American Samizdat

Sunday, December 07, 2008. *
Politics as Unusual
Philip, I don't think Brainwash is criticizing Obama. The sentiment seems to be more that Obama is ultimately less important than the movement that has been created around him, and if you want to get anything done politically, you will always have to work with some segment of the population that's focused in a particular direction. Of late, the groundswell around Obama is the most powerful political segment--at least with regards to governance.

Importantly, this is exactly what Obama said several times going into the election: his term in office isn't about "me" but about "all of you," that he wanted his supporters to hold him accountable, and that he would do everything he could to open government to the participation of The People. To some people, this sounds like political pandering.

I think what the critics are missing is just how seriously this economy is going to hurt. People won't take things lying down after it gets to a certain point. The idea that they will in the future just because they have in the past is false.

The "financial crisis" is an illusion which simultaneously distracts from the real economic problems (distribution of real goods and services rather than the movement of monetary "values" in a computer) and exacerbates the real problems by vacuuming money out of the economy.

The quickest way I've thought of to describe the financial crisis is to say, Remember the food crisis a few months ago? The financial speculators were sequestering food in silos in order to raise demand for that food and thereby raise prices. This financial crisis is analogous. The banking sector is sequestering money from the economy in order to increase demand. Only the speculated payoff isn't higher monetary returns in the abstract, but political power.

As we all know by now, Paulson broke the TARP. As shitty as the deal was, as much in the favor the banks it was, he broke it anyway and did whatever he (and his friends) wanted with the money. Rather than execute a massive purchase of assets from the private sector by the government, he helped the private sector consolidate their political power. And remember that the passing of this law constituted a major turning point in the election in favor of the Democrats. To repeat: Breaking the TARP was a calculated affront to the Democrats, Obama, and, it follows, to the majority of American voters. What we have is a staredown between the finance sector and just about everybody else, viewed via the fractured lens of two-party politics.

Not all conservative accolades for Obama are given with the same motivation. Some are with the intent to shore up the cohesiveness of the Republican party. Some are with the intent to inspire paranoia in the Democratic ranks. Some are attempts to ingratiate the new ruling party. And some are made with the sincere belief that America must pass beyond the Republican vs. Democrat dynamic.

It seems less meaningful to me now to regard conservatives as a bloc. Compiling a list of accolades from conservatives at this point, sorry $cam, gives the Republican party not only more power than they deserve, but more power than they will ever again be able to manage.

What really matters now is the dynamic between the banking sector and everyone else. We can speculate about whether or not Obama represents the interests of "The People," but, again,  those who think this line of inquiry is important are underestimating (deliberately or idly) the severity of the crisis. When people get hungry, they become conscious of their hunger and seek to do something about it. That's politics for you. Obama has claimed his election is an opening. The American public will take that opening, whether or not he's telling the truth.
posted by the thistle at 3:31 AM
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