Obama retracts middle finger, grits teeth and stops by LA
What first seems counterintuitive about the dueling major party presidential candidates’ recent trips to Louisiana becomes perfectly understandable once we remember who and what the parties, candidates, and ideologies involved are.
Following the custom born in the 20th Century, Pres. Barack Obama is visiting the state most of which recently was declared by him as a disaster area from Hurricane Isaac, at the invitation of Gov. Bobby Jindal, days after the storm departed the state even as its effects linger. But expanding upon the custom, days earlier Obama’s Republican candidate for the presidency former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took a brief tour also at Jindal’s invitation.
Indeed, Romney came right after his party’s national convention closed, cancelling a campaign swing through the very competitive state of Virginia to head to wringing-out Louisiana where he will win by a comfortable margin. Meanwhile, Obama said during and right after the natural catastrophe he watched sports on television, and only after word got out that Romney would show up did he commit to coming on by the state, after doing some campaigning in the competitive state of Iowa where he watched some football on TV and scarfed down pizza.
There’s not much that Romney, a private citizen, can do to assist the relief efforts with his presence. Obama can’t do much more as president other than supervise things as implementation is in the hands of others. Really it’s more of a matter of showing solidarity, which Romney seemed eager to do at potential sacrifice to his electoral chances (stumping in a swing state probably wins more electoral votes than looking presidential in surveying the effects of disaster) while Obama remained distant and seemingly indifferent, until after Romney made his way to the state.
On the surface, Obama’s reaction ought to surprise. After all, Democrats construct a façade that they “care” about people as part of the trap to get people to exchange their liberty for accepting the instruments of control. “Care” is shown through symbolic actions that do little substantively to benefit individuals wishing to assume responsibility and exercise autonomy but do allow those who, wittingly or not, exercise control to feel better about themselves and to justify this. For example, while Democrats focus on showing how much assistance big government can provide as a campaign prop revealing policy success, endorsing policies which necessitate transfer of wealth from and reduction of life prospects for those who refuse the complacency of dependency on government, their opponents measure their policy successes by the reduction of unnecessary and counterproductive assistance in making government smaller to liberate achievement-oriented attitudes and those who put them into practice.
So, in speaking the language with which Obama feels most comfortable, his trooping to the Gulf Coast almost immediately after Isaac’s ravages should have been a layup – a perfect opportunity not just to show he “cares,” but also giving him a good excuse to pay little heed to the then-ongoing Republican National Convention. Then why he didn’t he do it?
Simply, because he does not like the region given its conservative politics, which in any event is of no electoral use to him and is full of ideological enemies like Jindal that he will not go out of his way to help politically. Compare, for example, Obama’s response last year to Hurricane Irene, which threatened a number of reliably liberal-voting East Coast states. He returned early from vacation and personally took command of efforts to deal with a storm no more physically destructive than Isaac. A few months earlier, immediately after tornadoes struck Joplin, MO, in another swing state, Obama promised an extensive listening tour that was delayed only because he was out of the country visiting foreign dignitaries. A month earlier, he made it more quickly to swaths of Alabama, a state not fond of his politics, devastated by tornadoes along with several other states, partly compelled to ensure that he look responsive to the biggest catastrophe since Louisiana suffered Hurricane Katrina.
But now, in the middle of a tight campaign, Obama deliberately puts on the back burner a visit to a ravaged area. It’s not to say that Obama would not commit necessary aid to the area, but that he won’t do anything extra symbolically or substantively to assist. Don’t forget that in the political arena, where presently he fights for his political life, relevancy, and restoration of reputation, Obama famously carries a very mean streak when it comes to politics and campaigning (starting with him winning his first office), so it should not surprise that he would give a brief flip of the middle finger to Louisiana before assuming the appearance of the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-caring Anointed One in order to look more presidential. And he has a lot against a state that cannot help him electorally but which did elect twice a governor who has been an effective critic of his (and one willing to point out the image obsession of Obama on these issues).
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 10:15