November 18, 2013
Might the Establishment Turn Against Obama?
By Daren Jonescu
A disturbing trend among American conservatives is the increasing sense of optimism about President Obama's slow fade in mainstream perceptions, and its ramifications for the future of American leftism. Does Obama's decline entail the undoing of the movement he represents? Progressivism's history reveals another option, which is that the movement will, in the name of saving itself, reject Obama.
Progressives are rigid in their ideology, to be sure, but this rigidity does not extend to their support for leaders. For it follows from the inhumane core of progressivism itself that all men -- even "historic" ones -- are expendable in the name of the cause, namely history's march into totalitarianism.
It is true that Obama has begun to get some bad, or at least unworshipful, press, and that this is both causing and reflecting a drop in his general popularity. It is naïve, however, to assume that it betokens a breach of the establishment's ideological firewall.
Apologists for Stalin's Russia were reluctant to admit that their hero was a bloodthirsty tyrant. However, when the state-controlled press and a complicit Western intelligentsia were unable to suppress the truth any longer, even those apologists turned on him -- not because he no longer represented their views, but because he no longer served their interests. Subsequently, this process of blaming all the regime's evils on one leader as a way of purifying the next became an essential mechanism of Soviet oppression. It is not hard to see how democratic politics may be corrupted into the perfection of such a mechanism. Thus, a similar fate could befall Obama, if American progressives find that their shiny hood ornament has become a rusty eyesore.
For more than six years, the American political establishment has provided cover for Obama -- and that is the entire establishment, from the hard leftists of the Democrat wing to the hard careerists of the Republican wing. Was Obama elected president because he was the first mixed-race nominee? Or was he elected because his status as the first mixed-race nominee was effectively isolated as the only unique fact about him that the mainstream voting population was permitted to notice or address?
Communist childhood mentors? Don't go there. Boasting in print about his university penchant for Marxism and his heavy drug use? Well, all students are "idealists" and "party-goers." Explicit statements declaring fully socialized medicine his long-term goal? Surely he's learned now that Washington is about compromise. Long personal, professional, and political association with Bill Ayers -- terrorist, avowed communist revolutionary, advocate of Marxist re-education camps, and education "reformer"? But he says Ayers was just a guy from his neighborhood, and his word should be good enough for us. Refusing to release his school records? So what? -- the man has a Harvard law degree. Spending years in the church of a radical anti-American preacher? How dare anyone question a man's relationship with his God? Communist Party endorsement and campaign support? Well, people are free to support whomever they want -- that's no reflection on the candidate himself. Criticizing the U.S. Constitution's focus on "negative liberties," and its failure to address what government "must do on your behalf" to bring about "economic" and "redistributive" justice? That's just abstract theoretical discussion, proving that Obama is a thinker. "Fundamental transformation" and "spread the wealth around"? Oh, come on, you know what he meant -- just more optimism and a fairer tax code.
All of the above concerns were raised in dark corners during Obama's 2008 primary and general election campaigns. And all of those corresponding rebuttals were offered, with almost perfect unanimity, by the mainstream voices of both major parties.
On the Republican side, George Will criticized the McCain campaign's tepid October jabs at Obama's past associations as "angry" and off-topic, and accused the campaign of trying to suggest "less that Obama has bad ideas than that Obama is a bad person." (Heaven forbid!) David Brooks famously announced his ability to channel the secret language of Obama's pants, which told him their wearer would be a good president. Peggy Noonan pretended objective aloofness in observing that this was "a new liberal moment." The Republican leading lights persuaded themselves that Obama was one of them -- an educated man with a mellifluous voice. And in these days of the coma of reason, having fancy diplomas and the timbre of sobriety is what passes for intelligence and statesmanship.
(I note in passing that education and mature rationality do indeed tend to promote a detached, unexcitable tone of voice. A similar tone, however, is typical of people whose passionate peaks have been shaved off by years of drug use or other excesses; of amoral men whose goals and methods necessitate the gradual flattening of the feelings; and of indolent pseudo-intellectuals practiced at papering over their incompetence with haughty blather.)
