Monday, January 28, 2008

Deconstructing Obama:

Well, he certainly is here and there, and everywhere. But what is he really offering?

"I don't know what he stands for other than "hope," "change" and other truisms." says Roger L. Simon. here:

And, like most people when getting the approbation of the
crowd, I imagine Obama is loathe to alienate it and finds himself agreeing with
it as the line of least (temporary) resistance. But Obama's particular crowd is
partly a dangerous rabble that has not thought through the times in which we
live on any serious level and responds in the most generic peacenik manner. As a
single issue voter - the War on Terror - I am more than a little bit
concerned.




"More charisma than guts", says Christopher Hitchens, in an article whose main thrust is shredding the Clintons:


When Toni Morrison described Clinton as "black" on the
basis of his promiscuity and dysfunction and uncertainty about his parentage,
she did more than cater to the white racist impression of the African-American
male. She tapped into the sort of self-hatred that is evidently more common than
we might choose to think. Say what you will about Sen. Obama (and I say that
he's got much more charisma than guts), he is miles above this sort of squalor
and has decent manners. Say what you will about the Clintons, you cannot acquit
them of having played the race card several times in both directions and of
having done so in the most vulgar and unscrupulous fashion. Anyone who thinks
that this equals "change" is a fool, and an easily fooled fool at that.


Not much, says Sean Collins, on Spiked:

But what kind of change is Obama really offering?

Real change, historic change, has traditionally
involved the implementation of ambitious, sweeping political ideas. A new
organisation of the economy. A new conception of the role of government. A new
morality. Obama is regularly compared with groundbreaking leaders of the past.
Many pundits liken him to John F Kennedy. Obama himself recently drew an analogy
between the scale of his own objectives and those of Ronald Reagan. In truth,
Obama is not in their league, and his idea of change pales in comparison with
earlier upheavals in American politics and society.


He may have received the backing of Kennedy’s
brother (Senator Ted) and daughter (Caroline), but that doesn’t make him the
reincarnation of JFK. Of course, President Kennedy can be criticised for many
things, but he was at least ambitious, far more so than Obama. Where is Obama’s
equivalent for a mission to put a man on the moon?


Obama’s ideas, rather than being pioneering and
forward-looking, are modest and parasitical on the manner in which American
politics is conducted. In South Carolina Obama criticised ‘tactics that divide
and distract’, ‘bitter partisanship’, and those who will ‘say anything and do
anything to win an election’. Many recognise - and are weary of - the petty
bickering and cynical maneuvers of Washington politics (including those coming
from Hillary Clinton’s campaign), so Obama strikes a chord.


*

Obama, despite his rhetoric, has not really thought
through what should change in the future. In South Carolina, one of his most
well-received lines was: ‘It’s about the past versus the future.’ Okay, we got
the reference to the Clintons representing the past. But what about the future
part? What great policy ideas do we have to look forward to? That all
politicians will learn to play nicely together? Even if he could manage to
control others’ behaviors, that would hardly qualify as a ‘higher purpose’ or as
truly ‘transformative’.


*

Looking at the size of the displays of emotion at
Obama’s rallies, many pundits conclude that he is more than a candidate. ‘A
political campaign has become a movement with Barack Obama at its head’, says
Roger Cohen (2). Some believe Obama’s drive echoes the civil rights movement of
the 1960s. The attendance at Obama rallies is indeed remarkable. But sheer
numbers do not make a mass movement, and Obama’s campaign isn’t one.


Obama and his coterie of advisers have total
control; it is not a democratic organisation. They have one purpose in mind -
getting him elected - not a goal of social advancement as such that will
continue after the election. And most of the ‘mass’ of supporters are not
actively engaged in politics. A student going to a rally has a more active
relationship with politics than if he or she watched it on TV, but it is still
an essentially passive, distanced stance.


*


I don’t expect Obama to create a true mass movement.
But why is he so reluctant to engage the public in debate on policy specifics
that can take us forward?

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