Big Table Fantasies - New York Times: "Barack Obama insists that the problem with America is that our politics are so “bitter and partisan,” and insists that he can get things done by ushering in a “different kind of politics...John Edwards blames the power of the wealthy and corporate interests for our problems, and says, in effect, that America needs another F.D.R. — a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes...I have to say that Mr. Obama comes off looking, well, naïve. "
I agree. Like Krugman, who almost always gets it right, I support Edwards and for the same reasons.
What I wonder is why anyone would prefer a vacuous pretty-boy, sponsored by Oprah, to someone who promises to bring about real material improvement. But apparently Oprah has rallied the troops who like Obama for much the same reason that they like Oprah.
I suspect that the reason is that after 30 years of eating shit they don't believe that the conditions of their lives can be improved. Oprah's constituency is almost exclusively female and largely working class. Over half of them have family incomes under $40,000 a year. They spend their days doing dead-end, boring, drudge work without either security or any real chance of advancement. They're uninsured or underinsured and know that one major illness could wipe them out. They're in debt, juggling to make mortgage payments and pay back Pay Day Loans. But they're so used to it, so imbued with peasant-fatalism, that they don't seriously believe that things can be any better. They think that the best they can hope for is niceness and hand-patting.
Oprah is the Opium of the People. When material improvement is impossible, people read self-help books and work on their souls. When they can't get the real goods they revel in smarm, obsess about "relationships," aspire to a "purpose-driven life" and delude themselves into imagining that these cheap intangibles are what make life worthwhile.
Marx was right, though he got the details wrong. He couldn't have anticipated the new secular religion of Oprah, self-help and generic "spirituality"--religion minus the cult, art and metaphysics. It isn't the pie-in-the-sky doctrine or religion in the narrow sense, liturgy and theology, that lulls people into a stupor and induces them to collaborate with their oppressors. It's the religious attitude, the idea that what matter are these intangibles, the search for "meaning," the taste for niceness, the obsession with "relationships" and psychological matters, the drippy sentimentality and self-deception, that block us from achieving the Good Life.