Gas Dreams Come True

If one were to collate Obama’s campaign rhetoric (bad coal companies would be “bankrupt” under his envisioned cap and trade plans, energy prices would “sky-rocket”) with that of Secretary Chu’s (“somehow” American gas prices should climb to European levels; we should be worried about our abundant fossil fuel resources that can “cook” us), then the present climb to near $5 a gallon gas is what the president and his energy secretary once thought would be salutary — a sort of Europe U.S.A. After all, we Americans in our ridiculous pick-ups and SUVs (remember the president’s advice to the questioner concerned about fuel prices to trade in his gas-guzzler, or perhaps his earlier advice to inflate our tires in lieu of off-shore drilling) sort of got what we deserved.

Just consider all the positives that accrue from climbing prices: Subsidized mass transit (“high-speed rail”) — managed by government and operated by public union employees — becomes more palatable. When fewer people drive, then we are “cooling” the planet and lessening our carbon footprint. Moreover, subsidized wind and solar and “millions of green jobs” are closer to reality. The Volt, not the Yukon, is on the horizon — but, again, only at $5-6 a gallon.

Race Matters More Than Ever

Add up the following: the attack on the “stupidly” acting Cambridge police, Eric Holder’s “cowards” and “my people,” Justice Sotomayor’s “wise Latina,” Van Jones’ rants against white polluters and mass murderers, the president’s declarations like the following: “And if Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘we’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us….’” Or the following, “We can’t have special interests sitting shotgun. We gotta have middle class families up in front. We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.” Or the race, class, gender video appeal to “young people, African-Americans, Latinos, and women who powered our victory in 2008 [to] stand together once again.” What, then, is left of a supposedly racially neutral presidency?

In other words, if Obama had modeled his presidency after a Colin Powell’s or Condoleezza Rice’s tenure as secretary of State, then race would have been seen as incidental, not essential, to his character and agenda, and support for his presidency would have been predicated solely on principles rather than appeals to particular identity groups. The current rising racial awareness is no accident, but essential to focus support for liberal issues in traditional terms of polarization, victimization, and increased racial identity — especially as independents get frightened and peel off. Since 2009, we are less seen as an integrated, assimilated, and intermarried melting pot, but more a mosaic of competing interests that predicate their rival claims on society based on race, class, and gender.

Suffering Guardians

Some of you see hypocrisy with Obama’s abject about-face on Guantanamo, renditions, tribunals, preventative detention, Predators, Iraq, public campaign financing, revolving door appointments, earmarks, and promises to post legislation on the internet. Others note the paradox of an anti-war Laureate invading a third Arab Muslim oil-exporting nation that posed no threat to U.S. security. Still others can’t figure out how progressives, people of the people, so easily melt into Martha’s Vineyard, Vail, or Costa del Sol. Or  how a reformer, a hope and change avatar, can preside over the tax-cheating or tax-avoidance of Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, and Hilda Solis (and let us not forget Tom Daschle or Charles Rangel).

Easy answer: sophisticated guardians, as liberal technocrats, cannot possibly live by the myriad of complex rules and regulations that are necessary to corral a less able, wild society. They need “down” time, given their herculean labors, and surely as Ivy-League experts can be trusted without the intrusive oversight accorded tohoi polloi. In the Obama dream, Harvard- and Yale- trained lawyers, empathetic Wall Street magnates, and progressive CEOs need not be bothered with fear of hypocrisy, conflict of interest, or taxes inasmuch as they have devoted their entire lives to making sure that we, the ignorant, do not destroy our own lives. What we see as rank hypocrisy, they see as an occasional expected carelessness, or overindulgence of the guardian class who is simply exhausted. The stage driver with the reins often gets more tired than the unthinking horses he whips on — and surely deserves a drink at the bar for ensuring that the steeds don’t take the coach into the ditch.

We are living the Obama dream — one that about 45% of the population more or less embraces.

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