Sunday, August 29, 2010

What They Said, Too...

From Paul Krugman, in its entirety (emphasis mine):

I’m finding it hard to read about politics these days. I still don’t think people in the administration understand the magnitude of the catastrophe their excessive caution has created. I keep waiting for Obama to do something, something, to shake things up; but it never seems to happen.

Here’s what I wrote in February 2009. It’s pretty rich that now the usual suspects are accusing me of having shared the administration’s optimism. But that’s a trivial point; the important thing is that all signs are that the next few years will be a combination of economic stagnation and political witch-hunt.

This is going to be almost inconceivably ugly.

The boldfaced part reminded me of that "Generation Jones" post Will Bunch wrote after Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court -- the generation Bunch, Obama, and Kagan belong to...

...The reality is that Generation Jones is showing up just in time, when the planet really does need saving -- and we are blowing it, big time. The challenges faced not just by the United States but by the entire world -- global warming, a deadly addiction to fossil fuels, governments addled by debt yet unable to stop spending billions on weapons -- require bold, boat-rocking risk-takers, people who have looked into the abyss of humankind and are not afraid to make daring moves.

This is simply not my Generation Jones -- a generation in which (for Americans, anyway) there was no war from the time I was 14, when the last regular troops came home from Vietnam, until Operation Desert Storm, when I was 32, and when economic woes brought "malaise" but not the Great Depression and then disappeared for a key time for young professionals in the 1980s and 1990s. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter described us as "the perennial swing voters, with residual '60s idealism mixed with the pragmatism and materialism of the '80s." He's right -- except that the pragmatism won out years ago.

We are careerists -- clinging to our conviction that we can change the world not by forceful ideas but by the mere force of our own often-coddled personalities, even if the ideas and passions that once animated our humanity have been buried under pages of resumes and cover letters The roadmap for people who wanted change was no longer the 1960s mantra of "stickin' it to the man" but now "working within the system," and now that the system is collapsing underneath us in 2010 there is no Plan B -- just more calls for compromise, more reason, more digging in to be -- in the words of another 1979 hit, Supertramp's "Logical Song", the product of "a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical."

Exhibit A is the man at the top, Barack Obama. No doubt he was a young man filled with a passion for what he would later advertise as "change" -- studying how to rid the world of nuclear weapons as an undergraduate at Columbia, where he graduated in 1983, and heading to Chicago as a community organizer poised to do battle against Reagan's "trickle-down economics," but the reactionism of the 1980s clearly changed him. When he returned to Harvard Law School at the end of the decade, those experiences made Obama less a promoter of ideas than a seeker of compromise...while promoting himself.

"I come from a lot of worlds and I have had the unique opportunity to move through different circles," Obama told the Los Angeles Times when he was elected the first ever black editor of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. "I have worked and lived in poor black communities and I can translate some of their concerns into words that the larger society can embrace." But even back then, some saw him as too prone to compromise, like second-year law student Christine Lee, who said nearly 20 years ago of Obama: "His election was significant at the time, but now it's meaningless because he's becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment)."

The same could be said of President Barack Obama today -- from his ridiculously cautious picks to run the Pentagon and the Treasury to his stubborn search for compromise in areas like health care where no middle ground actually existed to his willingness to "look forward" and ignore the blatant and serious law-breaking of the previous administration. He is more than willing to accept the vast presidential powers in areas like state secrets that had been grabbed by the Bush administration, because a long time ago Barack Obama began believing less and less in the power of ideology to do the right thing, and more in the power of Barack Obama.


Careerism. Not rocking the boat. It is a disease that came to affect different kinds of people from Generation Jones in different fashions. On the conservative side of my generation, the two most popular figures in 2010 -- radio's Glenn Beck and the cultural phenomenon of Sarah Palin (born, amazingly enough, on consecutive days in 1964) -- have both have the power and the right-wing incarnation of charisma to move millions of people. But they prefer to use all that political capital to make only millions of dollars for themselves...

Excessive caution, not rocking the boat. That might explain just about everything we've seen from the Obama administration over the last nineteen months. I guess from now through 2012, the path is more or less clear: Obama will continue to drive his base crazy, all the while seeking common ground with people who will never in a million years vote for him.

Then again, look at the alternative: Republicans back in charge. That's the only reason I'll be voting for Obama in 2012, assuming he runs for re-election, and the Democrats this year. Unlike a growing percentage of American voters, I haven't forgotten which party got America mired in two hopeless wars and almost destroyed the economy...

* * *

"Food For Thought" Update: Y'all do know which generation is next in line to start running things once it's time for Generation Jones to retire from the scene -- don't you?

You have six to ten more years. And then you're all fucked. Get used to that now, you'll be better off that way...


  1. Bartkid sez,
    Man, the U.S. really needs a Chuck D presidency, but I know you would get stuck with Commander in Chief Flava Flav.

  2. Bartkid sez,
    Strike that.
    Commander in Chief Vanilla Ice.


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