December 17th, 2016

“Beyond Hope”: A New Republic panel analyzes Obama’s presidency, and whether it led to Trump’s election

If you want a glimpse into the minds of people who feel themselves oh-so-smart but seem unable and unwilling to learn a thing, read this article wherein a group composed of “two of America’s preeminent scholars on American history” plus three journalists and authors responded to various questions about the Obama legacy.

The only person in the group who doesn’t spout the complete party line is Andrew Sullivan, which is understandable considering he’s an unusual amalgam of liberal and conservative. A couple of times during the conversation you can almost feel sorry for him (at least, I did), particularly when he attempts to say that race and racism don’t account for everything negative that’s happened to Obama:

SULLIVAN: But this is all a slow disintegration of an American identity, which is not racial.

JAFFE: Has there ever been an American identity that was not racial?

SULLIVAN: Yes. There can be understood to be something that transcends race, as a citizen with no race.

PAINTER: Maybe if you’re really rich.

SULLIVAN: [Obama]s] other failure is not doing enough to confront the identity politics of the left. Because the left’s obsession with race and gender and all the other Marxist notions helped create the white identity politics that is now going to run this country.

[Laughter and shouting]

The laughter and shouting is apparently because the others are devoted to looking at nearly everything in terms of those identity politics.

It’s hard to summarize the proceedings, but here’s how the entire discussion began, which should give you a sense of the flavor of it:

Q:…How much responsibility do you think that [Obama] himself bears for creating the conditions that allowed Trump to get elected? In retrospect, are there things he could or should have done to protect and institutionalize his agenda more?

NELL PAINTER: I don’t think it has anything to do with him personally, except that he’s a black man. The election of Trump was a gut-level response to what many Americans interpreted as an insult eight years ago, and have been seething against ever since. The only way you can see Trump as somehow Obama’s fault is Obama’s very being. It’s ontological.

Apparently, according to Painter (retired Princeton professor and former president of the Organization of American Historians), anyone failing to acknowledging Obama’s perfection must be a racist and can only be a racist who objects to Obama’s very being.

I guess that would include the voters in counties that once voted for Obama and but in 2016 voted for Trump:

This shift was easily spotted at the county level. For instance, in small, working-class Juneau County, Wisconsin, home to 26,500 people, Trump bested Clinton by 26 points. President Obama won the county by 7 points four years ago. In Macomb County, Michigan — a blue-collar Detroit suburb home to 855,000 people — Trump won by more than 11 points. Obama won it by 4 points in 2012. And in Lackawanna County in northeast Pennsylvania, typically a critical county for Democrats in the battleground state, Clinton won, but barely, beating Trump by less than 4 points. Obama won the county four years ago by over 27 points.

The above quote isn’t from the New Republic, though; it’s from an interesting article at NBC News, and it deals with facts that the majority of TNR’s forum members don’t seem to feel the need to explain. The New Republic’s forum had a ton of excuses for Obama and very little blame, and much of the blame was on the order of “he didn’t go far enough to the left” and “he tried too hard to compromise with the Republicans.”

We’ve heard all of that before, but it seems especially odd to hear it now, post-election 2016. Who are these people trying to reassure by this sort of talk? Themselves? Each other? Their readers?

The title of the article is “Beyond Hope.” It is meant to refer to Obama’s promises of “hope and change,” now that he’s about to leave office. But it is unintentionally ironic in its description of the inability of most of the panelists to look at the truth and to fairly assess the situation in which the Democratic Party finds itself today.

[NOTE: And why pick on Andrew Sullivan’s “insane” quotes about Obama? Sullivan was by far the sanest person on the entire panel.]

[ADDENDUM: Speaking of “beyond hope,” Michelle Obama seems to have lost her hope and thinks America has, too:

“We feel the difference now,” Obama said in an excerpt of her final White House interview, conducted by Oprah Winfrey. “Now we’re feels like what not having hope feels like. … What do you do if you don’t have hope, Oprah?”

The full interview is scheduled to air Monday on CBS-TV…

“Barack didn’t just talk about hope because he thought it was a nice slogan to get votes,” the first lady said in the CBS interview. “He and I and so many believe: What else do you have if you don’t have hope?”

The first lady during her time in the White House made top priorities of empowering young women and promoting healthy eating habits.

She argued in the interview that children are the ones who most need hope.

And to try to explain how her husband gave Americans hope, she said he was like the soothing parent who didn’t overreact when a child bumps his or her head on a table.

“Barack has been that for the nation,” the first lady said.

