Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Two Jobs Obama Would Be Good At

Barack Obama was good at running for President when he was a Rorschach figure upon whom all but the most retrograde voters could project their hopes. Were there not inordinately many retrogrades among us, he’d have won by an unprecedented landslide. As it was, he won handily. Because he’ll be running effectively unopposed in 2012 ? no matter which flyweight the GOP nominates ? he’ll probably win handily again.

But “candidate” doesn’t count as a job and, even if it did, it would be a temp job at best. President is a real job, but Obama has been and will likely remain awful at it. His administration has been a disaster. I should qualify that: it has been a disaster for all but the “investor class,” the military brass (who boss their Commander-in-Chief around shamelessly) and other pillars of the National Security State, and for some of Washington’s most nefarious lobbies (who boss him around more shamelessly still). Needless to say, there are plenty of miscreants in each of these categories who complain anyway. But there are two jobs I can think of where Obama would excel. Too bad that one is politically impossible and the other, the one Obama would be best at by far, is Constitutionally proscribed. Constitutional niceties don’t get in Obama’s way when it comes to making war, infringing privacy rights and generally dishonoring the rule of law when circumstances call for legal action against “persons,” corporate and otherwise, who are too big to fail or whose prosecution would shake up the status quo. But when it comes to the job I have in mind, even Constitutional Law Professor Obama would have to take notice.

JOB ONE: Obama would be a great standard-bearer for the GOP or rather for its corporate, country club wing. He has the right politics, he’s smarter by far than any plausible rival, and he plainly enjoys consorting with old and new money.

But there are insurmountable obstacles in the way. For one, he already has a lock on the Democratic nomination, and fusion tickets (where several parties nominate the same candidate) are illegal in all but eight states. That’s not likely to change: in 1997, in Timmons v Twin Cities Area New Party, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that fusion is not a constitutionally protected civil right. And inasmuch as fusion would benefit “third” parties more than the two semi-official ones, the party establishments that run the states are not about to put their duopoly in jeopardy.

Another problem is that the GOP establishment cultivated so many useful idiots (Tea Partiers, social conservatives, doctrinaire libertarians and others) that they no longer run their own operation. Obama would be far better than Mitt Romney or anybody else they have in the offing for leading their party away from insanity. But even were it institutionally possible, there is no way the lunatics could be brought along.

But we can fantasize. Obstacles aside, Obama might begin by restoring Nixonian Republicanism; he could do that! I say “Nixonian” for want of a more appropriate model. Thoughtful Tea Partiers, if any exist, might disagree, but Herbert Hoover is too remote, and the continuing deification of Ronald Reagan has become a non-starter. Republican plutocrats, the smarter ones anyway, realize, even if most Democrats don’t, that “the Reagan Revolution” ? continued by every President since Reagan, including Clinton and Obama ? has run its course. They understand that the time is past due to “restart” the program.

A contemporary version of Eisenhower Republicanism would be better still but that would fall outside Obama’s ken; Ike was more of a New Dealer and less of a hawk than Obama could ever be. Thus only Nixon is left. It’s not a perfect fit: the Nobel laureate’s willingness to engage in what peace candidate Obama called “stupid wars,” though considerable, pales before Nixon’s criminal recklessness. And, on the other hand, if Obama has it in him to be as “progressive” as Nixon was in domestic affairs, he has yet to show signs of it. But at least he does have Nixon’s lawlessness down pat.

In any event, scratch that job off the list. It’s probably a good thing too: after all, a President of national unity ? hasn’t that been Obama’s shtick from Day One? — would still be a President, and that is not a job Obama does well. Republican standard-bearer is a different story, but there’s no way he could be that and not be President too.

And, in the final analysis, who, outside the GOP establishment, needs saner (aka “moderate”) Republicans anyway? To be sure, they are less noxious than other Republicans and most Democrats. But nothing worthwhile was lost when the Tea Party ran them off the metaphorical cliff. That might even have been a good thing. It was hardly fair, given what the others are like, but it did remove an entire strain of plutocratic flunkery from the political scene. Meanwhile, with the Republican Party in the thrall of Tea Party idiocy, there is at least the consolation of great late night comedy on TV.

JOB TWO: King. Obama is a lousy President, but he’s very good at giving vacuous, up-lifting speeches; and, despite what many justifiably disconcerted and angry but fatally misled and benighted (white) Americans think, he is an outstanding national symbol. In fact, as President, that’s about the only thing he is good for. In other words, he is good at the sort of thing constitutional monarchs do — or rather are supposed to do, but generally don’t.

Damn those pesky (small-r) republican founders for making a King Obama impossible! Thanks to them, our planet and its peoples are looking at four more years of self-defeating bipartisanship and sheer awfulness, mitigated only by the probably (but not obviously) true belief that the Republican alternative, whoever that turns out to be, would be even worse.

Andrew Levine is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.

Limited Time Special Offer!
Get CounterPunch Print Edition By Email for Only $25 a Year!

More articles by:

ANDREW LEVINE is the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail