Matt Bai asks a central question? Who and where are the populists? His piece in yesterday’s Times frames the issue as I have seen it coming for years.
There was a time when populists could readily distinguish between corporations and government. When a catastrophic event happened we were able to separate the guys wearing black hats from those wearing white ones. Bai writes, ‘…voters perceive both business and government as part of and interdependent system, and it is hard for them to separate out the culpability of either.’ When you throw the Supreme Court into the mix, it’s virtually impossible to differentiate the good from the bad.’
I’ve been paying a lot of attention throughout the health care debate, more recently as the financial protection package has evolved (devolved!), and over the past fifty or so days of the catastrophe in the Gulf. We no longer live in a capitalist culture. There is (was?) a necessary and productive balance among interests in capitalism. We live increasingly in a corporatist society where any semblance of balance is continuously destroyed by CEO’s, politicians (mostly, but hardly all Republicans), and–worst of all- Justices who are expected in every conceivable way to act fairly in the interests of the people and the Constitution (Gore v. Bush, corporate political spending, –don’t get me started).
Minute by minute reaction to President Obama’s response to the BP affair suggests he is virtually complicit. This is all politics. Eric Kantor faults the president for ‘using’ the destruction of the Gulf as a political move. Is Kantor actually on record that the President of the United States ought not to be seizing an opportunity to push for an energy policy that weans us off our fossil fuel dependent lifestyle?
President Obama has remained attentive, responsible, and thoughtful from the moment the BP explosion and leak occurred. He remains compassionate and committed. So he does not remove his shoe and bang it on the table a la Nikita Khruschev. I do not seek or want a leader whose emotions distort reality so that he/she can create an emotional tie to events.
All legislation–regulatory and otherwise is reactive. Governments are hardly ever proactive. The Bill of Rights was a response to an existing and intolerable set of conditions. The right and necessary reaction at this time is to seize an opportunity for real change to the ways in which we all use and abuse energy sources and to beat the drums for alternative consumable sources. President Obama is, to the extent that a president can be, “in control” of the situation.
It’s just getting harder and harder to differentiate between corporations and government. The president as the central figure is seen to be a mix of black hats and white hats. Mixing black and white results in grey. And greyness is what he is inappropriately being blamed for.