Squandered hope

From Salon, an interview with Thomas Frank. Go read the whole thing:

This is the point in a presidential election when people begin talking about the lesser of two evils, when the weaknesses in one’s own candidate pale in comparison to the reality of the other side taking over. But in a remarkable essay in the new issue of Harper’s magazine, the political thinker Thomas Frank levels President Obama’s first term as a dramatic failure compared to the rhetoric that landed him in office, and the potential he had to truly transform the country.

Frank, whose books include “What’s the Matter With Kansas” and “Pity the Billionaire,” makes the case that Obama’s conciliatory nature has been a tragic flaw, one exploited by conservatives in Congress again and again. But he also argues that Obama has “enthusiastically adopted” the ideas of the right when it comes to deficit spending, Wall Street regulation, torture policies, healthcare and more. And his reward for reaching for compromise and grand bargains, “for bowing to their household gods,” has been to be depicted as a socialist and a radical leftist.

The end result? Frank writes that “What Barack Obama has saved is a bankrupt elite that by all means should have met its end back in 2009. He came to the White House amid circumstances similar to 1933, but proceeded to rule like Herbert Hoover.”

11 Responses to Squandered hope

  1. dandy August 24, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I agree wholeheartedly with Frank’s analysis of Obama’s first term. If he continues fighting the GOP the way he’s campaigning against them on into a 2nd term, we may finally see the hope and change we voted for in ’08. (As a personal thought, I somehow believe that he really didn’t want to be seen as an ‘angry black man’ during his first outing. And now, the GOP is actually trying to scare the white vote by casting him in that light, but hopefully, this time he won’t back down.)

  2. imhotep August 24, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Obama said,”There isn’t a Blue America or a Red America. There is just one America.” Obama said, “Afghanistan is the good war.” Obama kept those promises. Frank’s problem, which is the same problem that many on the Left have, is two-fold. Either they were not listening to what the man was saying or they thought that he didn’t really mean what he was saying. Obama was a flawed candidate and he’s been a flawed president. Of that there can be no doubt. But……me, Imhotep, believes that he has learned his lesson and a second term will be very different. Especially if we can get rid of every Republican running for office.

  3. jawbone August 24, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    First, why did it take Franks so long to figure out Obama’s tendency to suck up to power? That he’s a Corporatist (or, as suggested over at Corrente, and Christopher Hedges is calling it, a “state corporatist.”

    And, after seeing that what Obama told the voters during his first campaign did not match what he did once in office, how can Frank be optimistic that now Obama has found “populism”? Hope? With the Change coming in not adhering to his words spoken while trying to get elected?

    Frank needs to get a grip on reality.

    QUOTE from interview:

    Interviewer: Do you think he has learned lessons in a first term that he’d apply in a second in a more aggressive, progressive politics?

    Frank: Oh I think he has, and I think he changed — the turning point for him I think was the debt ceiling showdown with the Republicans. It became so screamingly obvious that it would be impossible for him not to realize it. He was still talking about a grand bargain at that point. He put Social Security on the table and that still wasn’t enough. That was incredible, when he did that, that a Democratic president would do that.

    Then to get back to your question earlier — why are they so bad, why are they so weak — this is the chronic question that goes back to the ’70s, and it’s unfortunately because they don’t believe in the sort of traditional hand that they’ve been dealt. They’re Democrats, but they don’t like being Democrats. What they want to be is a kind of Tom Friedman Democrat. I’m serious, they believe in free trade and the world is flat and all that kind of bullshit. It’s not the vision of the Democratic Party of FDR or Harry Truman or even Lyndon Johnson.


    Note to Frank — Obama is still thinking, not sure he’s talking about it just now, about “fixing” SocSec. Beware this president, Mr. Frank. Be scared, be very scared.

  4. imhotep August 24, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    jawbone, live your life as a paranoid pessimist if you’d like. That’s cool. But you’ll be a much happier person if you live it as a healthy skeptic instead.

  5. susie August 24, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Anyone who doesn’t think Obama is still trying to get his Grand Bargain is in unhealthy denial.

  6. imhotep August 24, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    One could say the same thing about anyone who thinks that he is still trying to get a Simpson-Boles Grand Bargin. The Grand Bargin in its current configuration is dead and buried. But a Grand Bargin involving increased taxes on the top 20%, deep cuts in defense, cuts to the providers of health care, a higher tax on top tier Social Security recipients, etc. would be just fine with the majority of Americans. Simpson-Boles is dead.

  7. susie August 24, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    One of us is hopelessly deluded. Time will tell which.

  8. quixote August 24, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    Obama wants to cut SS & Medicare not because he’s weak or conciliatory or some great all-together-now figure. He wants to pour money on his Wall St. and Big Insurance buddies.

    Just like he did with the bank bailout and squelching all the moves to actually do something about mortgage fraud. Also the one-tenth assed “help” to foreclosed homeowners.

    This whole Presidency thing is for him just a gig to get into the aristocracy, which seems to be the only thing he’s ever wanted. Your vote is just the cheapest way for him to arrive.

    The sad thing is, people would fight R&R on it. Obama? We’ll hear nothing but crickets. (And susie and a few others doing what they can.)

  9. imhotep August 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Being delusional or not being delusional isn’t the answer. We may both be using a different set of variables to form to our insights.

  10. Adams August 24, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I’m with Susie and jawbone. Imhotep, IMHO, you are living in a dream world. The Grand Bargain you describe would indeed be acceptable to many on the traditional and progressive left. But nobody who is anybody is talking about it.

    My beef with Frank: He attributes Obama’s failed first term to what amounts to a character failure (or, if you’re of a more literary bent, tragic flaw). Then he says that Barry has learned his lesson and will do better in the future, approaching the position of the Obamabots. Character traits don’t change quickly or easily, and tragic flaws by definition are played out while everyone else but the protagonist sees disaster coming.

    Beware the Ides of Lame Duck.

  11. lless August 24, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Susie: Delusion is neither mutable over time nor shifted by facts. But calling IMHO Republican is low.

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