by Upstate Dem, Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:46:03 AM EDT
There is a deep-seated craving common to all
men of words which determines their attitude
to the prevailing order. It is a craving for
recognition; a craving for a clearly marked
status above the common run of humanity.
"Vanity," said Napoleon, "made the Revolution;
liberty was only a pretext."
--Eric Hoffer, The True Believer
Too many progressive websites now serve up identical daily fare: endless praise for Barack Obama; relentless criticism of Hillary Clinton; and, above all, great torrents of mathematical argumentation explaining why the contest needs to end immediately.
Some on the left are worried about potential Democratic disunity in the fall. Many more seem dazzled by Obama's apparent charisma. Still others are simply incapable of dealing rationally with the Clintons. (Jonathan Chait of The New Republic called Hillary a "fratricidal maniac" for not yielding to the dictates of Obama math. Whatever, Jon.)
But there's another reason for Obama's popularity among bloggers--indeed, among much of the left-of-center commentariat from TNR to The Nation.
They need each other.
Hillary Clinton may or may not make a good president, but one thing's for sure--she won't be reinventing the wheel. No transcendental speechifying. No post-partisan mind-melding with Mitch McConnell. A Clinton presidency will contain its fair share of divisive politics. We pretty much know what that looks like. Some of us even welcome it.
For many bloggers the problem with Hillary isn't that she's a shrieking, mendacious harpy. That's for their comment sections. The problem is that her candidacy doesn't provide them with a subject worthy of their talents.
Enter Barack Obama, a slick politician peddling an extremely vague blueprint for change that cries out for further explication. In due course, from the fertile steppes of progressive cyberspace, appears a multitude of bold theoreticians and stalwart number crunchers, all eager to work overtime constructing an intellectual framework to support the Obama hype machine.
Right now their efforts are concentrated on ensuring that no renegade superdelegates or pesky voters in Michigan and Florida threaten the Obama campaign's Fortress of Inevitability. Leading the charge is Josh Marshall, and what a sad and sorry spectacle. Once an indispensable source of honest progressive journalism, TPM has lost all credibility by becoming little more than a clearinghouse for the latest Obama campaign spin, sprinkled with a few Clinton smears. (Has a more shameless Washington suck-up artist ever revealed himself?)
As long as the mainstream media has the Clintons to kick around, they'll be in lockstep with the Obamasphere, at least until their McCain fetish overpowers them. If Obama manages to get elected, an unfortunate dynamic will emerge.
The media has no interest in promoting a Democratic agenda--ever. Obama will be expected to fulfill his canpaign promise--as caricatured by the press--to end all the "partisan bickering" and start compromising. If he doesn't...Well, Time magazine has some vintage Clinton-era "Incredible Shrinking President" covers they can recycle.
Obama won't relish getting photoshopped into that particular picture. His universal health care plan will start looking even less universal than it does now.
Howls of protest will come from hardcore policy wonks, but Obama needn't worry--the big brains at Open Left, along with the rest of his online vanguard of hope, have his back. They're currently seen waving his old Iraq speech in front of Hillary Clinton like Van Helsing brandishing a crucifix because they're not sure he's very committed to progressive solutions. It's no big deal, though. Obama is transcendentally transforming American society, and something so grand takes time. The policy will have to wait for the politics. Someday Congress will be full of Wellstone liberals. Someday.
What de Remusat said of Thiers is perhaps true
of most men of words: "he has much more vanity
than ambition; and he prefers consideration to
obedience, and the appearance of power to power
itself. Consult him constantly, and then do
just as you please. He will take more notice
of your deference to him than of your actions."
At least we still have Paul Krugman.