John Heilemann tells us that Obama is really a new thing in American history. Word!
Heilemann also says he is new because he comes to power at a new time.
Obama is difficult to pigeonhole not simply because he’s new but because of the newness of the moment that he—and we—inhabit. It’s a moment dominated by an economic crisis that’s shaken bedrock beliefs about the infallibility of free markets. A moment when a revised architecture of power is arising globally, challenging America’s status as an unrivaled superpower. When the networked age has finally arrived, inciting the implosion of the broadcast paradigm that governed politics in the Industrial Age. When the country is being transfigured demographically, hurtling toward becoming a majority-minority nation.
Spare us. It is precisely this list of challenges that exposes Obama for what he is, the popular new guy on the scene trying desperately to fit in. His approach to the economy is substantially the same as Bush’s: keep bailing! On America’s demographic transformation, he’s with Bush again, pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. He has given no indication he plans to diverge wildly from the path Bush carved out in his second term on foreign policy – save for possibly invading Pakistan in a more overt way. And yet we keep hoping that he’ll be something else.
Heilemann comes closer to the mark near the conclusion of his piece.
No great feat of imagination is needed to see how the whole project could end in tears. The stimulus fails. Things continue to fall apart. A new Great Depression ensues. And Obama is blamed and soon enough finds himself out on the speaking circuit with pal (ahem) Bill Clinton.
I’m still wondering what kind of speaking fees Bush will command.