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Authenticity under Fire
Looking at the science behind authenticity and what it means to "be authentic"
authenticity  research 
yesterday by ekcragg
The Obamanauts | Dissent Magazine
“What is the defining achievement of Barack Obama? For a time, it seemed it would be his foreign policy: the Paris Agreement, diplomatic relations with Cuba, and getting Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program. When Trump got elected and those deals got undone, it seemed it would be the Affordable Care Act. But after plummeting for several years, the uninsured rate among adults has begun to creep back up. Obama did avert a second Great Depression, but history is not kind to averters: with time, what didn’t happen tends to get eclipsed by what did. And what did happen under Obama is a recovery that was slow and weak. Black homeownership rates, which took a major hit during the financial crisis, are the lowest they’ve ever been.

Maybe, then, Obama will be remembered for the fact of his election (though he and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett claim that getting a black man elected was nothing compared to getting the healthcare bill passed) and creating a brand of neoliberal multiculturalism for party elites to use and enjoy in years to come. Yet the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the failure of Kamala Harris to dominate the 2020 campaign threaten that inheritance. So perhaps Obama’s most important legacy will be one of productive disappointment: energizing a multiracial coalition of young voters whose subsequent disaffections with Obamaism and inclinations toward socialism are today remaking the left.

Since the 2016 election, many members of the Obama administration have written their memoirs in the hope of defining that legacy. In addition, more than a hundred men and women who worked in and around the White House have given their reminiscences to Brian Abrams, who has composed a remarkably fluid oral history of the Obama years. We’ve not yet heard from the man himself. While it’s not unprecedented for the president’s men and women to get the first word, the effect of his silence and their volubility is to decenter a presidency that, more than most, was centered on one man and his words. Obama had an uncanny ability to make sense of his place in history, to narrate what it was that he was doing. His politics had its limits, but they were often, and often knowingly, self-imposed. No matter how circumscribed the view, Obama managed to conjure a sense of what lay beyond it. With one exception, none of his people has that sense of time or place. They’re bound by a perimeter that is not of their making and that lies beyond their ken.

At the same time, not only do the Obamanauts wish to salvage Obama’s legacy from Donald Trump; they also believe Obama’s legacy can save us from Donald Trump. “My hope in writing this book,” says Dan Pfeiffer, who ran communications in the White House, is that “if we learn the right lessons” from Obama, “we can ensure that Donald Trump is an aberration.” That puts Obama’s legacy at a double disadvantage: defended by some of its least persuasive advocates and defined by what it is not. Burdened by a future he had a hand in making but no intention of creating, Obama gets reimagined in these memoirs and reminiscenses in light of everything he sought to avoid: the destructiveness of the president who came after him, and the irresponsibility of the Republicans who came before him and dogged him throughout his time in office. Instead of a clear outline of the man, we get the shadow of his enemies. That’s not fair to Obama, but as he’s the one who chose these people to speak for him while he was in office, they are the ones who’ve chosen to speak for him when he’s out. So it will remain, until he writes his memoirs.

The Obamanauts have an argument that they think can be used to defeat the Republicans. It is an argument that sets out what liberals and Democrats should be saying, and how they should be saying it, in the next election and beyond. It is part sense—about economic policy, foreign policy, and so on—and part sensibility: about norms, the presidency, and how our public life should be conducted. Because the sense is so thin in these memoirs, the sensibility winds up mattering more. Which is probably for the best. For it’s that sensibility that gives us the clearest view of what Obamaism, beneath and beyond Obama, was all about. It’s the style of leading sectors in the Democratic Party, currently embattled against the left, though we hear little mention of that battle here. But most of all, it’s that style that answers the question: What is Obama’s legacy? For better or worse, and at least for now, it’s the Obamanauts themselves.

