Jul 212010

[I wanted to leave this as a comment over at John Demetriou’s original post, but his implementation of Blogger rejects comments of more than 4,096 characters.]

JD, unlike your usual rants, this post is dire. I don’t mean that to be harsh, but you’re coming at this from an angle of misunderstanding that makes your ‘I don’t understand’ claims all too believable.

For one thing, you refer to ‘Americans’ and ‘the American people’ as if there is one collective American mind, and you find its schizophrenia puzzling. Perhaps for the sake of simplicity, it might be better to think of Americans as two collective minds: those who voted for Obama, and those who didn’t. For all sorts of reasons, he is and has been a polarising figure. And so you have two poles, rather than the single mad hive-mind you say is so bizarre. It is one pole that exhibits ‘curious rage’ against Obama, not ‘the American people.’

For another thing, you massively overstate Obama’s popularity during the election and at the beginning of his term. You assert that he ‘won by a landslide’ and was the subject of ‘hero worship,’ ‘hagiography,’ and high approval ratings. In fact, he did not win by anything like a landslide. He won with 53% and 28 states.

By comparison, in 2004, George W Bush won with 51% and 31 states. In 1988, George H W Bush won with 53% and 40 states. And in 1984, Ronald Reagan won with 59% and 49 states. And that wasn’t even as impressive as the 1972 election, when Richard Nixon (Nixon, of all people!) won 49 states and 61% of the vote.

Obama has had nothing like the electoral success other presidents have managed. Your perception of hero-worship and hagiography, just like your perception of rage and hatred, comes from one pole of the American populace.

Furthermore, your understanding of the role of US president is woefully incomplete. You say that ‘Bush inherited an excellent, albeit imperfect, set of books from Clinton and very quickly wrecked it.’ As if either Clinton or Bush had anything whatsoever to do with the books or quality thereof. Congress controls the cash, and the Congress that delivered Clinton a budget surplus was, in composition, almost exactly the same Congress that fucked it all up for Bush. And the Congress Obama has been working with is, in composition, almost exactly the same Congress Bush was working with during his last two years in office. The state of the books in the US is entirely unrelated to the views and actual quality of the president.

You also say that Obama is hated ‘for having the temerity to actually carry out what he proposed to do.’ Again, the president does not ‘do’ things. He does not draft legislation, propose it, debate it, or vote on it. He merely signs it once it’s made its way through Congress. (Or not, as the case may be, but I don’t think Obama’s actually used his veto yet.)

So any carrying out during Obama’s term has been done by Congress. And what they have carried out bears little actual resemblance to the platform on which he campaigned. Sure, the health care bill, but what about everything else? What about the war, the ‘middle-class tax cuts,’ the great repeal of the Bush administration’s incursions on civil liberties? Neither he nor Congress have done any of those things, which were major selling points among Obama’s supportive node. Surely you don’t think the whole election revolved around the question of a healthcare bill?

A healthcare bill which you describe thus: ‘The timing…was perhaps ill-judged, even from a social democrat perspective, but this was one of those once-in-a-thousand-years opportunities, politically, to achieve this ambition.’ For a once-in-a-thousand-years opportunity, Obama and his Congress sure did fuck it up, didn’t they? Instead of doing thorough research, either before the election or after it, and determining the best possible way to ensure universal, affordable healthcare, they cobbled together a travesty of a bill, full of unrelated pork to get various hold-out politicians onside, that when all is said and done, could serve as an exemplar of what every rent-seeker (in this case, the insurance industry) hardly dares even to dream. That’s not even to mention the costs this bill imposes, both to individuals and to the body politic, which have been revised upward continually since the passage of the bill. And the bill fails to achieve even its basic objective, which is to ensure that the poor and low-paid have access to affordable, customised insurance and care.

Is it any wonder that a significant number of Americans are horrified and disgusted by it?

All of this is a far cry from, ‘Hey, you all voted for him, he did what he said he’d do, so what’s the big problem?’

Finally, you assert that les Americains sont fous because ‘their media and overall educational standards are so lacking in substance.’ This is, basically, not true. Unless by ‘their media’ you mean Fox News, and by ‘their overall educational standards’ you mean ‘those five schools in Kansas where they teach intelligent design.’

Or perhaps you just mean the rednecks, Tea Partiers, and Christians are poorly educated. Maybe you can confirm or deny.

