If you want some bizarre fun --
-- read Chris Wright's recent essay on Counterpunch, The Stupefying Mediocrity of Barack Obama. Here I will give this piece a go-over, pointing out its highly amusing word choices. It's not as if Wright is wrong, or as if his politics were suspect, or anything like that. It's that describing Barack Obama and his political party, the Democratic Party, requires a degree of verbal gymnastics that renders one prone to verbal belly-flops. Onward!
First, the title. Obama wasn't a "mediocre" President. He might be considered a "bad" President, by those conscious very few who feel stung by Obama's selling-out of the title of "first Black President." He was an excellent President if you think of the acuity with which he fulfilled his economic mission -- keeping the masses poor while making them feel loved. He did his job, and he did it well.
Obama also fulfilled his political mission -- to hand power over to the Republicans. In fact, we can now say that the Democratic Party is his party -- a party which serves no purpose which its members can identify because it offers nothing to the public. Its pitch is: just STFU and vote for the Democrat because the Republicans promote their evil more openly. Thus when Wright says:
This perception of his ("he is certain he will be vindicated") probably also explains his general reluctance to publicly criticize Trump. He simply doesn’t care enough to do so—he has nothing like a deep outrage against the continuous injustices of Trumpian politics—because his task has already been accomplished: he has written himself into the history books by being the U.S.’s first black president. That achievement is what matters, that and his eight years of (supposed) attempts to “heal the country’s divides.” Again, it’s too bad the country wasn’t ready for him, but that isn’t his fault.
he makes an excellent point while missing another one. When they do criticize Trump, elite Democrats criticize Trump for the same reason the slackers at your workplace periodically try hard to "look busy." They don't care enough about Trump either, but they still criticize him. Obama doesn't have to look busy -- he's retired.
And then you have Wright's pronouncement upon Obama's narcissism, which also makes one important point while leaving out another:
When your overriding value in life is self-glorification, what you tend to get is the moral cowardice and fecklessness of people like Obama, the Clintons, and, in truth, all centrist politicians. They’ll do whatever they have to do to rise to power, so they can realize their “destiny”—of being powerful. They’ll always try to please “both sides”—a binary notion that leaves out the genuine left, which is to say the interests of the large majority of people—because that is the safest and surest road to power.
Yes, of course, leaving out the public's interests is the safest and surest road to power.
But it isn't really "moral cowardice," because the principles that would guide morally effective government simply don't exist in actual government. No government has the courage to phase out the fossil fuel industry, the main prerequisite of effective climate change mitigation today. No government has the courage to phase out capitalism, which is today the main impediment to mass prosperity and to the continuation of the utopian dream begun with the Enlightenment and immortalized in Condorcet's Sketch. This is so because all governments under neoliberal rule are obliged to maintain the aggregate profit rate for an owning class (thus depressing wages) lest the forces of capital attempt to destroy them and the countries which they claim to govern. Rather, Obama's is the moral courage depicted in this New Yorker cartoon:
Which brings us to Wright's summation of Obama's legacy. Obama's legacy is of course Trump, and an America in which there are eight Democrat trifectas and twenty-six Republican trifectas even though the Republicans are, by membership count, a minority party. Here's the quote:
While the U.S. is certainly not Weimar Germany, and the risks of full-blown fascism are not as great now as they were then, one can see parallels. Just as the feckless, vacillating liberalism of Jimmy Carter ushered in the reactionary age of Reagan, so the vacillating liberalism of Obama prepared the way for the semi-fascism of Trump and the reinvigoration of white supremacy.
I'd like to know how Obama's idea of government counts in any way as "liberalism." Once again: catch one truth, miss another.