Kevin Drum responds to Thomas Frank's assertion that Barack Obama made it his mission as president to saving the economic elite, an effort that prevented transformative progressive change:
Back in 2009, was Obama really the only thing that stood between bankers and the howling mob? Don't be silly. Americans were barely even upset, let alone ready for revolution. Those pathetic demonstrations outside the headquarters of AIG were about a hundredth the size that even a half-ass political organization can muster for a routine anti-abortion rally. After a few days the AIG protestors got bored and went home without so much as throwing a few bottles at cops. Even the Greeks managed that much.Is that what happened? Not exactly. The American people were screwed by the financial meltdown and its aftermath. Americans were upset -- and continue to be upset. But the people who wanted our policies to move in a leftward direction, and who hoped to see more bankers punished, thought they'd already done the work that needed to be done by electing Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress. They didn't understand that they'd need to keep fighting, against both the centrist impulses of prominent Democrats and an organized, well-funded right.
Why were Americans so obviously not enraged? Because -- duh -- the hated neoliberal system worked. We didn't have a second Great Depression. The Fed intervened, the banking system was saved, and a stimulus bill was passed. Did bankers get treated too well? Oh yes indeed. Was the stimulus too small? You bet. Nevertheless, was America saved from an epic collapse? It sure was. Instead of a massive meltdown, we got a really bad recession and a weak recovery, and even that was cushioned by a safety net that, although inadequate, was more than enough to keep the pitchforks off the streets.
The rank-and-file right avoided a second Great Recession, too, but the right was out in the street with pitchforks anyway. The grabbing of pitchforks isn't strictly a function of the how bad things are in the country. People grab pitchforks because rabble-rousers successfully rouse them. We didn't have any such rabble-rousers. We'd elected Obama. That's all we thought we needed to do.
Drum goes on to acknowledge this; he writes the following, and I don't know if he realizes that he's contradicting the passage I've already quoted:
All of us who do what Thomas Frank does -- what I do -- have failed. Our goal was to persuade the public to move in a liberal direction, and that didn't happen. In the end, we didn't persuade much of anyone. It's natural to want to avoid facing that humiliating truth, and equally natural to look for someone else to blame instead. That's human nature. So fine. Blame Obama if it makes you feel better. That's what we elect presidents for: to take the blame.It isn't just the pundits who are to blame, of course. No activist leaders emerged -- even from Occupy Wall Street, which was pathologically averse to the idea of leadership. And, frankly, there was no money in it -- investing in the tea party seemed shrewd to certain right-wing billionaires (for good reason), and other forms of right-wing demagoguery (e.g., Wayne LaPierre's) fill organizational coffers, but people with money don't have a selfish reason to bankroll progressive change.
But he only deserves his share. The rest of us, who were unable to take advantage of an epic financial collapse to get the public firmly in favor of pitchforks and universal health care, deserve most of it. The mirror doesn't lie.
We could have taken the streets if we'd really been motivated to do so, but we thought we didn't need to -- and we're not goaded to do so the way right-wingers were in 2009 and 2010.
And Thomas Frank embodies the problem himself -- he thinks Barack Obama should have been able to move the country significantly to the left all by himself. It's that sort of thinking that always lulls us. Starting on Election Night 2008, we should have realized that a new war was just beginning.
(Drum link via Reality Chex.)