Leftists often dismiss liberals and Democrats as bloodless technocrats and pallid wonks. But that’s not true of the Obamanauts. Theirs is a libidinal attachment. Not to science, reason, or Harvard but to an incongruous sense of history—dopey and epochal, encyclopedic yet uninformed. Obamanauts think of themselves as a “storied band of brothers.” They grill five-year-olds on the facts of presidential history. They speak of history lying in “our hands.” Yet many of them know little of consequence about the past. Pfeiffer thinks the demand for politicians to be authentic is a “new rule,” but Nixon was dogged by the charge of inauthenticity all the time. Virtually all of the Obamanauts are dumbfounded by the Republicans’ hatred of the Affordable Care Act, even though opposition to universal healthcare has been a rallying cry of conservatives since Harry Truman first proposed it in 1945. But Obamanauts do know that, with the exception of Harold Stassen, Obama was the first presidential candidate to campaign outside the United States and that John Kerry’s three-week trip to Vienna was “the longest any secretary of state had ever remained in any single city outside the United States in the history of the country.”

Obamanauts have a passion for office and state, a calling for power distilled of all impurities. Pfeiffer may have wanted to help Obama “achieve his place in history,” but his ultimate intention in the White House was to serve “not just my president but the presidency itself.” Even so, theirs is an agile sense of service that bends to more self-serving claims. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says that after 9/11 he was so compelled by patriotism—and repelled by the New York left’s “preemptive protests against American military intervention” and “reflexive distrust of Bush”—that he made the trek uptown to talk to an Army recruiter under the Queensboro Bridge. After giving the matter some thought, he decided that army life wasn’t for him; he could better serve his country by joining a think tank in DC.

Obamanauts have a range of references to demonstrate their devotion. Hogwarts and St. Elmo’s Fire loom large. The West Wing is clearly the touchstone, however. Gautam Raghavan, who began working for Obama during the 2008 campaign, writes, “Working in Barack Obama’s White House was like watching Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing brought to life. It had all the necessary elements: the brilliant, articulate professor in chief with an unapologetically progressive vision of America; a narrative arc rooted in ongoing themes of idealism and public service; but most importantly, a cast of patriotic Americans who labored every day, as members of the President’s staff, to serve the country they loved.” One collection of testimonials, edited by Raghavan, is called West Wingers; another memoir is called West Winging It.

The Obamanauts live in that sweet spot where Hollywood is history and history is Hollywood, where celebrities are the secret sauce of social policy and producers are aides-de-camp to politicians. A staffer careens, in the very same sentence, from memories of a “world-famous reporter” telling tales of Tiananmen Square to a recollected vision of Anna Wintour sweeping past her desk. Election night in Grant Park is made more magical by the presence of Oprah and Brad Pitt. There’s nothing new about mixing politics and the culture industry. But where Reagan summoned Hollywood to recall the glamor of an older age, the main effect of having these Obamanauts float among the stars is to bring them down to earth. When Rhodes lets slip that UN Ambassador Samantha Power listened to Eminem just before announcing a global treaty on landmines, when Mastromonaco sets out her typical day in the White House, with one hour blocked off for conversations with Pfeiffer about Girls “(seriously),” what they’re telling us is that for all the windy and wince-inducing high-mindedness, Obamanauts really don’t take themselves seriously. They’re just like you and me.”
coreyrobin  2019  barackobama  legacy  obamanauts  elitism  revisionism  progressives  healthcare  affordablecareact  authenticity  inauthenticity  technocrats  us  politics  government  missedopportunities  lefitsm  socialism  democrats 
8 days ago by robertogreco
Twitter
Thanks for including in your giveaway, Chris! (And coming up.) Great reasons to…
Authenticity  InfinitePossibility  from twitter
6 weeks ago by bjp2aol
Making America White Again | The New Yorker
The choices made by white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.

Morrison's brief essay describes the corrosive aspects of unresolved cognitive dissonance when it comes to privilege and identity.
white.supremacy  usa  2016  toni.morrison  murder  racism  slavery  feminism  history  corruption  civil.rights  human.rights  authenticity  immigration  fear  cowardice  cognitive.dissonance 
7 weeks ago by po
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journalism  authenticity  bias 
10 weeks ago by Aoterra
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Authenticity  from twitter
11 weeks ago by bjp2aol

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