What I don’t understand is why you are displaying so much contempt for a bunch of people who, for the most part, share your opinions. These are people who didn’t vote for Obama (as presumably you wouldn’t have, did you have the opportunity) and who loathe what he stands for and what he’s supported as president. Sure, some of them have authoritarian tendencies, but they’re with you on at least 50% of stuff. If you were in their position, wouldn’t you be angry? They didn’t want him, they didn’t vote for him, and his presidency is riding roughshod over their cherished conception of what the United States is.

I never expected you to take this position, I must say. That you would present Americans who disagree with their president and his Congress, and who display that disagreement with words, ideas, and peaceful legitimate protests, as ‘wild, irrational…mad and retarded’ comes as a great surprise to me.

And a serious disappointment.

UPDATE: JD rebuts here.

  28 Responses to “The curious rage against Barack Obama”

  1. Bella

    I will post an article in rebuttal of your piece above on Boaty & D dot com, interleaving my responses between paragraphs. I hope I have your permission to re-post your article in order that I might carry out this task in the aforementioned manner.


    • Why yes, kind sir. And may I extend to you the aforementioned permission to quote my work into perpetuity.

  2. I look forward to seeing this.

    I wonder if it will descend into the usual B&D rebuttal and hysterics

  3. On healthcare: during the Dems nomination campaign Obama emphasized breaking the insurance cartel and liberalising the drugs legislation (allowing people to buy drugs from outside of the US), this to distinguish himself from Hillary who was far more intent on 100% compulsory insurance as objective #1. He was claiming he could reduce the cost of healthcare largely by dealing with the cartelisation of the insurance industry, this went WELL AND TRULY out of the window in the actual legislation. Classic example of what all politicians do: pretend to be liberalitarian until elected then full steam ahead with the precise opposite.

    I have to say if I were living in the US I would have voted for him, John McCain was worse, and if you’ve seen what JM is up to now… not much of a choice, same same same there as here: frying pan or fire.

    Ron Paul is openly calling BHO a corporatist/fascist now, and he’s trained and now deployed the military to ‘police’ civilians. Public seem to be panicking, they are tuning-in to what’s going on and getting angry, unlike the British sheeple. But hell – it would’ve happened regardless of who got in.

    Tea Party was Ron Paul’s lot to begin with, IE: solid libertarian*; Sarah Palin is there to hijack the movement before it turns the Republicans soft (anti-war).

    On Clinton: he had a Rep congress ranged against him pretty early on so his spending was constrained, not just because Republicans are more fiscal conservative but because – of course – they wanted to prevent him doing anything: Hillarycare comes to mind, now we have many more Dems in congress so health ‘reform’ goes through: president not so relevant.

    *This is really for JD’s benefit, hope he’s reading.

    • I’m not trying to suggest that John McCain was in any way a better choice than Obama, mind you. But as I say in my response to Neil’s comment below: we are not limited to two alternatives. McCain v. Obama is not zero-sum.

  4. Oh, fuck off Henry.

  5. It seems this Tea Party lot got unfairly lumped in with the birther movement quite early on, and they seem to have gone to great strides to distance themselves from that particular group. Also, a lot of reporting on the movement in this country focuses on personalities like Palin/Bachmann/Rand Paul etc, without considering the on-the-ground dynamics. If one was to look for bias in our reporting, we could notice that the Obama campaign for President was portrayed very much as grassroots organising, whilst the Tea Party is seen as this quasi-Machiavellian GOP revival movement. Neither characterisation has much to do with the reality, I suspect.

    But here’s the thing that I’m really interested in: from what I’ve seen so far (and I might well fall prey to liberal-left bias in my choice of news sources), the Tea Party lot seems plenty liberal in terms of economic freedom and quite boringly conservative on social issues. Let’s take Rand Paul for example. Now, this dude got a lot of stick for offering a fairly boilerplate libertarian take on the Civil Rights Act, but what seemed most odd was that was then quite happy to use Congress to ban abortion. Equally, I’ve not seen any Tea Partiers striking out for gay rights or being strident about demolishing the Bush-era anti-terror apparatus.

    I guess the question is… are the Tea Partiers bastardising libertarianism in order to win elections? Does it not seem galling when they preach economic liberalism and then anything but in several other areas. Or are my observations here off-base?

    • I don’t think you’re off-base there. Demographic surveys of Tea Party-protest participants show some significant sub-groupings, exactly as you point out. There are those who are what we might call traditional Republican-fodder: socially very conservative, economically very… not collectivist, is really the nicest way I can describe it. In actual fact they are rather corporatist, and it wouldn’t necessarily be unfair to characterise them as people who are economically secure enough not to bother investigating what state-sponsored capitalism really is.

