Streetwise Professor

August 25, 2009

Fanning the Jacksonian Flames

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 9:29 pm

It is widely conjectured that the Obama administration’s move to investigate, and perhaps prosecute, CIA interrogators and debriefers is intended to shore up a leftist base disenchanted with the prospect of his abandoning the public option on healthcare.

Regardless of motives, this move is a political blunder (as well as being substantively wrong, IMHO) because it will only aggravate the conflict that is derailing his efforts to transform the healthcare system.  Obama’s most vociferous opponents in the firestorm over healthcare are Jacksonians.  As Walter Russell Mead wrote in his famous essay about American political traditions (Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian, Wilsonian) Jacksonians are fiercely independent, and resentful of encroachments of the powerful on their autonomy.  Jacksonians are especially resentful of powerful, privileged elites.  And the Obama healthcare initiative is nothing if it is not an assault on the autonomy of millions of Americans by a privileged elite.  Hence the ferocious, visceral reaction of millions of Jacksonian Americans.

And as Mead also wrote, Jacksonians are also fiercely patriotic, American exceptionalists who react robustly when the “folk” is threatened, and who are not very squeamish about using violent means to defend it.  Such people will hardly shed any tears over even the worst that the interrogators are alleged to have done.  But they will not take kindly to their prosecution, to say the least.

The administration’s move will only cement the belief among Jacksonians that Obama is an elitist at odds with a folk he views as “bitter clingers”; as someone more interested in the approval of Europeans than in the protection of Americans; and, to be blunt, someone not enthusiastically American.  This will only deepen suspicions among them about anything he proposes, and undermine trust in his motives.  As a result, they will be even less receptive to–no, more militantly resistant to–his healthcare plans.  The vociferous opposition that has burst forth to the astonishment and dismay of the anti-Jacksonian elites will therefore only intensify as a result of this action.

Jacksonians are by no means a majority nationwide, but they are a pivotal bloc in many states, and it is highly unlikely that any major initiative like healthcare can pass over their impassioned opposition.  And by his move on the CIA, Obama has only inflamed that passion.

If Obama is doing this to pacify his base, he is desperate indeed. If he is doing it out of conviction, he is jeopardizing his attainment of cherished goals. Either way, he is not being the uniter of the campaign, but the most divisive political figure in recent memory.  Those on the other side of the divide are usually politically invisible, but woe betides anyone who arouses them.  Obama has done it not once, but repeatedly.  This is not a recipe for political triumph, but for intense political conflict.

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15 Comments »

  1. Just a short comment –

    $9 trillion deficit.

    But Obama is so “like Roosevelt.”

    And deficit spending is “necessary.”

    And it’s so much easier to prosecute one’s own citizens, than to deal with reality.

    Alan Keyes was absolutely correct about Obama. He is an unmitigated communist.

    Comment by elmer — August 25, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

  2. Obama’s childhood offers clues as to why he is so far removed from mainstream American values – a flaky radical lefty mom flitting from one Third World country to another with seemingly deliberate Third World trophy lovers with kids out of wedlock and not a lot of solid nurturing skills when you return the kid to grandparents to raise and, then, his growing up bi-racial in Hawaii off the mainland. Lots of identity issues would arise in a childhood like that. It seems to me a recipe for insecurity and self-absorption which can morph into malignant narcissism in susceptible people. I don’t think the guy has a very solid core. It isn’t surprisng that the hard left which should have withered with Bush out of office owns him.

    Undermining the CIA is sheer stupidity. It’s going to blow up on the Democrats if we ever sustain another terrrorist attack here. I guess they’ve foolishly discounted that ever happening again. Their aim of dismantling America’s role as the last Good Cop left standing is going to cost lives somewhere on the globe.

    I loathe Obama and his radical left ilk in the Congress and the corrupt Chicago style politics he’s now taking nationally. I notice the word “elitist” being invoked a lot now in comments. Resentment is rising.

    I’m with elmer, it sure looks like throwing the middle class and small businesses under the bus is intentional.

    Comment by penny — August 26, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  3. You know Penny, after writing that what he did was a “blunder,” I had second thoughts. It might have been a blunder . . . but I have this latent suspicion that he seeks confrontation on these hot button issues. That would be the Alinsky way, I think. And it is certainly what his base craves–and I think he is quite in tune with his base. As the “bitter clinger” gaffe (in the Kinsley-politician-telling-the-truth sense of the word) and many other things demonstrate, he disdains a whole lot of Americans. I say Jacksonian: I have this sinking suspicion he thinks “cracker.”

