Friday, April 25, 2008

Krugman on Obama

A few months ago the Obama campaign was talking about transcendence. Now it’s talking about math...Mr. Obama was supposed to be a transformational figure, with an almost magical ability to transcend partisan differences and unify the nation....Well, now he has an overwhelming money advantage and the support of much of the Democratic establishment — yet he still can’t seem to win over large blocs of Democratic voters, especially among the white working class...Let me offer an alternative suggestion: maybe his transformational campaign isn’t winning over working-class voters because transformation isn’t what they’re looking for.

Transcendence and transformation, whatever they are, are luxuries for the elite. Whatever else Obama is offering, this inspirational, idealistic rhetoric grates on the nerves of people who have real problems: "stuff your transcendence--we want jobs and financial security, health insurance, good schools and safe neighborhoods."

Obama, his groomers and handlers, and his elite groupies don't even get it: they don't understand that this rhetoric plays as "let them eat cake." Of course I don't doubt that if Obama is elected he will actually deliver cake, and bread as well. It is just that this "idealism" as such, and the rhetoric of transcendence and transformation, arouse suspicion and distrust in people who have been fobbed off with symbolic gestures for too long, and offered cheap, worthless intangibles while the material conditions of their lives have steadily degraded.

Unlike Krugman, I do think that Obama will win resoundingly in November--if the Democrats make the case that the misery of these last 8 years hasn't been a result of Bush's personal incompetence but is in fact the inevitable consequence of a failed ideology, and that government is the solution not the problem. That ideology is now so ingrained that it's virtually unfalsifiable. If things go badly we blame that on incompetence or assume that we haven't been consistent in applying the ideology or that we haven't gone far enough or allowed enough time to get the results.

How do you convince the American public, the working class in particular, that for almost 3 decades the US has been involved in a radical experiment which has failed? That for a generation, we have been spending down our capital and going into debt, and that now the chickens have come home to roost?

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