I wonder whether the First Lady considers those millions of Trump voters as not comprising part of “the nation.” Because it seems to me that her statement is true only for about half the nation. For the other half, Obama was an infuriating mixture of tone-deaf non-reaction to their concerns both here and abroad, and extreme activist for positions to which they were opposed.]

23 Responses to ““Beyond Hope”: A New Republic panel analyzes Obama’s presidency, and whether it led to Trump’s election”

  1. Oldflyer Says:

    I think everything works best when those who are superior to the rest of us in intelligence, morality, sophistication, etc. confine themselves to intramural discussion. They can write learned articles for publication in academic journals of social whatever, which they can pass among themselves and endlessly critique. That way ordinary humans are left free to go about the mundane tasks that make society function. Unfortunately, they cannot resist lecturing, hectoring and otherwise interfering. Ok, that is tolerable, just as long as they are kept out of government.

  2. J.J Says:

    Hollywood has made a video min which they beseech the electors to deny the presidency to the totally unqualified Donald Trump.

    What all these progs, including this New Republic panel, don’t get is that Obama was totally unqualified to be president and so is Hillary. That is why Trump won – people finally noticed.

  3. Ann Says:

    I’m hopeful that most African Americans think more like former NFL star Jim Brown than Michelle Obama. If you’ve not read about his comments after his meeting with Trump, you can do so here.

  4. Stubbs Says:

    As I recall there was only one glancing reference, by Sullivan at the end of the discussion, to immigration, which represented the deep rumbling at the center of the earth’s core in the last election.

    And Painter, yes. Racism and sexism explains everything.

    It’s reassuring that the democratic brains really don’t have a clue as to what caused Hillary’s failure.

    But it’s clear, at least out here in CA, that the resistance to Trump will be fierce and use unprecedented means. All kinds of politicians and activists are teeing up their version of resistance. In San Diego there is a campaign to have restaurants post signs declaring that they are “no-hate” zones for LGBTers and Muslims, for example. And there is a push to have the public fund lawyers for illegal immigrants at deportation hearings, which are civil procedures. It’s going to be wild.

  5. Word Bully Says:

    ‘I wonder whether the First Lady considers those millions of Trump voters as not compromising part of “the nation.”’

    “Compromising”? Did you mean “comprising”?

  6. chuck Says:

    My rule of thumb is that famous academic historians have absolutely no clue as to what is going on or why. I suspect that profound incapacity arises from Marxist ideology. Using that as an analytical basis is like attempting to do modern cosmology with crystal spheres. I will go further, 200 years ago historians were *more* capable because they lacked that ideology. It is one of those professions that has regressed.

  7. neo-neocon Says:


    Oops! Thanks, will fix.

  8. The Other Gary Says:

    The New Republic’s forum had a ton of excuses for Obama and very little blame, and much of the blame was on the order of “he didn’t go far enough to the left” and “he tried too hard to compromise with the Republicans.”

    Of course they couldn’t be more wrong about this. Obama’s failures were due to his going much too far to the left, and his pushy, arrogant uncompromising way of treating everyone who didn’t go all-in with his “transformational” program, not just Republicans.

    Yet there is something perversely interesting about the spectacle of such brute-force denial. When you’re on the side of protecting “the downtrodden” from “the oppressors,” the side where “the personal is political” (and therefore the political is personal), the side that makes politics into a quasi-religious calling, the major thing that brings meaning to your life — when you’re on that side, it’s almost inevitable that your entire self-image will be heavily dependent upon the success or failure of your political vision. In which case, being wrong about politics inflicts such a devastating psychological blow it becomes nearly impossible to admit such a thing.

    I think this explains the ironclad, obstinate refusal of these people to even begin to consider the possibility they were wrong about their hero, Obama.

  9. Yancey Ward Says:

    I forget who said it, or where I first read it (my memory is that it was some leader in Southeast Asia), but it has been pointed out identity politics, like that being practiced by the Democratic Party today eventually ends up with every ethnic group represented by its own party. Of course, this clearly applies to parliamentary systems where more than two parties being represented is quite a bit easier to have happen.

    In the US, the first-past-the-post system naturally leads to a two-party system, so the identity politics being practiced by the Democrats isn’t quite dangerous to them in the future, but if they continue this drift it is quite possible that they lose even more white voters than they did this year.

    One of the reasons Obama won in 2008 and 2012 so easily is that he basically hid the racial identity politics until his second term in office, and that cost Clinton a lot of votes in the end.

