Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Obama's Anti-Absolutism Club

The Mainstream Mafia – excuse me, Media – oblivious to their own death throes and their glaring irrelevancy in contemporary American political discourse, continue to fawn over President Barack Obama and his second inaugural address of January 21st. They behave as though everyone in the nation were breathlessly glued to CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC, Washington Week, Face the Nation and PBS's variety show of round table analytical yak fests. The MSM erroneously presume that the nation receives their dollops of wisdom from them. The truth is that even Obama's supporters and worshippers rely less on what the MSM have to say and more on Internet news outlets, as well as on Twitter and Face Book, where they can "inter-react" with each other and play virtual paddy cake with their Progressive/Marxist idols.

Still, the MSM believe they set the terms of the discourse. Let's examine some examples. Keep in mind that these are all from a left-wing perspective.

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post broke out her rosary or worry beads and fretted over how The One will accomplish all he has set out to do during his second term. Also keep in mind that, to The One and his titillated throngs of admirers, there are no such things as "absolutes," except the "absolute" of the moment, which must be "seized" and made an absolute before it fluxes into something distasteful. After scoring Obama on the "blustery naiveté" of his first inaugural address, she forgives him.

The battle-scarred Obama of the second inaugural address was simultaneously more realistic and more confident. He spoke like a man who, in the course of four long years, has developed a far sharper vision of the role of government: first, “that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action”; second, that “our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”

The Marxist theme of those assertions may or may not have escaped Marcus. But they are definitely Marxist, and more and more liberals are admitting it. "This was a speech that tilted decidedly to the left, far more so than four years ago." Left, but not Marxist.

Another aging Washington Post resident tyro, Harold Meyerson, crowed that Obama's majority is now everyone's majority, even if everyone didn't show up on the Mall to "witness history." He, too, forgives Obama for his narcissistic and tautologically confusing words in 2008.

But in the aftermath of Obama’s 2012 reelection and his second inaugural address, his 2008 remarks seem less a statement of self-absorption than one of prophecy. There is an Obama majority in American politics, symbolized by Monday’s throng on the Mall, whose existence is both the consequence of profound changes to our nation’s composition and values and the cause of changes yet to come.

The Mall throng was a bizarre menagerie of groups "from Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall" that represent Obama's constituency, not the nation's majority. Meyerson, too, waits breathlessly for him to cause "changes yet to come." Meyerson takes a swipe at Obama's principled and absolutist opponents.

Our history, Obama argued, is one of adapting our ideals to a changing world. His speech (like recent books by Michael Lind and my Post colleague E.J. Dionne Jr.) reclaimed U.S. history from the misrepresentations of both constitutional originalists and libertarian fantasists. “Fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges,” the president said. “Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.”

Well, just throw out those copies of The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, all those interminable scribblings of Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Henry, and even of Hamilton. They had their absolutes. We have ours. Besides, they were just a bunch of privileged white men with bones to pick with tyranny. Reality changes absolutes. Freedom is slavery, don’t you know?

In the astrological readings of Meyerson, individual freedoms are not obliterated by "collective action" – that is, by organized and channeled mob rule – but somehow remain in force, somewhere, somehow, but, don't bother him with causo-connections. And one supposes that he has never read Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the reigning Party rewrote history twenty-four hours a day to counter the "misrepresentations of both constitutional originalists and libertarian fantasists." There are no "absolutes," just the "will of the people" who somehow establish absolutes by picking them out of the thin air with some guidance from the administration and university professors and the Supreme Court and the ACLU, and then hand them to Obama, saying, "Here's your mandate. Where's my stuff?"

But, beware, Mr. Meyerson. The nation is in a rotten mood, that is, that part of it fed up with the fascist populism and mob rule and the arrogance of a man who thinks he's God's or Nature's gift to the masses. The time will come – and there are bellwether stirrings among the newly disenfranchised of the middle class, the rich, the constitutionalists, the originalists, the "libertarian fantasists" – when men will take up their illegal muskets and semiautomatics and oppose the mobs and SWAT teams and the OWS Stoßtruppen. You will call them "reactionaries" or "flunkies of the old order" or "running dogs of the offshore wealthy." They will call themselves revolutionaries. They will be wearing the tricorns of old and brandishing banners that proclaim, "Tread on me no longer" and "Disperse, or die, so we can live free."

Or, try this scenario: They will go on strike, à la Atlas Shrugged.

The New York Times is timidly lifting its veil and admitting to itself, after all these years, that Obama is Marxist. Jennifer Schuessler, in "A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream," celebrates the founding of a blatantly Marxist publication, Jacobin. Hailing the founder, Bhaskar Sunkara, as an example of an unexpurgated activist journalist, she writes:

…In 2009, during a medical leave from his sophomore year at George Washington University, Mr. Sunkara turned to Plan B: creating a magazine dedicated to bringing jargon-free neo-Marxist thinking to the masses.

