Thursday, January 27, 2011

Alex P. Keaton is President

- by New Deal democrat

I'm going to take a little foray out of this blog's typical comfort zone, to take the opportunity today to sum up my core opinion of Barack Obama. To put it simply, with the exception of skin color, the conservative hero of TV's "Family Ties," Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox's character), is President.

This note has been long-in-coming, but is provoked by two notes I just read. First, Paul Rosenberg at Open Left says:

Obama has accomodated himself, and worked tirelessly to redifine liberalism or progressivism in terms of a neo-liberal vision that is, at bottom, aimed at implementing conservative policies in a more technocratically competent manner, with a "human face" that makes it far more palatable to those whose rights and interests are being continually eroded.
Second, Armando a/k/a Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left says:

8 percent unemployment would require 1.5% drop in the current unemployment rate. The Obama Administration has decided that it has to sell something along those lines as a success - a crisis averted. Politically, I can understand why. It is hard for someone to argue that 4 years of their Administration failed to alleviate a crisis.

But activists do not work for Obama or his political fortunes. The fact is that America is in crisis - an economic crisis, a jobs crisis and an income inequality crisis. And if you care about creating space for policies to address these crises, in many ways, your interests now diverge from those of President Obama, who wants to win reelection and has decided that pretending the crisis is over is the way to do that.
Barack Obama was born in 1961. He is a nearly exact contemporary of Alex Keaton's. He has said (I've been unable to track down a link to the quote) in response to the Great Recession, that New Deal style solutions from the 1930's won't work in 21st century America. In fact, it is clear to me that, just as Herbert Hoover was hamstrung by the dominant economic ideology of his day, so Barack Obama is a true believer in neoliberal economics. He is unable to consider that anything other than a lightly regulated casino - er, free market - is the correct and natural solution to any problem.

But don't take my word for it: Back in 2008 one of the "Family Ties" writers wrote a NY Times editorial about who Alex Keaton would support for president, and here's what he said:

Alex P. Keaton’s political idols, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, have each gone off to their deserved places in history....

[T]o properly represent Alex and his political point of view I, as well as the rest of the “Family Ties” writers, did a great deal of research on this subject....

Alex Keaton was a true conservative Republican. He was for limited government. He was strongly against government involvement in the personal lives of its citizens. He was competent and capable — the ultimate over-achiever. But, above all Alex Keaton was a firm believer in the power of ideas. He believed in the competitive marketplace of intellectual discourse, where the best ideas win .... Alex was smart. Real smart. And, proud of it....

So what about Barack Obama? I honestly don’t know. I think Alex is an independent now, and as deeply engaged in politics as ever. He would be intrigued by Obama — impressed with his eloquence and intelligence. He would be unhappy with his plan to tax the wealthy at a higher rate, but keenly aware that eight years of neglect and corruption and no-bid contracts have to somehow be overturned. And, I think Obama’s slogan is very similar to Alex’s own personal mantra: “Of Course I Can.”
Of course, as it turns out, Barack Obama didn't choose to tax the wealthy at a higher rate, either.

Barack Obama and Alex P. Keaton are black and white mirror images: both have the same self-regard and the same neoliberal core ideology - and the same high regard for Ronald Reagan. To understand Barack Obama, you simply need to understand this: the truth is, Alex P. Keaton has become President.