Illusions about the “Goodness” of President Obama

We can identify two types of Leftists: those who will, come Election Day 2012, abandon the Democratic Party and vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party or some other “third party” candidate; and those who will vote to re-elect Barack Obama. While the former continue to have illusions about representative democracy (they believe that their votes, entered as “protests” against the two-party system, will be noticed and registered by those in power), they have no illusions about the current president, who is – at least where foreign policy is concerned – as bad, if not worse, than his predecessor. But the latter have two tiers of illusions: about representative democracy, and about Obama himself, who they persist in believing is “one of them”: an essentially good person.

We might have some sympathy for those Leftists who plan to vote for Jill Stein: they are anarchists in the making; all they need to do is lose their illusions about representative democracy. But, even in the most generous of moods, we can have no sympathy for those Leftists who plan to vote for Obama: they are fascists in the making; all they need to do is add one more illusion, namely, that extremism in the “defense” of democracy is not extremism at all, but simply yet another step towards “reality.”

And yet, despite the fact that they are the ones with the greatest illusions about both politics and themselves, the Liberal supporters of Obama speak about “realpolitik” and the way “things” are in “the real world.” They will claim, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it is Obama's fiercest critics – the ones who, for example, insist that a president of an ostenibly democratic nation should not commit war crimes – are the ones who cling to fantasies, especially the idealist fantasies of their youth, and who refuse to “grow up.” They are even accused of being abolsutists![1]

The Leftist becoming-fascists who will vote to re-elect Obama and who act in a patronizing way towards those who won't are able to do so because of their ability to set aside or ignore the president’s foreign policies and focus exclusively on domestic policies. Either they know that Obama’s foreign policies – his legalization of torture and murder by the CIA, his use of drones to perpetrate targeted and/or indiscriminate assassination, his refusal to close Guantanamo Bay, et. al – are criminal or they actively support those policies and are willing (for who wants it known that they support illegal activities?) to claim that such policies are “necessary” and therefore not illegal. Either way, they are able to assuage their own consciences by saying that Obama’s domestic policies are good, and that this “goodness” more than offsets the “badness” of his foreign policies.

In what does this “goodness” consist? In his insistence that Wall Street “banksters” (banker gangsters) should be prosecuted? In his insistence that the homeless, the working class and the unemployed should be given special attention and generous aid by the federal government? No: Obama’s “goodness” consists in his care for the so-called “middle classes.” And the best expressions of that care are not his political or economic policies as much as his cultural or social attitudes: he is pro-homosexual rights, pro-abortion, and so forth. He is “cool”: a fan of Hollywood actors and pop musicians, who are, in turn, fans of him. In other words, despite whatever problems there might be with his policies (domestic or foreign), Obama is a seen to be a good person. Unlike the Republicans – those greedy, racist, insensitive and “uncool” bastards – who are not good people, but bad people.

And that’s the key to understanding how many Leftists are able to vote for Obama: they see themselves as good people, too; and Obama reinforces their image of themselves as essentially good people. Their support for Obama isn’t really support for Obama: it is support for their image of themselves. Like Obama, they are good people who have been forced to do bad things; like him, they would do even more good things if only the “bad people” in this world would let them. That’s why it is so important to them to give Obama a second term: it is in fact a metaphor for their own desire for a second chance and “hope” (for a raise, for a promotion, for early retirement, etc.)[2]

This why many Leftists will get offended, even angry, if you point out that Obama is a politician just like any other: you aren’t criticizing him; you are criticizing them. And if you mention that you are not voting at all or plan to vote for a “third party” candidate, they will claim that you are “wasting” your vote or, even worse, working to cost Obama the Good the election, when, in fact, if he loses, he will have lost because of his own actions, not because of the actions of the people who are disgusted with him.

And if Obama loses, and Romney becomes president, they will no doubt feel that they, too, have lost: that they too are “losers.” But what will they have lost? Their investments, their jobs, their mortgages? No, President Romney – the representative of the antiabortion, anti-gay-rights wing of the Business Party – will certainly protect all those things, at least for the wealthy (and, in comparison to the true poor people of this country, and especially in comparison with the vast majority of the people on this planet, the so-called “middle class” in America is in fact wealthy).

If Obama loses, the Leftists will have lost support for their illusions about themselves. Under Romney, they will have to face the fact that, as “citizens” of this capitalist society, they are in fact bad people: people who prosper due to social, economic and environmental exploitation; that is to say, people who have prospered and will continue to prosper due to the murderous foreign policies (and the paranoid, “national security”-driven domestic policies) of this country, neither of which changed when Obama replaced Bush, and won’t change if/when Romney replaces Obama.

3-5 November 2012

[1] Note added on 5 November 2012: let us quote here Hugo Burnham, an actual Leftist supporter of President Obama, who claims he lives “in the real world – where people disagree, get into each others’ faces a bit online, get over it, get on with it, work with and for other people helping them manage and negotiate their own lives and careers. Where people have kids and do their best to help them learn to engage and understand that absolutism does not work."

[2] Note added on 5 November 2012: let us quote Hugo Burnham once again: "many, many leftists/socialists/liberals/supporters of POTUS are also ‘disappointed’ with what they hoped he might be able to do in power. But, living in the real world, trying to raise kids, trying to stay working in a time when keeping your job is the new ‘raise’, we believe and hope that a second term will bring more, bring better, and set the country up for a better chance than to be constantly attacked by the extremist right."

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