It's about time some brave soul decided to dispense with the dissembling verisimilitude of left/liberal Aunt Hildegard and her Gray Lady Progressive code-talkers and speak frankly in Marxist jargon.

The resulting magazine, Jacobin, whose ninth issue just landed, has certainly been an improbable hit, buoyed by the radical stirrings of the Occupy movement and a bitingly satirical but serious-minded style. Since its debut in September 2010 it has attracted nearly 2,000 print and digital subscribers, some 250,000 Web hits a month, regular name-checks from prominent bloggers, and book deals from two New York publishers.

But, who are "the masses"?  The nation's unemployed? The food stamp brigade? The battalions of single-parent welfare recipients?  Is Jacobin destined to replace The Village Voice and Rolling Stone? Why the curious name, "Jacobin"? During the French Revolution, the Jacobin Club was a far-left organization that demanded ideological purity from the central government, in this case, "pure" democracy. Or, unchecked mob rule. Off with their heads! That doesn’t refer to the command of Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts, but to Charles Dickens' Madame Defarge.

Meanwhile the magazine was also attracting attention from more established figures on the left, who saw it as raising fundamental questions that had been off the table since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Corey Robin, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who became a contributing editor last winter, pointed in particular to articles by Mr. Ackerman and Peter Frase, another early Jacobin recruit, debating the possibility of a post-capitalist economy involving, among other things, drastically reduced working hours.

“So many people are not working or already getting wages subsidized by the state -- maybe there’s something already at play that we haven’t paid enough attention to,” Mr. Robin said.

What Mr. Robin hasn't been paying attention to is the creeping statism and increments of fascist economics, disguised as unadulterated socialism. And, in a "post-capitalist economy" (and the U.S. has never had a wholly "capitalist" economy), "drastically reduced working hours" are for millions translating into no working hours. But, that's all right with Robin. It would be ideal for him if everyone had state-subsidized wages, even if most of them weren’t working at all. They have a right to security and dignity, you see.

Finally, ABC is tiptoeing up to the truth. Yes. Obama is a "progressive" and a "liberal."
After years of downplaying ideological labels for Barack Obama, ABC has seemingly accepted the idea that the President is a "progressive" and a "liberal." While recapping the inauguration, Good Morning America's journalists used the terms four times in just two minutes and 45 seconds. Yet, when Obama was a Democratic primary candidate in 2007, the networks deployed the L-word just twice – in the entire year.

The dreaded "L-word" is now acceptable in polite political discourse among, well, liberals. "Progressive"? All that can mean is to "progress" forward. The contemptible "C-word," "conservative, was repeatedly pronounced with sneers and jutting lower lips, meaning to its speakers to regress, or move backward, that in turn being synonymous with (however erroneously among conservatives and progressives) absolutist notions of individual rights, original meanings of the Constitution, the sanctity of private property, and even gun ownership.

Media Research Center provided a transcript of some of the unprecedented exchange among George Stephanopoulos and Jon Karl, as they assured themselves that Obama will kiss our wounds and make everything all right.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn to President Obama now, and what's in store for the second term after yesterday's inaugural. The speech, a call to action, an uncompromising enunciation of liberal principles. The question, now, what can actually get done on those big issue like gun control, gay rights and climate change? ABC's Jon Karl has more on that from the White House. And, Jon, liberals were cheering yesterday. Republicans, not so much.

KARL: With that, he invited all Americans to celebrate the changing landscape of American culture.

Obama (video montage): We have always understood that when times change, so must we. But preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.

KARL: He unapologetically laid out a progressive agenda, promising action on climate change, equal pay for women and immigration.

Obama (video montage): Progress does not compel us to settle the centuries-long debates about the role of government for all-time. But it does require us to act in our time.

You see. Absolutes are not for "all time." Absolutes are the Spam of politics. They look like meat, feel like meat, even taste like meat. But really aren't meat. Or absolutes. They can change. The centuries of bickering are over. The debate stops now, in "our time." It's settled political science, just as man-caused global warming is settled science. Obama promises to do something about that, too, even if it means emulating King Canute and commanding the sun to stop affecting the weather. Government is the end-all and be-all of all things. It alone can move men "forward." It alone can "Organize for America."

So says the Club of the Mainstream Mafia. Those of you who don’t wish to be "organized" or to move "forward," please leave the room. Outside, give the nice TSA man your shoe size, be prepared to be measured for your concrete boots.


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