As we race headlong toward austerity in the USA (cue Sex Pistols), it may be worth a moment to look back at the Obamabot’s most oft evoked reason for sticking with da man: well, the other guy is worse. The thought process is something like multivariate analysis, sifting through the data at hand to try to find a statistically significant degree of “betterness.” Sure, Obama has a dreadful record on civil liberties. Sure, Obama gave Wall Street a free pass after it destroyed the American economy by a fraud-inflated real estate bubble. Sure, Obama oversaw the further super-consolidation of the banking sector. Sure, Dodd-Frank is a gilded turd. But assuming that the other guy is just as bad on those points, where does that leave us? Wait, Obama said something nice about gay marriage not too long ago. So, all other stuff being equal, isn’t he better? Marginal progressivism: both guys are vile, but after canceling out the vileness, one guy has a residuum of betterness.
But does the vileness really cancel out? Let’s not overlook Obama’s mad skillz. Immediately after our state-sanctioned interaction with the voting machine, Boehner “gives in” and starts talking compromise. Peter Orszag, in the words of Yves Smith, starts pushing catfood futures hard. The moment is at hand: our Democratic leader is on the cusp of his Nixon goes to China moment. The
Grand Bargain Great Betrayal is nigh. Very soon, many many people who just yesterday were enjoying the dopamine rush of seeing their “progressive” choice in the seat of power will stand mouth agape at the sight of that same choice signing into law the demolition of the New Deal welfare state. How, exactly, was the other guy going to be worse?
Scraps of dignity
… and, hell even if true: at what point is marginally better not good enough? 10%? 1%? .001%? Where’s our dignity, that we’re content with such table scraps? When, where, and how do we regain our dignity?
Dopamine’s role in the enjoyment of spectator sports
Besides, I’m not sure there’s really any calculation here anyway. Tell a friendly, good-willed Obamabot that you’re not supporting da man because, say, his support for the elimination of the ancient right to habeas corpus. See the puzzled looked, the hurt countenance, the defensive gesture, the grasping for a comeback, and, finally: “but what about the Supreme Court? Abortion, ya know.” That wasn’t a deeply seated conviction so much as a notion dredged up on the fly in support of an emotional conviction. Sure, my support for a woman’s right to on-demand abortion is absolute. But is that conviction really what motivates Obamabots? If so, shouldn’t they be a bit hesitant about their man, given that he’s actually done precious little to actually uphold reproductive freedom? But no, my Obamabotic friends are getting a first rate dopamine squirt, as if on November 6 we actually won single payer health care. Are they really using reason, or is this just the instinctual herd feeling of going with Team Blue? If the latter, then is there really any superiority in being for Team Blue vs. Team Red? I’ve always heard progressive types scratching their heads over how, oh how, those benighted working class Republicans can support positions against their own self-interest. Maybe we should be careful with that kind of talk. Maybe we’re fools too – turkeys celebrating the cleaver, deer greeting the shotgun.
Team Blue v. Team Red. Think Yankees v. Red Sox, but with both teams owned by same person. Or not same person – by the same consortium of private equity funds. Regardless of the intense rush I feel from seeing my team hit one over the fence, my feelings have nothing to do with the way the game works. Or why the game is played the way it is, or what it really means.
Behind the voting machine
I periodically interact with the voting machine, as expected, and enjoy the swirling lights and surprise buzzers if I “win.” Meanwhile, real decisions, the real action, is going on somewhere else, somewhere I cannot see or even fathom.