As the world seems to overflow with Obamaniacs and everyone who can put two words together seems to be chanting his name (no middle name, please), Dave Sirota seems to be just about the only person on the left who isn’t buying the snake oil. In another anti-Obama post, he manages to find the few lines of substance in Obama’s speech in New Hampshire. After passing by the lame happy-talking points, Mr. Sirota zeroes in on Obama’s substantive pitch, which, in time-honoured fashion, is education. He’s for it. Perhaps he also loves puppies. Mr. Sirota is having none of it:
Yes, it is the Great Education Myth – the idea that if we only just made everyone in America smarter, we would solve outsourcing, wage depression and health care/pension benefit cuts that are the result of forcing Americans to compete in an international race to the bottom. As I wrote recently in the San Francisco Chronicle, this is one of the most dishonest myths out there, as the government’s own data shows that, in fact, all of the major economic indicators are plummeting for college grads. You can make everyone in America a PhD, and all you would have is more unemployed PhD’s – it would do almost nothing to address the fact that the very structure of our economy – our tax system, our trade system and our corporate welfare system – is designed to help Big Money interests ship jobs offshore and lower wages/benefits here at home.
Mr. Sirota is making sense here. There has never been any sense that Obama is in any way a big “reformer” in the way that progressives use that word, which is also why he is treated as more acceptable in spite of his perfectly left-liberal voting record. He is in so many ways a conventional, predictable Illinois Democrat, but with fewer of the rough edges and (for the most part, as far as we know) not much of the sleaze that goes with it. He plays at being a “change” politician, when the main thing he apparently wants to change is his current job for a more powerful one. He will therefore say nothing terribly radical, nothing threatening, and absolutely nothing interesting–certainly not to his progressive fanbase and not to anyone else, either. His current book is misnamed: there isn’t actually anything all that audacious about him, except that he seems to have the presumption that he could seriously compete for the presidential nomination. He might call his next book The Blandness of Optimism. He presents voters with the political equivalent of a cream puff, minus the cream, which doesn’t leave much. Not only is he functioning as an empty vessel for progressive and antiwar hopes, but he also increasingly appears to be an empty suit. A charismatic empty suit, yes, but an empty suit nonetheless, which is perhaps the worst imaginable combination.
Oh, yes, and he wants to bring people together. No more divisive politics! He’s a uniter. He’s building a bridge, or filling a breach, or something. How’d that work the last several times people went for it? This shows that Obama the Idealist is mostly a lot of smoke and mirrors: his idealism is a belief in generic idealism, which will bring people together and “move our country forward.” Forward towards what? He replies: “Who cares, as long as we’re moving and I’m the one behind the wheel?”