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 26, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

  4. It’s quite ironic that Obama is being criticized for deficit stimulus spending at a time of recession – and on things like broadband, renewable energy, etc, when Bush did THE SAME during his reign except his budget deficit was caused by wars and tax breaks for his rich cronies.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 26, 2009 @ 6:29 pm

  5. S/O–broadband, renewable energy, “etc.” is mostly waste. Tax breaks for “rich cronies” is a hackneyed leftist talking point. You can do better than that. And the scale of Obama’s spending plans makes Bush’s largesse–which I opposed–look positively niggardly by comparison.

    And isn’t it interesting that other countries, notably France and Germany, which used far less fiscal stimulus, are recovering more smartly than the three big economies–US, UK, and Japan–that have.

    Not surprising from a Ricardian equivalence perspective.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 26, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  6. ….but I have this latent suspicion that he seeks confrontation on these hot button issues. That would be the Alinsky way….

    Agree. But what is amusing and interesting is the grassroots rubes have figured that out and are going all out Alinsky too. I say that with respect as I’m one of them. Conservatives are using very effectively Twitter, blogs and Meet Up with an incredible new user rate as these townhall avoidance Dems are witnessing.

    Narcissistic personality disorders like Obama’s are very high maintenance. Eventually even the water carrying lemmings in the media are going to be exhausted.

    Both Charles Krauthammer and Theodore Dalrymple are psychiatrists, two measured and respected conservative voices, we psych people bring something to the table with the message that personality disorders are toxic.

    Comment by penny — August 26, 2009 @ 11:06 pm

  7. Penny–

    Re going all Alinsky, check out this Belmont Club entry. It’s excellent.

    Re high maintenance: I understand narcissists. I don’t understand those who enable them. Could you please explain? It really puzzles me. Do they have their own special PD?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — August 27, 2009 @ 7:31 am

  8. The sad thing about this post is that I am a big Walter Russell Mead fan too. I just don’t expect Russians to be less Jacksonian than Americans, but the Professor does, thereby aggravating the very historic Russian even-paranoids-have-enemies paranoia he deplores. The Prof may be able to swat down leftist arguments by AK but he doesn’t deal with the paleocon arguments so easily.

    Oh and La Russophobe, since I know you’re going to be reading, how do your bosses feel about the return on their investment, considering the Polish papers are saying missile defense there is kaput and NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia is dead too? If Randy Scheunemann types are still active I think their clients ought to ask for their money back…and for the crumbs that fall from that table too.

    Having an argument about which country’s economy sucks more is not a productive use of time in these difficult times. I think we can do better.

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — August 27, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  9. S/O–broadband, renewable energy, “etc.” is mostly waste. Tax breaks for “rich cronies” is a hackneyed leftist talking point. You can do better than that. And the scale of Obama’s spending plans makes Bush’s largesse–which I opposed–look positively niggardly by comparison.

    I’m sure they once said the same of the railways (the first Trans-American one was heavily subsidized by government), Interstate highways and ARPAnet. Tax breaks during a time of (unsustainable) boom and budget deficits are stupid. Bush’s spending was mostly useless (unless the US physically seizes Iraq’s oil in compensation, but I doubt that’s going to happen), whereas Obama’s is forward-looking.

    And isn’t it interesting that other countries, notably France and Germany, which used far less fiscal stimulus, are recovering more smartly than the three big economies–US, UK, and Japan–that have.

    US, UK and Japan have fewer automatic welfare stabilizers, France and Germany do not need as much stimulus because they have worker protections. Not making value judgments as to which system is better, but as they are all developed democracies there are pressures for government relief during recessions, in FR/DE it comes automatically as a result of inbuilt features of their economic models, in the Anglo-Saxon world it has to be stimulated.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — August 27, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  10. Professor, thank’s for the link. Richard Fernandez is amazing. I found his blog, Belmont Club, shortly after 9/11 and was drawn to what was one of the best original reasoned blogs of that era. He has an elegant mind. It makes you want to scream at how poorly the lame MSM serves society. Gotta love the classic lefty attitude that facts don’t matter as spewed by Haque.

    I don’t understand those who enable them.