      Then there are those who are actually libertarian: free-marketeers who reject protectionism, state intervention in the economy and who are civilly and socially liberal: that is, they reject state intervention in uteri & marriage and are fervent supporters of civil rights.

      I think here again the problem lies in the polarisation of American politics and non-American interpretations of same. There’s this assumption that anti-Obama is the same as Republican, as if there were only two choices available to Americans. The Tea Party movement is neither uniform nor necessarily Republican, as you rightly discern. On the one hand, it is grass-roots, but like any grass-roots movement, it has fallen prey to hijacking and manipulation.

      Not to mention the fact that many, if not most, Americans are lying contrarians. I don’t mean that as criticism, but as praise! They will say one thing, and do another, which is how you end up with ‘Dewey defeats Truman’ and so forth. I bet there are Tea Partiers who loathe the Republicans, as well as people who profess to support Obama who don’t when it comes to voting in his favour. And vice versa.

      I guess what I find so bothersome about the American political situation is that, yes, compared to what I’ve known in my lifetime, a lot of this stuff seems rather intemperate; however, I was reading about 21-22 December 1989 in Romania today. *shrug* To consider bitching and marching ‘intemperate’ in that frame is a bit ridiculous.

      • Well, if we cross ‘intemperate’ out of our cultural discourse, then I lose about 70% of my punk rock collection and 99% of my hip hop*. That’s about 40 years worth of fun you get rid of for the sake of civility. Not in my name :).

        *The remaining 1% is Will Smith, and no, I’m not proud of it.

        • *Hey, who wouldn’t like to bounce with the brother that’s platinum? Will, we loved your last hit!

    • Rand Paul and his father Ron Paul don’t oppose abortion for the same reason as the religious zealots. They approach abortion from a purely philosophical perspective that sees it as an issue of individual rights. The question for them really is “does a embryo or a fetus have human rights?” The Pauls insist we must err toward the affirmative. Mind, I’m not saying either way if I agree with this but I think we must be fair and recognize that their position is more thoughtful and logical than that of fundamental Baptists and their ilk.

      As someone living rural North Carolina, I feel particularly qualified to describe the Tea Party.

      The members of the Tea Party are most simply this: republicans pissed at Republicans*. For one reason or another, they feel abandoned or betrayed by Republicans. Some of them never were Republicans but are generally conservative or conservative/libertarian. Others were formerly Republicans because they believed that party most resembled the philosophy of the founders and the strictest interpretation of the Constitution**. This belief of theirs has been eroding since Vietnam and Nixon and was destroyed during the two Bushes’ presidencies. There are relatively small pockets of genuine libertarians (who founded the movement, ironically) and liberal democratic types.

      What I think of the Tea Party is this:

      They represent America’s oldest political roots. Some of them still venerate both of the American confederacies***. Some of these are deeply patriotic and well read in American political history (often citing the Federalist Papers in conversation.) They romanticize the Good Old Days. They want the gold standard back, the abolition of income tax and dozens of federal agencies, and strict adherence to the Constitution for the congress and the president. I think, as influential political movements go, they are listless and rather petty in both internal power struggles and endless bickering with race organizations like the NAACP. This movement is a fragment of the GOP fused with libertarians on the conservative end of the libertarian spectrum. It may well come to replace the dying GOP but is hardly the glorious revival of the founders’ simple design for the American government.

      I’m disappointed by this, personally, because I found my way into libertarianism by reading Jefferson, Paine, and Henry and I’d like to see their philosophies represented by more competent advocates. I have a sentimental attachment to that old America like so many of the tea-partiers. However, I no longer romanticize that time. It was probably the largest step in the right direction history has ever taken but it was less than half perfect. Because of the time and place, these enlightened men failed to show any respect for women and coolly rationalized their practice of chattel slavery. Furthermore, they barely managed to resist violating the Constitution by the time the ink on its pages had dried.

      What we need in America is a modern movement that takes the best of Enlightenment America and improves and modifies it. The Tea Party might have been begun with this intention but quickly outgrew anyone’s ability to control its trajectory. It probably does represent the new republican* movement, but I don’t think I’ll be voting for them any time soon.

      *The word ‘republican’ with a lower-case R is the literal sense of the word whereas ‘Republican’ is the political party which may or may not actually be ‘republican.’

