Not Quite Correct

Juan Cole says of Barack Obama:

He just seems to lack empathy with the little people and is unwilling to buck the rich and powerful, even though they all opposed his run for the presidency.

The first part of this is quite true. Obama is not very empathetic with “the little people” because he believes in, and is so thoroughly a product, of the American meritocracy. You can make it on your own, through effort and brilliance, to become a lawyer, a corporate CEO, president of the United States. Wealth and power are things one can earn, and with the relatively open nature of the American elite (to borrow from E. Digby Baltzell’s writings 50 years ago). Meritocracy — even the progressive American version — is somewhat cruel and heartless, since anyone can, in fact, achieve in the American system (look at Obama!), then no one has any excuses for not achieving.

The result sounds a lot like what I heard conservatives say growing up — if you don’t make, if you aren’t successful, then it’s your own damn fault. And that basically is what this meritocratic class says, the story it tells itself.

But it absolutely incorrect for Cole to say that the rich and powerful opposed Obama’s candidacy and his election. Obama is one of them! How could they oppose their own? If this were true, why did so many investment banks raise so much money for Obama’s campaign?

University of California $1,591,395
Goldman Sachs $994,795
Harvard University $854,747
Microsoft Corp $833,617
Google Inc $803,436
Citigroup Inc $701,290
JPMorgan Chase & Co $695,132
Time Warner $590,084
Sidley Austin LLP $588,598
Stanford University $586,557
National Amusements Inc $551,683
UBS AG $543,219
Wilmerhale Llp $542,618
Skadden, Arps et al $530,839
IBM Corp $528,822
Columbia University $528,302
Morgan Stanley $514,881
General Electric $499,130
US Government $494,820
Latham & Watkins $493,835

The truth is, Obama doesn’t care about the poor, the powerless, “the little people,” any more the George W. Bush did. And the policies and politics of his regime aren’t going to be any kinder.