    I wish I could serve up the definitive clinical study on that one. Anecdotally, it’s all about having good boundaries. For most people raised in normal households encounters with borderlines/narcissists/anti-socials ends abruptly. They don’t have name for it, but, they have enough good sense to walk.

    Comment by penny — August 27, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

  11. I just don’t expect Russians to be less Jacksonian than Americans

    I do.

    Come again, give us one example of Russian Jacksonian behavior or moment of any merit in the last eight decades? Or ever?

    Comment by penny — August 27, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

  12. I respect Fernandez too, because when it comes to Russia, he doesn’t link to any old trash, unlike other rightist blogs who don’t even care whether the person they’re linking to is a real person or a professional paid to be a troll.

    “Penny”, you wouldn’t agree even if I named a Jacksonian situation (South Ossetia last summer qualifies, as Jacksonians don’t give a damn whether the country that threatens the community happens to be small and weak or backed by fancy pants foreigners), since you are part of the Zigfeld swarm, so why bother? We’ve already beaten this down a dozen times with the Professor, he doesn’t think reciprocity is possible let alone feasible with Russia, since we’re good, and they’re evil, and that’s it. If Hugo Chavez becomes the Mikheil Saakashvili of South America and hosts hundreds of Russian and Chinese military advisors and spends 6-9% of his country’s GDP on “defense from American imperialism” with big chunks of that money going to Moscow and Beijing, the Professor would insist that Hugo would have done it anyway. For him there can be no serious blowback whatsoever from American foreign policy in the former USSR.

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — August 28, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

  13. I respect Fernandez too, because when it comes to Russia, he doesn’t link to any old trash, unlike other rightist blogs who don’t even care whether the person they’re linking to is a real person or a professional paid to be a troll. [This was a reference to Pajamas Media hosting La Russophobe’s garbage]

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — August 28, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  14. Steve, please, give it up, the lame LR conspiracy posts that appear here and at Pajama Media under various monikers with the same accusation make me wonder whose payroll they are on. It’s so blatantly consistent and organized. Given time any consistent anti-Putin poster becomes subject to that deliberate ploy.

    Your nuanced use of exclamation marks in addressing me as “Penny” I suspect was meant to undermine me as genuine. But, that game has been played out before here under different monikers.

    And, by the way, Richard Fernandez whom you admire posted under the pseudonym “Wretchard” for years and no one had a problem with it.

    Comment by penny — August 29, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

  15. Yes it’s true Fernandez used a psuedonym for years. So did David Goldman, who I also quote a lot here.

    “Given time any consistent anti-Putin poster becomes subject to that deliberate ploy.”

    The difference was they didn’t use their anonymity to smear specific people and Google bomb them. They used a pen name for the appropriate reason, to express themselves without repercussions to their professional careers even though close friends probably knew who they were long before they came out publically.

    Contrast that with a blog that’s basically been trashing specific individuals for three years and tell me with a straight face that no one in Washington or NY is paying for it — five articles a day is more than someone’s hobby. Especially in New York, which is a pricey place to blog from. I should know. I’ve lived here for some time. I had to shut down my anti-Russophobe blog because it became too big of a time suck.

    Comparing Zigfeld to Fernandez is like comparing someone who writes bathroom scribblings to the Anonymous Masters. And Pajamas Media has folks like Glenn Reynolds and Fernandez who have some interesting things to say and expertise, but also self-proclaimed twenty year old foreign policy experts who can’t write for crap and think they’ve uncovered the lost gold of the Exodus (when I read a book on that ten years ago) plus trashperts like Zigfeld.

    Overall, it’s pretty damn disappointing if Zigfeld is indeed their only Russia writer. How does that happen? I guess for the same reason the Washington Post violated their own guidelines to publish a Zigfeld letter to the editor FOUR MONTHS after the original article appeared, and didn’t bother to check if the letter writer was using a pseudonym.

    The Professor knows who posts here so I respect his rules and don’t name them, even though some of them know they can easily be Googled up. I remain anonymous simply because I don’t think it’s fair for real people using their real names to have to wrestle with the greasy pig of a professional troll — because the pig likes it. But the “real” Zigfeld never ever ever ever gets drawn into any discussion of who they are. And that’s the giveaway. Usually anonymous people who do it for free are narcissistic enough to let some clues out of the bag. Zigfeld is simply too disciplined to be your typical troll. But the gratituous personal insults suggest someone doing things now and then for free.

    Comment by Steve J. Nelson — August 30, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

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