynesian faction whose success has rendered them undisciplined, unfocused and complacent; the Randians have been focused by both an epic narrative, Atlas Shrugged and the struggle against the liberals. (I think liberals still haven't really gotten over Reagan, much less Bush fils.) The Christian right will go to the Republicans if they're smart enough to use Palin as a spokesperson and name someone fundamentalist but a little smarter to the Vice Presidency, such as Brownback or Huckabee. The socialist left will be fragmented, and the middle will jump to whoever seems to be winning.

The big problem is that the Randians are not really all that big on "elections" or "democracy" even in their weak capitalist form. Not only do they find democracy inconvenient, they find it abhorrent. Stealing is stealing, and all democracy does is legitimatize theft from the privileged rich productive and industrious by the working people masses of moochers and looters. If by their lack of discipline and focus the Keynesian faction and the Democratic party are repudiated in 2012 then the Randians will do to America what Hitler did to Germany.

Which is not to say that liberals and socialists necessarily should support the Democrats in 2012. The Democrats have become lite Randians. They'll give us better food and extra blankets in the concentration camps, and they'll have the decency to be appalled by the suffering there.

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