Presidential cognitive dissonance: a performance by juxtaposition
Let’s begin with the snobbish paternalism and rank condescension that tries to present itself as a kind of championing of the masses. First, Obama, 2007, the “other race speech”: On “poor” people: “We can’t expect them to have all the skills they need to work. They may need help with basic skills, how to shop, how to show up for work on time, how to wear the right clothes, how to act appropriately in an office.”
Compare with Michelle Obama and Lisa Cericola, Supermarket Shopping 101:
Before you can cook for your family, you need to know how to grocery shop for foods you’ll use. From how to make a list to making healthy choices, consider this your go–to cheat sheet [...] You’ve got your list, you’ve got your cart – let’s get shopping! Focus on the perimeter of the store first – that’s typically where you’ll find the produce, meat and dairy sections, which stock fresh, whole foods that should comprise the bulk of your shopping list. Then navigate your cart toward other essentials, like canned goods (beans and tomato sauce), grains (pasta, rice, boxed couscous or quinoa mixes) and frozen foods (fruits, vegetables, seafood).
Steer clear of the cookie, snack and soda aisle until after you’ve collected everything on your list – at that point, your cart should be full, which might make you feel less tempted to buy things you don’t need. By always heading to the essential areas of the store first, you’ll train yourself to form a shopping pattern that’s healthier [...]
Note the themes here: the workaday world of the typical 99%ers is filled with difficult, often exotic challenges and potential distractions, making the United States, with all its supposed freedoms a very difficult place to navigate effectively and efficiently. So while the Republicans with their social darwinist mindset would have you believe you should sink or swim on your own out there in the competitive wilderness of a supposedly free peoples — you are either the Grizzly or the salmon, and that’s just the way the free market works — the progressives understand your fears, and moreso, with a kindly guiding hand, will help remove social barriers such as choice and competition and all the burdens therein that come with the destructive mythos of “liberty” and self reliance and rugged individualism; and that’s because while in theory things like competition can prove occasional useful, for the vast majority of the masses, people who’ve been public school-educated and whose idea of high culture is the monthly splurge at Red Lobster (complete with an appetizer!), liberty is in fact a burden, requiring of them a level of engagement and knowledge and attention that can distract from the kind of quality of life and inbuilt stability a fundamentally transformed United States promises to provide. Republicans want you alone and frightened; progressives understand that it takes a village, conveniently located in the District of Columbia, and flush with enough of your tax revenues to distribute wealth where it needs to go. For our own good.
Now. Compare the above mentioned themes to those presented by Obama in his now infamous “you didn’t build that” speech — which is itself built on sentiments plucked right from the academy and offered up for public consumption by political hopefuls like Elizabeth Warren (whom. I prefer to refer to by her Native Cherokee name, Nibbles on Scones):
If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be ’cause I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something. There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, that — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
At first glance, we have variations on a theme: to be successful, you need help. And from the progressive perspective, that help comes from the government, be in through picking and choosing winners and loser; government providing the roads and essential services on which commerce relies; regulation on free enterprise to even the playing field (for “fairness,” naturally, though a “fairness” of outcomes); or shopping tips to become a successful parent committed to providing your family with healthy and nutritious meals — above and against all that capitalism and the “competitive foods” that seek to thwart the best of governmental intentions to mold your body and soul into something that is far more aesthetically pleasing than the blob of ill-dressed goo you’d likely turn yourself into left to your own misinformed devices.
But look closer: While the Obamas are busy promoting the idea that less economically successful people in the United States find themselves in a state of societal disconnect because of systemic racial and economic inequality, along with a general lack of basic skills that any freely available public education should have provided them — remember, we’re told these downtrodden and oppressed folk can’t grocery shop, can’t dress themselves properly, can’t figure out ways to show up for work on time, can’t speak clearly and articulately, and so on — at the same time, Obama wants to have it both ways: not being able to grocery shop or dress yourself properly or speak or find a way to show up for work on time doesn’t make you less smart than those who’ve managed some degree of success and self sufficiency! “There are a lot of smart people out there” who presumably suffer from basic deficiencies in their life’s CV, eg., an inability to figure out how to dress themselves appropriately. And of course, these very same people, many of them, haven’t been outworked. “There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there” who, but for being unable to grocery shop, dress themselves, speak, or get themselves to work on time, would be every bit as successful as those who have managed the basic skills.
– Meaning, the problem is not with those who can’t master basic skills — after all, the government has yet to step in and provide them with the kinds of knowledge that parents, churches, or basic human observation haven’t been able to disseminate efficiently; but rather, the problem is with all those uppity successful people who rub your faces in their ability to shop and dress and show up on time and express themselves clearly.
As if they were able to figure all that out themselves.
In short, Obama condescends and infantilizes, while at the same time fluffing up the esteem of those he sees as helpless drones by pretending that their ignorance and lack of drive is somehow noble — and the success of others somehow unfair and based on a degree of privilege stemming from some unmentioned injustice and form of soft oppression over those whom they’ve out achieved.
As if wealth or success is a zero-sum game. As if there is a finite pool of wealth and innovation available to human kind, and it’s being hoarded by the haves and therefore illegitimately kept from the have nots — despite the fact that all Americans, those who succeed and those who haven’t, have relied at some point or another on a government road, or good teacher, or a Pell Grant.
And that’s not fair.
This is the basic mixed message of the socialist/progressive world view — paternalistic in its rationalizations, envy-driven in its emotional appeals.
These are the Obamas words. And they represent a window into the ideology that drives them and has always driven them.
Once you see how they operate in concert — even as they ignore the self-contradictory logic that allows them to be conjoined for rhetorical effect — you can see the soft seams that hold together the Utopian message of the Marxist / Communist message.
And once you see those seams, you should work to tear at them with your teeth and nails until the fluff drops out, and the emptiness of the entire endeavor is fully revealed.