Would you like change with that?

Doug Henwood, economist and editor of Left Business Observer, on Obama.

Big capital would have no problem with an Obama presidency. Top hedge fund honcho Paul Tudor Jones threw a fundraiser for him at his Greenwich house last spring, “The whole of Greenwich [CT] is backing Obama,” one source said of the posh headquarters of the hedge fund industry. They like him because they’re socially liberal, up to a point, and probably eager for a little less war, and think he’s the man to do their work. They’re also confident he wouldn’t undertake any renovations to the distribution of wealth.

I’ve long thought Obama had serious support from somewhere deep within the power elite. This illuminates at least one major section of such support, and among the Greenwich hedge fund players exist many billionaires. That they think we need less war is a good thing, that they expect Obama to be docile on financial matters is not so good.

Enough critique; the dialectic demands something constructive to induce some forward motion. There’s no doubt that Obamalust does embody some phantasmic longing for a better world—more peaceful, egalitarian, and humane. He’ll deliver little of that—but there’s evidence of some admirable popular desires behind the crush. And they will inevitably be disappointed.

As this newsletter has argued for years, there’s great political potential in popular disillusionment with Democrats. The phenomenon was first diagnosed by Garry Wills in Nixon Agonistes. As Wills explained it, throughout the 1950s, left-liberals intellectuals thought that the national malaise was the fault of Eisenhower, and a Democrat would cure it. Well, they got JFK and everything still pretty much sucked, which is what gave rise to the rebellions of the 1960s (and all that excess that Obama wants to junk any remnant of). You could argue that the movements of the 1990s that culminated in Seattle were a minor rerun of this. The sense of malaise and alienation is probably stronger now than it was 50 years ago, and includes a lot more of the working class, whom Stanley Greenberg’s focus groups find to be really pissed off about the cost of living and the way the rich are lording it over the rest of us.

Never did the possibility of disappointment offer so much hope. That’s not what the candidate means by that word, but history can be a great ironist.

Which, if you think about it, is a good reason to be for Obama. Were McCain or Clinton to get elected, no one would expect much change. But if Obama becomes president – and I think he will – the inevitable letdown from hoped-for change to what he actually delivers will be significant. But the progressive forces set into motion by his election won’t easily be put back in the bottle. And that could lead to real change.

Having said that, Obama seems to be to be the least warlike of the candidates, and that’s a good thing too.


  • DJ

    Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal’s front page today lists contributions to the candidates by “employees of industries that usually support the GOP.” The big winner is not Obama ($22.5 million), not McCain ($13.1 million), but Hillary Clinton ($27.3 million).

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