Saturday, December 29, 2018

OK, Better, And No More

Sirota and Grunwald:

Barack Obama has remained very popular with Democratic voters while Donald Trump's job approval is at 89% among GOP voters. Allegiance to a president (incumbent or former) may be sparked by him being one of yours rather than one of theirs, which can lead to a failure to understand that your own guy wasn't all he is (or was) cracked up to be. This has helped propel the Beto O'Rourke boomlet, Sirota explaining

In an era of growing economic inequality, O’Rourke has split with the majority of his party to vote for Republican initiatives to weaken Wall Street regulations and accelerate bank mergers – and he once voted for a Republican bill that Democratic legislators said was designed to block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s from combatting racially discriminatory lending. He also voted for a key part of Donald Trump’s so-called deportation force.

Meanwhile, despite the imminent climate catastrophe facing our planet, O’Rourke has often taken the side of carbon polluters. He has repeatedly voted to help the fossil fuel industry increase its exports. He even helped the GOP defeat a Democratic measure designed to limit the possibility of offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sirota realizes

Replicating an Obama presidency would be better than what we have now. But it would still be a tragedy. That’s because the fundamental premise of Obamaism - and its predecessor, Clintonism – is that there is always a policy that can at once serve the people and the powerful. And recent history has showed that is both false and dangerous.

The fantastical mythology of a satisfactory “third way” between the corporate class and the rest of us posits that the Democratic party’s insurance industry backers can be enriched and healthcare policy can still be humane; its Wall Street sponsors can eviscerate industries and workers can still earn enough to survive; and its fossil fuel donors can keep pumping out carbon and the ecosystem can still sustain human life.

It's a little strange, and disconcerting to Sirota, that Democratic voters will not acknowledge that President Obama was a gift to plutocrats. Eight days before the close of the last presidential term, populist critic Matt Stoller noted the concentration of economic power during the Obama Administration and the "roughly 9 milion foreclosures" which it "enabled and encouraged." Further, the Adminsitration

let big-bank executives off the hook for their roles in the crisis. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) referred criminal cases to the Justice Department and was ignored. Whistleblowers from the government and from large banks noted a lack of appetite among prosecutors. In 2012, then-Attorney General Eric Holder ordered prosecutors not to go after mega-bank HSBC for money laundering. Using prosecutorial discretion to not take bank executives to task, while legal, was neither moral nor politically wise; in a 2013 poll, more than half of Americans still said they wanted the bankers behind the crisis punished. But the Obama administration failed to act, and this pattern seems to be continuing. No one, for instance, from Wells Fargo has been indicted for mass fraud in opening fake accounts.

President Trump was dealt a bad card on foreign policy, also. Pyongyang may be intensifying its nuclear weapons program, which continued unabated while Barack Obama was in the White House. President Trump recently has been vociferously criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike for his rash actions toward Syria, yet Barack Obama was criticized even by former Secretary of State John Kerry for the "red line" Obama proclaimed, but was too timid to enforce.

U.S. airstrikes supporting Syrian forces in Yemen have increased dramatically under President Trump, as has the federal government's support for the murderers in Riyadh, but the direction of policy was set by President Obama.

President Trump has made a bad situation worse nearly everywhere, which has obscured an awareness that we were snookered by the last President.

Barack Obama probably wasn't the bad president Matt Stoller argues that he was. Nonetheless, whether foreign policy, continued reliance on oil, enthusiasm for "clean coal," or even letting the financial industry off the hook, the ongoing swoon among Democratic voters for the 44th President is self-delusional.  Moreover, as Sirota finds, it has inspired the undeserved excitement that a tall, slender, inspiring centrist male such as Beto O'Rourke has aroused in the Democratic base.

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