Meanwhile, the bulk of the media, dominated by progressive executives and editors, along with their useful idiots the journalism majors, made protecting progressivism's new poster child and mocking or ignoring anyone who dared to challenge him their primary mission.
The 2012 election was more complicated. The establishment conservative voices, after four years of the disaster they had helped to precipitate, and having actively undermined all of Mitt Romney's GOP primary opponents, were less inclined to concede points to Obama directly, for obvious credibility reasons. Instead, they consistently damned their candidate with faint praise, an approach for which Romney -- the self-described "progressive" Republican whose major policy achievement was the prototype for ObamaCare -- was tailor-made.
The leftist media majority, meanwhile, followed the Democratic Party's talking points right down the line, as they were hired to do. And the doomsday clock for American liberty that is ObamaCare was carefully concealed through the obvious and simplistic tactic of delaying much of the law's implementation until after Obama's re-election. (With the "legitimate" press being a propaganda wing of the government, a simplistic tactic takes on the air and effect of brilliant strategy.)
Then there was Benghazi. It was obvious within a week of the attack, to anyone inquisitive enough to read non-American news sources, that the Obama administration had knowingly allowed an ambassador and three other Americans to die during a lengthy, planned terrorist attack, and then concocted and disseminated self-protective lies no less carefully planned than the attack itself. The obviousness of the administration's inhumanity and mendacity was only heightened as the weeks dragged on, and the White House continued to dig itself deeper into what ought to have been its grave, with further lies, smugness, and blunt refusals to answer natural questions such as "Where was Obama during the seven and a half hours of the attack, and what was he doing while the victims were sending urgent and repeated pleas for help?"
This hall of horrors, which, as I noted before the 2012 election, makes Watergate look like cheating at tiddlywinks, was completely trivialized by the "respectable" American media prior to the election. The United States re-elected an administration guilty of fresh sins worthy of the later cantos of Dante's Inferno without most of the voting public even being apprised of the fact. They were not apprised because the press was following the direction of the sinners themselves, whose unofficial position, subsequently expressed so eloquently by their invisible point man on Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was "What difference -- at this point -- does it make?"
Hillary Clinton -- ay, there's the rub. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: modern progressivism's farcical revival of Stalin and Trotsky.
What happened when the progressive intelligentsia's romance with post-revolutionary Russia ran up against the inescapable truth of Stalinism in practice? The intelligentsia turned at last -- not against Soviet communism or its "ideals," which remained the ideals of the intellectual class, but against Stalin. He was, they decided, a traitor to the workers' cause. Their self-rehabilitation as "anti-Soviet" was embodied in their moral support of Trotsky. "Trotskyite" became almost the academic equivalent of "freedom fighter." Stalin, not the Leninist idea, was the enemy. Stalinism, not Marxist progressivism, was the evil destroying Eastern and Central Europe.
It became semi-official doctrine, fed to generations of young people through Western universities, and then down to the public schools, that Marxism is a great ideal, but that it has not been attempted purely in practice, because it was corrupted by Stalin's unscrupulous expulsion of the noble Trotsky. Hence Orwell's Animal Farm, which depicts Trotsky as the idealistic "Snowball"; hence the phony Dewey Commission (yes, that Dewey, the radical socialist re-education theorist consistently whitewashed today as "anti-communist"), which provided Trotsky an official stamp of Western exoneration, while dumping one of its own members (Carleton Beals) for having had the gall to ask Trotsky an awkward question; hence the string of progressives up to the present day who continue to wax nonsensical about how different the Soviet experiment might have been had Trotsky triumphed over the usurper Stalin. (Kudos, on this point, to campus cool killer extraordinaire, Che Guevara, who had the integrity -- if that is the right word for it -- to remain steadfast in support of Stalin, rejecting the cynical self-cleansing of Western intellectuals in favor of standing firm on communist principle.)
Back to the present, where the American news media have tried to obscure the most important facts of Benghazi from day one -- not the facts on the ground in Libya, but the facts on the sofa in the White House and the State Department. But those facts, as is clear from the lengths to which people have gone to hide them, are so grave that in a faint, intimate echo of the Ukrainian famine, they have continued to find their way out in spite of the mainstream media's best Walter Duranty impersonation. It is unlikely that even the whole truth would cause a political earthquake; the American majority has, it sadly seems, been insulated against all moral shock by generations of public education, moronic popular entertainment, and a carefully cultivated mass cynicism that responds to all outrages with a shrug and a chorus of "They all do it."
