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Sunday, January 22, 2012


My last post, which has been up about 36 hours, took a long time in coming. While I am not going to edit it in response to the events of this weekend, its prognostications, such as they are, certainly look a mite overstated this morning. I can't remember, literally, ever seeing such a violent swing on the eve of an election as has occurred in South Carolina, and Gingrich's victory certainly means that Mitt Romney is far from a sure thing. It also means that their rival PACs will be hitting each other with everything they have for weeks to come, all of which suggesting that Barack Obama could face either a critically weak (Gingrich) or seriously weakened (Romney) candidate come the fall. I also wonder whether these results show that the Tea Party rebellion might continue if Romney wins the nomination.

Yet having said that, I will also take this opportunity to make another point that emerged from Ron Suskind's book, one that I found very revealing not only about the President himself, but about the mess liberalism has gotten itself into over the last 40 years.

On several occasions during his first year in office, and especially late in 2009 when we found that unemployment had risen far more than anyone anticipated, some one asked Obama whether he was still optimistic. Of course he was, he replied--"My name is Barack Hussein Obama, and I'm sitting in the White House"--proof, evidently, that good things were bound to happen in the United States of America.

Of course that is proof that good things can happen in the United States of America, and of course the opening of high positions to women, minorities, and uncloseted gays has been a very good thing; but the time has come to recognize that it has very little to do with other equally critical aspects of the health of the American economy and society. The discriminatory part of the system has largely been fixed, but the exploitative aspects of it have gotten much, much worse. Larry Summers and Tim Geithner accept Obama as President but they don't accept serious limits on our new financial system. The system has worked personally for Barack Obama, but that doesn't mean that it is working well for his fellow Americans, male and female, black and white. I am not sure liberalism will score any truly decisive successes before it gets beyond that point.


ex-PFC Chuck said...

A couple of points. First, Eric at Market Skeptics has a post up (http://bit.ly/AgegW3) linking to and summarizing a hit-video about Romney's Bain past that allegedly made quite an impact. It was released by the Gingrich campaign. As Eric notes, the facts of Romney's business past make him virtually unelectable.

Secondly, the problems of contemporary "liberalism," and "conservatism" for that matter, are far beyond any quick fixes. Mainstream politics (i.e. Republicans and Democrats) have been completely contaminated by what Lawrence Lessig defines as "Dependence Corruption" in his recent book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It (http://amzn.to/w7C3Jl). This book is the "must read" of the decade.

SteveFTW said...

Professor, one aspect of the current election cycle that I have not seen you comment on is the growing dissatisfaction of more and more of the electorate with both parties.

Americans Elect may end up being a decisive factor in the upcoming election cycle, especially if there is a substantially bloodied candidate coming from the GOP, as appears likely.

Obama scores high on foreign affairs; only those that follow Ron Paul or Fox's propaganda channel would argue on foreign policy - domestic policy is where most of the debate will occur. With neither party offering comprehensive solutions to the problems of our failing systems and structures, if A/E selects a ticket that supports the Simpson Bowles approach, the Friedman approach, or another integrated plan that explains why we all have to sacrifice for the common good, there is a possibility of the silent majority speaking up. As Friedman has put it, until us moderates show the pol's that we are moving the cheese; why should the pol's do anything different?

BJM said...

Professor Kaiser,

I recently finished your book, American Tragedy, and while I do not necessarily agree with your politics, found the work an excellent and scholarly addition to the understanding of the Vietnam era. I will definately include The Road to Dallas on my reading list.

Shelterdog said...

If the GOP were as faithful to the founding fathers as they claim to be, they would have taken note of our founders' concern that the principal threat to freedom lies in the tendency of public figures to put personal ambition ahead of public good. Our founders were extremely suspicious of the excessive ambitions of politicians and believed that the overly ambitious quest for power by some was a big step towards tyranny. The one feature that distinguishes BOTH Romney and Gingrich is their incredible personal ambition and the extraordinary ease with which both of them have cast aside whatever core beliefs they have ever possessed to the altar of seeking a position of power. As their respective PACs attack the unprincipled behavior of each other, it is stunning to realize that what the Romney and Gingrich PACs say about their respective opponents is largely TRUE. Any real disciple of the original Tea Party would reject both of them as the qujintessential demagogues who were most reviled at the time of the American Revolution. Many power-seekers of both political parties have displayed these traits over the years (I recall Bill Clinton being referred to as the "Pander Bear" in 1992, for example), but these two take the cake.

Bozon said...


Not that any really strong analogies emerge, except perhaps 'reverse' analogies, but,

I happen to be rereading now the passage in Russia And The West Under Lenin And Stalin, the passage re 'The rise of Hitler', and how badly Stalin handled that, around 1928, attacking, from abroad (until too late) the moderate (leftish but also rightish) Social Democrats, as the Depression unfolded.

All the best,