Monday, June 5, 2017

David J. Garrow's Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

I haven't read David J. Garrow's Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, but a friend forwarded Paul Street's review in Counter Punch.  Street's review is from a left perspective--one which would have been called New Left a few decades ago.  Thus, while Street's (and presumably Garrow's) analysis is accurate, we part ways with respect to Street's criticisms of Garrow as well as Street's conclusions and recommendations.

Street's rendition of Garrow makes some similar points to those I made in this blog in 2008 and 2009. Street puts more weight than I did--how could I have known?--on Obama's lack of substance and his pragmatism.  It was evident from the contribution numbers readily available in 2008 that Obama would be deferential to Wall Street, which he was, according to the review.  

The left has never understood that socialism begets elitism, so a more socialistic economy would beget a slightly different but essentially similar set of figures to Robert Rubin and Lloyd Blankfein.  The elites in communist and softer socialist states don't differ much from the current American elite. Cliches like "neoliberalism," "progressive" and "democratic"  confuse leftists like Street, who remain wedded to the false premise that Hoover's Progressivism was laissez faire.

While it is true that Hoover was more laissez faire than Franklin Roosevelt, the basic statist infrastructure--the Fed, the permanent war machine, the draft,  the income tax,  the process for providing regulatory subsidization to special interests--was already in place under Hoover, and he supported it.  The Republicans elected during the 1920s--Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover--had no interest in repealing the big-government institutions that Theodore Roosevelt (R), Taft (R) and  Wilson (D) had put into place.   While Taft was conservative compared to Roosevelt, he was in the Progressive tradition, favoring use of litigation over regulation of trusts to enforce federal regulation. Roosevelt had favored a more regulated approach, so he ran against Taft in 1912, enabling election of Wilson, who signed both the income tax and the Federal Reserve Act into law.

The American imperial state has been evolving since Lincoln and before, and socialism is not the solution. It is the problem. Obama was in the imperial tradition of Leviathan, and Street's review is worth reading.

No comments: