After the election, I wrote a blog post that asked if we could talk about the wars now that the fog of partisan politics is lifting. Whether President Obama will be subjected to more criticism for his policies from the left now that he's been re-elected remains an open question, but there are a precious few hopeful signs that intellectual honesty might by applied by some on the left to engage at least some of President Obama's policies.
Last week, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd launched one of the first (limited) broadsides from the left against President Obama, in a column provocatively titled "Mitt Romney is President" (spoiler: of white America). Dowd noted:
If 2008 was about exalting the One, 2012 was about the disenchanted Democratic base deciding: "We are the Ones we've been waiting for."
Last time, Obama lifted up the base with his message of hope and change; this time the base lifted up Obama, with the hope he will change. He has not led the Obama army to leverage power, so now the army is leading Obama.
When the first African-American president was elected, his supporters expected dramatic changes. But Obama feared that he was such a huge change for the country to digest, it was better if other things remained status quo. Michelle played Laura Petrie, and the president was dawdling on promises. Having Joe Biden blurt out his support for gay marriage forced Obama's hand.
The president's record-high rate of deporting illegal immigrants infuriated Latinos. Now, on issues from loosening immigration laws to taxing the rich to gay rights to climate change to legalizing pot, the country has leapt ahead, pulling the sometimes listless and ruminating president by the hand, urging him to hurry up…
…Bill O'Reilly said Obama's voters wanted "stuff." He was right. They want Barry to stop bogarting the change.
No note about Barack Obama continuing George W. Bush's war policies from the author of "Bushworld," but Cornel West, never an outspoken supporter of President Obama, doubled down on his critique after the election last week too. From Mediaite:
During an interview last week with Democracy Now, author and activist Cornel West offered harsh criticism of President Barack Obama, calling him a "Rockefeller Republican in blackface" and not someone who is actually looking out for the best interests of the impoverished. The prominent social critic also lashed out at black MSNBC personalities, accusing them of "selling their souls" in support of a president who has been anything but progressive.
"I think that it's morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion," West lamented to host Amy Goodman. "Poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people," he continued.
Perhaps Cornel West missed the Obama campaign's strategy of waging class warfare on the way to last Tuesday's victory, perhaps he knows it was just a cynical tool used to marshal support by capitalizing on envy. Perhaps. Nevertheless, Obama's campaign of drone warfare, as well as his assault on civil liberties, are very real problems, and ones the left has traditionally been at the forefront of condemning. Not so in the age of Obama, where the left-wing critique of American empire has turned into unconditional apologism for that empire, a transformation hinging almost solely on the color of the skin of the man at the head of that empire. Obama apologists may decide to continue on their path. There's no more re-election to secure, but the work to secure Obama's legacy is just beginning. Those people should be careful. Legacies are a tricky thing. By the time his term is over, Obama's apologists may have secured a legacy of their own, as intellectually dishonest and unabashed defenders of a flawed presidency that was always an end in and of itself. After all, what was the Obama campaign about, other than the man himself and the othering of his political opponents?