Fear and Self-Loathing

The Nation is publishing its gala hagiographic Obama send-off issue—”The Obama Years: 2008-2016″—and does so perhaps more in sadness than in celebration. The articles are full of complaint and recriminations—but not, for the most part, aimed at the Dear Leader.

There are gripes about the irredeemable electorate, such as the article with the subhead “The president succeeded in repairing our institutions—but millions of Americans wanted to blow them up instead.” There is disgust for the ink-stained wretches (or at least those who would be ink-stained if it weren’t for the Internet): “Barack Obama Was Too Cool for the Press Room: The president’s insistence on thinking before acting drove the media around the bend .  .  . and towards Donald Trump.” There is wistfulness: “I Miss Our Sane, Calm, Empathetic, Funny, President Already,” is Katha Pollitt’s headline. And self-loathing: “Before Trump’s election, we on the left didn’t give President Obama enough credit. Why?” is the perplexed cry in Pollitt’s subheadline. And more self-loathing: “Obama Did Not Fail Us—We Failed Each Other,” is the title of Patricia J. Williams’s article lamenting that “we failed to see the storm clouds of 2016 gathering behind the first black president.”

That article, of course, trafficks in the same old racialist macaroni that animates Joan Walsh’s cry (“Liberals once thought Obama would transcend race—but even his moderate views ended up provoking a whitelash”) and Kai Wright’s claim (“His presidency saw new opportunities for black Americans—as well as the resurgence of white supremacy”). But even such difficulties and disappointments are deftly packaged with deference to the undeniable accomplishments of the great man, as in David Cole’s assertion: “Today’s turmoil in race relations may be a testament to the progress his administration made.”

And don’t forget the outright bathos: “A Proof, a Test, an Instruction” is the cryptic headline of a weepy article from Marilynne Robinson that declares in the subheadline, “Obama is ours, in the deep sense that Lincoln is ours.” Yes, of course—deep. So deep.

This post originally appeared on Weekly Standard

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