      **Such a person is not necessarily a self-described libertarian but is almost always the same thing in the basic sense.

      ***For those unaware of the first confederacy in America, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Articles_of_Confederation .

  6. One gets tired of the sheer volume of words.
    FWIW –
    Bella – you understand the American psyche in a way that B&D will/can never do.
    JD – yes, we all accept Obama (Obamessiah, O’Barmy, One-Term-Barry) is/was a flake. The American people (or a proportion thereof) were conned. And your point is?

  7. Where did I say he was a ‘flake’?

    Have you not read and understood my piece? And I thought Bella’s point was that there is no general American view or psyche, so on what are you in agreement with regarding her argument?

    My main thrust was that Obama pledged a number of actions and has either carried them out or is in the process of doing so. The wide disparity in popularity between 2008 numbers and 2010 numbers cannot be logically or rationally explained. That is my point.

    Is it so hard to understand?

    Why have you, and Bella for that matter, deliberately missed my main points?

    • I guess the simple version of my disagreement with you, JD, is that Obama was loathed by a significant number of people in 2008, and those same people loathe him even more now precisely because his platform is being implemented. They didn’t like the guy, they didn’t vote for him, and they still don’t like the guy. And the reason they don’t like the guy is because he wants the United States to become a social democracy, which they also don’t like.

      It can be logically and rationally explained.

      And that is my last word on it, I’m afraid, because the minute you, who have never seen a man who wasn’t made of straw, start accusing me of deliberately missing your points, there is no more profit to be had in the discussion.

      • I thought I addressed most of your challenges pretty directly, using facts and evidence.

        Where were my straw man arguments? You should show me, because I can’t see them and doubt many of those were paid attention can see them.

        Did you not read what I said about the figures on approval ratings? 76% down to the 40s. And he wasn’t doing too well even after just 12 months in the job.

        His adoring fan base has ebbed away. Gone are the wails of “once you go Barack, you never go back!”, gone are the hysterical trumpeting of support, the media frenzy, the popular cries of love for the man of change who would solve everything and make America brilliant. That’s because most of them have lost faith in their demi-God.

        If he is a one-termer, it is precisely because the hero worshippers will have gone away.

        Why is that?

        Hence……..my original article. Which you roundly ignore, focusing only on those who never supported him in the first place. A group of people I did not discuss or make much reference to, except only to say that many of the non-Obama people didn’t turn out to keep Obama out of the White House

        Why is that?

        Hence……..the comments I made in my rebuttal.

        You’re just sore because you are American, you perceived my piece to be intolerant and anti-American (hence the tag on your piece called ‘anti-American’) and you are insulted and wounded by my piece.

        You’ve taken it personally. You cannot take emotion out of the equation and deal with my piece in an adult, proper manner.

        What a shame. I thought you were better than that.

        • Please forgive my error, your tag said “US bashing” not “Anti American” as I remembered it, though of course terms are almost identical in meaning given the context.

        • “You’re just sore because you are American, you perceived my piece to be intolerant and anti-American (hence the tag on your piece called ‘anti-American’) and you are insulted and wounded by my piece. You’ve taken it personally. You cannot take emotion out of the equation and deal with my piece in an adult, proper manner. What a shame. I thought you were better than that.”

          Well, you just made it personal, what with your psychic understanding of my emotions and state of mind. Maybe you can read my future too while you’re at it.

          Or maybe you can fuck off, because if I’d thought your piece was either intolerant or anti-American, I certainly would have said so. And what I’m insulted by is not your piece, but the fact that instead of continuing our nice long string of civil discussions, you’ve seen fit to come over here and devalue our entire detente by implying that I have nothing of value to say, only irrational feelings to react to. Thanks a fucking bunch.

          • You had plenty of value to say. If you hadn’t, I would not have bothered responding or writing an article, and I wouldn’t even know who you are because I would not have paid any attention to you from the beginning.

            But as our post-article phase has progressed, and as I’ve studied your follow up comments, it is obvious that you’ve decided to ignore all my key points and simply rant and rave.

            So I must ask – what are your motivations? There must be an emotional reason as well as any other, because normally intelligent people (as you are) don’t blindly ignore clearly stated arguments over and over and over again.

            You say my piece was not anti-American, yet your tagline for your piece reads “US Bashing”. Did you consider my piece “US Bashing” or not?

            You don’t like it do you? I’ve pulled you up on something that’s probably true, and you’re throwing toys out the pram and degenerating the discussion into a spat of “fuck yous” and abuse.