    The Democrats are likely to try to replicate the Obama recipe in 2020/24, and the big unknown here is going to be whether or not they go for another African-American candidate (Mrs. Obama is the most likely), or do they finally bend to the increasing demographics of Hispanic voters and go for someone like Julian Castro. It is this latter factor that makes Trump’s outreach to African-Americans so threatening to Democratic leaders

  10. Paul in Boston Says:

    The reason Obama won in 2008 and 2012 was strictly identity politics, his skin color. A white man with his credentials would have been laughed out of the room and never sniffed the Presidency, or even the US Senate.

  11. Eric Says:

    “We’ve heard all of that before, but it seems especially odd to hear it now, post-election 2016. Who are these people trying to reassure by this sort of talk? Themselves? Each other? Their readers?
    … But it is unintentionally ironic in its description of the inability of most of the panelists to look at the truth and to fairly assess the situation in which the Democratic Party finds itself today.”

    It’s not odd at all. Their perspective is the activist game where participatory politics subsume electoral politics.

    For the Left, it’s about their Gramscian march. Electoral politics are a big stick, but they are only one complementary stick in the greater bundle of participatory politics.

    Unlike conservatives who’ve passed the buck on activism to the GOP, which caused the problem in the 1st place, leftists have formidable social redoubts besides the Democrats.

    The Left that usurped the liberals to seize the Democratic party uses Democrats and government as instruments for their Gramscian march. However, the Left doesn’t depend on the Democratic party like conservatives of Right have irresponsibly deferred to and depended on the Republican party.

    So the Left’s instrument, the Democratic party, lost this election cycle. It’s a setback. But on the broader social cultural/political spectrum, the Left’s Gramscian march continues on course.

  12. Eric Says:

    Add: Trump’s win boosts the Left in the big picture – ie, the activist game, which is the only social cultural/political game there is.

    The displacement of conservatives with the Left-mimicking themes, principles, and playbook of the Trump alt-Right faction, redefining the GOP by following the footsteps of the Left’s redefining of the Democrats, sets up a synergy that helps amplify the Left.

    The Left’s Gramscian march is about paradigm shift, and the success of the Trump alt-Right faction advances US culture and society in essence towards the Left’s preferred paradigm.

  13. neo-neocon Says:


    But I was trying to make two points, and perhaps not explicitly enough

    The first is that I think they really believe this rather than it being just a tactic.

    My second is that I think it’s become less persuasive to a lot of people than before. And it all hinges on what really happens that’s positive during the Trump presidency, because propaganda can only go so far to overcome reality.

  14. John F. MacMichael Says:

    “Sullivan was by far the sanest person on the entire panel.”

    Hoo boy, when you can make a statement like that with a straight face, you know you are talking about people who are permanent residents of Cuckoo Cloud Land.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    John F. MacMichael:

    A very straight face.

    Read it, and you’ll see.

    Sullivan adores Obama, but he is otherwise fairly clear-eyed, particularly compared to the others. And he stands his ground against them and doesn’t back off.

  16. KLSmith Says:

    32 more days. Here’s hoping they’ll fade into the woodwork. But I doubt we’ll be so lucky.

  17. expat Says:

    For most of these people it is not ideology. It is credentials and displaying the right status symbols. These are the ones who will be lining up for the Starbuck’s new $12 a cup coffee. They have no experience in the real world of black inner cities or minimum wage workers in the heartland. They have never collected food for a foodbank or cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for the poor with members of their church. They don’t know how much time a small business owner has to waste trying to comply with EPA and Obamacare regs.

  18. Steve S Says:

    I’ve often stated that the biggest, most fundamental difference between President Obama and me is that I regard him as my President, and he doesn’t.

  19. Richard Aubrey Says:

    This is one of those…”THIS IS WHY YOU LOST” thingies.

  20. parker Says:

    In flyover country we have rendering companies that pick up dead animals for processing to canned animal food. That is the best end to the obama regime I can imagine. Otherwise they are global warming decaying carbon poisoning the atmosphere.

  21. Scott Says:

    “Sullivan was by far the sanest person on the entire panel.”
    In other words, the tallest person in a room of midgets.

  22. NeoConScum Says:

    Michelle His Belle is full of the same cow fecal matter as her hubby and, sop, the Left. So eight years of your spaghetti spined neo-Marxist love muffin being the (cough, wretch, snicker) “adult for the country” is heartbreaking to lose to us Wascally Wacists!!?? ROTFLMF’ingAO!!!

    Watching the New PC-Thought Police gnaw their arms off for the next 4-years will be orgasmic.

  23. Sam L. Says:

    I’ve had hope, and now I have a lot more of it.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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