There is, however, the possibility that Benghazi started a chain reaction of revelations of dishonor and untrustworthiness that will strike at least a substantial fraction of the morally tranquilized as ugly enough to warrant "throwing the bums out." Progressives must grapple with the fact that the lack of underlying principle they have inculcated in much of the public cuts both ways: the unreasoned feeling that it is "time for a change" is a relative sentiment, and may do to one party what it does to another. (That's why having the leadership of both parties in the "establishment" camp is so important.)
As the effects of ObamaCare's implementation are felt directly by enough Americans to overcome the propaganda; as the awareness gradually flowers in people's minds that their government not only has the capacity to track and warehouse all their personal communications and financial data, but has actually been doing so for years; and as the administration's authoritarian lurches (e.g., EPA) and reprisals (e.g., IRS) become increasingly unmasked and vile -- thanks to the determined resistance of the establishment's nemesis, principled constitutionalists -- it is quite likely that the Obama presidency will be judged a liability to the cause.
When enough of the truth of this corruption and destruction has broken through the artificial haze of "politics as usual" to become a problem for the 2016 Democrat presidential nominee, what will the official propagandists do?
If Hillary Clinton is that nominee, they will have no choice. Regarding the Benghazi dereliction of duty and its cover-up, she is swimming as deep in the muck as Obama. The question for progressives will be how to scrub her up into a semblance of cleanliness in time for her "historic" campaign. And the answer, which has no doubt been fully considered, is clear. Clinton must be recast as the pure, idealistic Democrat who found herself at odds with Obama's cynical Chicago machine, and who will sweep in and do efficiently and sensibly all the things her predecessor promised to do, but gradually compromised through his administration's incompetence and "overreach." (Hence her present silence on the ObamaCare disaster.)
In October 2012, I asked whether Benghazi would be Obama's Waterloo. It was not. It may, however, in combination with a growing list of other unconcealable assaults on his country and its citizens, be enough to force the apologists into the delicate surgery of separating the dream of fundamental transformation from the fundamental transformer himself. Then will arise today's Dewey Commission report, from the "Committee for the Defense of Hillary Clinton," also known as the American political and media establishment. We have already had a glimpse of how that committee will operate, judging from the GOP's reaction to Michele Bachmann's questions about Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The old boys club gave Bachmann the full Carleton Beals treatment.
Yes, American progressives will abandon Obama if and when he is perceived as a liability to their cause, just as their ideological kin dropped Stalin, Khrushchev, Mao, and other brave "reformers," as contingencies required. The nickname ObamaCare conveniently guarantees that that disaster will not be hung around the any other Democrat's neck, apart from the senators Ted Cruz forced into branding themselves with his well-timed mock filibuster. As for Benghazi -- or, for that matter, Iran, Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other matters related to the State Department -- once the establishment sees the writing on the wall, and gives the press its new marching orders, the lingering stench will be blamed on Obama alone ("the buck stops with the president"), until this mantra, along with Obama's lame duck status, has its intended soporific effect on that majority of the electorate which has long since been rendered permanently drowsy for just such purposes. "Hillary?" the focus groups will ask. "What does she have to do with Obama's mistakes?"
When they write the updated Animal Farm, Hillary Clinton will be Snowball. The Obama diehards in their Che Guevara T-shirts need not worry, however. For there will be a modern epilogue suited to this absurdist age. The turn against Obama will be contingent and temporary, and will in no way hinder his future career as the ultimate celebrity ex-president -- America's Historic First Ever Cool Cokehead Completely Fabricated LGBT Community-Organizing Contraceptive-Dispensing Communist-in-Chief.
If the progressive establishment turns on Obama during the run-up to 2016, you should not be surprised. The cause trumps the man. But wait for the November 2016 New York Times interview in which he laments, Bill Ayers-style, "I regret only that we didn't do enough." And if he and Beyoncé are not standing side by side as presenters at the 2017 MTV Video Awards, I'll eat my hat.