            Christ, what a shame. I had you leagues ahead of no-marks like Constantly Furious and mischievous morons like Obo the Clown, too.

            All it takes is a bit of honesty, Bella. Just be bloody open and honest about why you have chosen to make the comments you have and ignore the points I have actually made, rather than the points you think I have made, but haven’t.

          • I’m going to do you the honour here of assuming you’re not just trying wind me up, and say that my post here is about as far from a rant as anything I’ve ever written on this blog. It does consider your points, it addresses them using some counter-data, and it never once even implies that your piece was anti-American or intolerant.

            I might well ask what’s your motivation, for seeing accusations where there are none?

            And if you don’t think your patronising little ‘you were insulted and wounded’ remark wasn’t a blatant attempt to discredit my argument, in one of the most underhanded tactics I’ve ever witnessed you using, then I think you ought to seriously reconsider who you’re calling emotional and blindly ignorant.

            Furthermore, you clearly haven’t noted that all of my blog posts pertaining to the US are labelled with ‘US-bashing,’ whether they have anything to do with bashing the US or not. It’s such a feature that it’s a fucking category, not a tag I threw on there for this post alone. You wouldn’t understand that, of course, considering the absolute shit state of the code and design of your own blog.

            And finally, here’s my honesty: I was addressing your points. The fact that you take every disagreement as a deep and irrational criticism of your Solomon-like self says a lot more about you than it does about me. You have some nerve complaining about fuck yous and abuse as well, as if you don’t drop that on every commenter who dares to disagree with your monopoly on correctness. And you seem to think I would consider it an insult to be lumped in with CF and Obo. Actually, I consider it an honour.

            So on their behalf and mine, seriously, fuck off.

          • I didn’t insult you, Bella. You insulted me, and you started using the foul language. Not me.

            I kept it reasoned. I asked harsh questions and made difficult points. What a shame it has come to this.

            I’ll bow out now, there’s no sense in continuing this charade, and your tactic of using moral equivalents is just too depressing to contemplate.

            Of you go, join hands with your ring-a-ring-a-roses circle of faux libertarian hypocrites and bullshitters. Obo and the like. People who claim to have the last, final, definitive word on everything political, except when we speak, and suddenly it is US who claim a monopoly on the truth.

            Thanks Bella. Thanks a bunch. I really thought you a cracking lass, too.

          • Nice lady. Another glass of wine?

          • Well, well. Nothing changes much, does it?

            My blog’s been ‘dead’ since the end of May, and yet still JD has the burning, corrosive jealousy going on.

            It’s just beginning to look obsessive, rather than merely sad, don’tcha think?

        • The swing in Obama’s approval can be explained quite easily: First, with few exceptions, Blacks voted overwhelmingly for Obama because he is Black. They are the only part of Obama voters who considered him a demi-God in 2008, and they still do.

          Secondly, the non-Black electorate that voted for Obama did so for largely emotional single-issue reasons: Some non-Hispanic Whites voted for Obama because they hated Bush and were determined not to vote Republican. Some Whites, Hispanic and non-Hispanic, voted for Obama because he is Black, and they thought it would be cool to have a Black president. Some Hispanics voted for Obama in reaction to the anti-immigration stand of some Republicans. If even a part of those non-Black Obama voters had considered other issues, as they are doing now, they would not have voted for him then. Now that those voters are beginning to see the concrete effects of Obama’s policies, they may not vote to keep the Democrat majority in the House, and perhaps not in the Senate, leaving Obama hamstrung for the next two years. That is not to say that he will not win reelection–Clinton did in much the same situation. But it illustrates that Obama was not–and certainly is not now–a demi-God to all those who voted for him.

  8. What do think of Obama`s mama John?

  9. Bella

    If you feel the way you do about me and what I said, it’s probably a good idea if we don’t bother with these exchanges and articles about politics which overlap and mutually reference.

    Further to that, I think it has become crystal clear that you and other ‘libertarian’ bloggers hold us in low esteem, and think us only out for stats and blog traffic. In view of that, I suggest that you take us off your blogroll. We don’t want or need any of this bullshit.

    So don’t insult us anymore and just fuck off, ok?

  10. BanDicrap (copyright mine) mostly. Splitting hairs again, because you agree more than you disagree.

    After the previous two stolen elections, it was surely a relief that there was a clear winner. Perhaps awarding Obama a Nobel peace prize after just 2 weeks in office was premature, but the guy is at least making a difference.

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