[T]he newspapers are going nuts. Outrage is the #1 headline word of the day. And the pundits are wondering: is the bloom off the Obama rose?
I have two words for the MSM: shut the f--- up. [My emphasis -- the censorship is his own.]
For eight years, the Republicans gave unprecedented trillion dollar bonuses to the richest people in America. They took the Clinton boom and intentionally turned it to bust. On top of that, they lied us into a war that killed 4000+ Americans and maybe a million Iraqis.
Where was the MSM's OUTRAGE then? Was David Gregory outraged when he boogied with Rove at the press dinner? Did any of his colleagues join Helen Thomas when she asked some really hard questions at the daily briefings? No. They laughed at her for taking it all so seriously.
But now they are GENUINELY outraged at a Democratic President who is trying to fix a mess that occur[r]ed in part because they refused to challenge the big scary Republicans.
Actually, I am outraged, too. I realize what a small percentage of the continent-scaled heaps of money moving at the moment we are devoting all our attention to so long as we are talking so much about the AIG bonuses, and this disproportion is skewing everybody's sense of what matters, even if we are sensible enough to grasp that the bonuses are symptomatic of a deeper crisis in the culture of neoliberal corporate capitalism even if they may not be exactly representative of problems and strengths of the Administration's efforts to stave off or at any rate blunt the force of the current meltdown. These nuances actually do matter.
Yes, I do indeed understand all that, and yet I still do feel the outrage almost everybody is feeling, and so it is important to find some way of grasping the force of Rosenberg's point that won't seem to endorse instead the usual alternate assumption of some abstruse vantage from which one cynically declares hypocrisy and cronyism to be universal and to arily flutter one's hand in the air and declare that the more things change the more they stay the same or what have you.
Rosenberg's point here is to identify a dangerous misdirection of outrage and blame onto the only people who are plausibly working to ameliorate what is outrageous here and make it less likely to happen again in the future. Actually quite crucial details in the timeline of this protracted trainwreck are just vanishing behind a cloudbank of accusatory fingers pointed Obama's way -- the difference between the disbursement of money from the Fed as against the Bailout as against the Stimulus, the level of Congressional oversight that played out at each stage, the actual parties in power and players involved in each stage, the politics that drove or stymied various efforts at regulation by representatives and officials, and so on.
And so, this isn't just a matter of the vapid corporate-broadcast media commentariat being superficial or mistaken or hypocritical, but doing real damage to public understanding of urgent matters in ways that actively undermine the actors who are striving to address them productively in this moment saddled all the while with the legacy of incredibly bad decisions in the recent past few of which attracted comparable scrutiny or blame however urgently they deserved it or we might have benefited from it as a nation.
And this is not to say that Obama is blameless here (I've always worried that his centrism was too cozy with some neoliberal assumptions, though I disapprove those who identify him as a stealth neoliberal himself), it is not to endorse Tim Geithner or Larry Summers or the other foxes we've set to guard the henhouse (I actually heartily disapprove of both, and I expect neither will survive long, though I cannot agree with those who want to declare their every move sinister or corrupt while ignoring the actual minefield they're navigating here). Nor do I really disagree with those who are pointing out that Obama has been a little less consummate than usual in his deployment of the optics in play throughout this crisis (I'd like to see them do better, but the point is still well-taken).
But people need to remember that Obama is our one best hope -- our literally once in a generation hope -- to re-invigorate the rights of citizens to collective bargaining, to re-orient our economy to renewable energy and production and away from fraudulent financialization and extractive petrochemical industrialism, to re-create the foundation for universal healthcare, to re-invest in American education and science and medicine.
These are huge fights on the horizon. We might lose them, but we cannot lose them. Never take your eyes off the prize.
When you blame Obama for the current fiasco be clear that -- though Obama cannot rightly be called blameless, certainly, in all this (and by the way neither, probably, can you) -- it is actually factually mistaken to blame him too baldly. But more to the point such bald blaming functions above all else to undermine his capacity to facilitate any of the ends that define the political hopes against which you are probably measuring him and finding him wanting when you indulge in such bald blaming.
The Right may be in disarray, but Washington and mainstream media are still inertially set to privilege right-wing figures and frames, while straightforward class prejudices more generally do the same even in notionally more progressive spaces. The change we need, the change we demanded last November has a steep hill to climb, and Obama's will to make the climb cannot bear endless encumbrances.
The point isn't to say we cannot criticize the President, since obviously we must, nor to say that we cannot push the President from the left, since obviously we must. But we need to attend very carefully to the moments when our criticisms and our pushing seem to align structurally with forces that seek to undermine the Administration in its work to facilitate the actual outcomes in the name of which we criticize and push. In such moments, we need to recalibrate our criticisms and redirect our pushing.
Always be attentive to the ways in which criticism and push are functioning as encumbrances rather than facilitations of progressive ends, practically speaking. Where you discover that your idealism or your righteous rage is being opportunistically exploited to frustrate your ends, be agile enough to change tack, change tone, change the direction of your push. Always remember which side you're on. Democracy is the idea that people should have a real say in the public decisions that affect them. Democratizing struggles to give ever more people ever more of a real say in the public decisions that affect them are not really so hard to distinguish from anti-democratizing struggles to limit the number of people who have such a say, or to limit the substance of that say.
By way of conclusion, just as an aside, the only thing that really bugged me in Rosenberg's post was his glib reference to the "Clinton boom" which he contrasted with Bush-era shenanigans. There is a case to be made in this vein (although it mostly involves tax policies if you ask me), of course, but if we are to be honest about it, too much of the "Clinton boom" was a catastrophic preamble to the fraudulent financialization, de-regulatory fervor, corporate-militarist irrational exuberance consummated in the Killer Clown epoch of George W. Bush. We should eschew easy rhetorical point-scoring that claims contrast where what matters most to those who want to understand what has gone wrong and what must change is continuity. But that is a whole 'nother can of worms.