Narcissus, and poor Echo

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday September 13, 2011 08:54 PM

Normally I'm a huge fan of Counterpunch, and defend it and its proprietors as vigorously as I can manage against the moralistic ankle-bitings of Louis Proyect and such, but I have to take strong exception to a recent piece there, from Michael Brenner:

Barack Obama’s betrayal will resonate in history long after he has become just another name on the over-priced celebrity speaker circuit. It is a betrayal of far more than the youthful idealists and loyal progressives who put him in the White House. Obama has unmoored the Democratic Party from its foundations – philosophical and electoral. No longer is it expression of the programs and ideas that crystallized with the New Deal and which dominated the country’s politics for sixty years.
Huh? The Democratic Party started trying to roll back the New Deal as soon as Franklin Roosevelt was in his grave -- even before, actually. And they were quite good at it. This is all historical record; where does this nutty mythology about 'sixty years' of New Deal ideology come from?

Admittedly, after black folks started tearing up the pea-patch in the 60s -- and even white folks, or young ones at least, were showing a certain mutinous spirit -- there was a brief spate of pushback from the bloody-minded public. Since the Dems happened to be running the show at the time, they get the credit for a program of modest retrenchment and mild concessions on the part of our rulers. But much as I like and admire Lyndon Johnson, it's just absurd to imagine him coming to the Oval Office with a militant "New Deal" agenda, though once it was forced upon him he decided to lie back and enjoy it, which is one of the nice things you can say about him.

After that of course it was back to business as usual with Carter and Clinton, both quite committed to rolling back the 60s and then the 40s. So this phantasy that Obie has 'betrayed' the Democratic Party -- which you hear all the time -- can only be maintained in defiance of easily available facts. Far from betraying the Democratic Party, Obie is perhaps the type specimen -- the Democrat's Democrat, you might say; the only person who can stomach him is a person utterly abandoned to the institutional depravity that is the Democratic Party.

Brenner does have an interesting angle:

What are the most salient ingredients in [Obie's] private-public persona? Most striking is a behavior pattern that resembles closely the narcissistic syndrome – even if he is not a clinical narcissist. ... A complementary narcissistic trait is an ease with blurring the line between virtual reality and actual reality. Narcissists believe everything they say – at the moment they say it.... Narcissists take as given that they never dissemble or lie...
This is fun stuff, but all wrong. It does Obie too much justice, and too little. Too little, because in fact he never lied to us; we -- or at least those of us who heard the music, which I'm glad to say I did not -- we lied to ourselves. In fact he was quite candid about his project; but his besotted maenads of both sexes couldn't or wouldn't hear what he was actually saying -- and, as important, not saying. They put their own words into his mouth, and they have no one but themselves to blame for their disappointment now.

In another way, though, Brenner's theory gives Obie too much credit. He's not mentally ill. It's disrespectful to real high-functioning crazy people -- like, say, Richard Nixon -- to mention Obie in the same breath. His is not really a personality even that interesting. He's a cross between a bureaucrat and a schoolmaster, with a vestigial whiff of BMOC coolth. You meet people like him in every executive washroom. A very commonplace character; and psychoanalyzing him is a waste of couch space.

Comments (9)

Far from betraying the Democratic Party, Obie is perhaps the type specimen -- the Democrat's Democrat...
Genau! Apropos jenes zeitlosen Spruches: "Wer hat uns verraten? Sozialdemokraten!"


Lyndon had a sense of greatness
And he knew a moment when it finally arrived

Perhaps a few stages and distinctions are necessary
I'll buy into the final form of NDism as

"a shining transfer system
In the slums"

Medicare Medicaid and the attendant poverty pimp provoked
Dole bonanza

Plus well
"don' just call in the guard release the smoke bombs
and jail all the strikers " class contracts

This is hardly the apex of new dealism

But it was the transmogrified rump that survived Harry Truman

In fact it was likely the kold war that kept even this Yankee version of continental social marketism alive

Errr till Nixon went to china
And decisively won the kold war
thanx to Mao

After that we get a new democrat party
That essentially boiled chaps like George McGovern in cooking oil
Or effigized them like my pal Teddy

Bobby Kennedy is the spirit of the party
And Barry nicely blends him with color and bro jacks cool

I quite like barry
I share father s

"bray never betrayed me "
Cause he is what he was

However a raisin he'll street and job site might make Barry II

How would he perform with a lyndon moment
Err but a Reagan congress


Of course
The quaker's boy from Yorba Linda

Dwarfs this port side andiron of the new deal bonfire

That was a man forged In a Jacobean mold

Michael Dawson is going to be very happy you posted this.


We aim to please.


Crystallized. Ossified. Whatever.

"You meet people like him in every executive washroom."

In type yes, but in degree I think Obama is in a class of his own.

The man's ambition is of another order than most of the psychopaths you would run into in the executive washrooms of corporate America. And we're talking about some really ambitious mofos. Most people with this type of ambition also tend to have an agenda of some sort, something they want to get done with all that power they've acquired. But with Obama I get the impression ambition and the acquisition of power is the end within itself and once he got it he had no idea what to do with it. It never occurred to the man that the acquisition of power is also a means to an end for most people. With Obama, means is the end.

Michael Hureaux:

I agree with the bureaucrat teacher analogy. Obama reminds me of the worst NEA local profiles I've ever encountered, the sort of jokers who were wailing about the Tacoma teacher's strike the other day because "only 79 per cent of the members supporting it got a strike, and the bylaws in Tacoma require 80 per cent." In effect, the kind of "democratic thinking" that can reason 21 per cent of the membership should overrule a vast majority vote. And that makes sense to their point of view, since only about 20 per cent of the membership ever bothers to show up in Seattle Ed Association elections.

But I also like what Drunk Pundit said, as it does seem indeed that raw power is the only thing that drives Obummer. I can't even listen to the bastard anymore, I'm tired of his righteous ring and his tepid fire.

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