Obama's Secret to Governing: The Burning Bush That Is Never Consumed
As the article says, Obama claims that "the buck stops with me," but "nearly a year into office, President Barack Obama is still blaming a lot of the nation's troubles -- the economy, terrorism, health care -- on George W. Bush. Over and over, Obama keeps reminding Americans of the mess he inherited and all he's doing to fix it."
I didn't pay that much attention to politics in the 1980s, so I could be wrong about this, but I don't recall a single instance of President Reagan blaming Jimmy Carter for the economic troubles he inherited after he was elected (let alone, after he became president), even though those troubles were significantly worse than today's. Remember, Reagan inherited an economy that had been a mess since the late 1960s, and mainstream economists were at a loss to explain how to put an end to the combination of high unemployment, skyrocketing interest rates, and uncontrollable inflation that was destroying wealth and savings, plus taking back any middle class gains as a result of bracket creep.
But instead of blaming Carter, Reagan forged ahead with his new ideas. Yes, they were a shock to the economic system, but look what transpired thereafter: twenty five years of unprecedented economic growth. And no one is proposing (well, maybe Paul Krugman) that we revert to pre-Reagan economic policies, such as a growth-stifling 78% marginal tax rate.
Anyway, here are some excerpts from the previous post:
According to psychohistorian Lloyd deMause, “Most of what is in history books is stark raving mad -- the maddest of all being the historian’s belief that it is sane.” He believes that large groups are almost always driven more by fantasy than reality. Different nations and groups have different “group fantasies” which are designed not primarily to negotiate with reality but to contain fears and anxieties. For example, the further back in history one travels, the more one can identify group fantasies that clearly have no basis in fact and are driven by irrational anxiety and fear -- witch hunts, senseless wars, racial scapegoating. But so long as one can detach from the madness and survey the contemporary psycho-political scene with even-hovering attention, one can see it just as clearly in the present.
For example, our war on Islamic terror is being waged against fantasists who reject what we know as reality. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it easier to combat them, but more difficult. Israel has been fighting a version of this fantasy since its very inception, but in truth, Jews have been at war with paranoid anti-Semitic fantasists for over two thousand years. Fantasies are obviously quite lethal.
The important point is that the fantasy precedes the reality, and will look for conditions in external reality to support it, identical to the manner in which the paranoid mind operates. According to deMause, the state of the group fantasy is what national opinion polls actually capture. That is, they take a snapshot of the “mood of the country,” which mostly consists of “gut feelings” that have varying degrees of connection to actual conditions, and more to do with the shifting nature of the group fantasy.
Remember, the bulk of the population is not thinking logically, so it doesn’t matter how many cognitively mature individuals there are at the margins of a poll. That the economic downturn was largely caused by Democrat regulation is inconsequential. In contrast, FDR was able to sustain a unifying group fantasy despite economic polices that aggravated and extended the Great Depression for years. Had he not decided to defy precedent and run for a third term, he would have been judged an abject failure, as he would have left office in the midst of his own self-induced, double-dip depression.
Likewise, job one for Obama will be to forge and sustain a unifying fantasy, not to deal with reality. This is one of the reasons the left will be unable to let go of President Bush, because they desperately need him as a "poison container" in order to keep the toxins out of Obama (more on which below). This is a somewhat unique situation, because it means that the Democrats in effect will want us to have two fantasy leaders, which reminds me of how the infant splits the world into a good and bad breast.
A national opinion poll doesn’t necessarily provide objective information about actual circumstances, but certainly tells us how it “feels” to be part of a historical group at a particular time. Furthermore, deMause turns the presidential “approval rating” on its head. He doesn’t believe that it actually measures approval so much as disapproval about how effectively or ineffectively a leader is “containing” the public’s anxiety. Negative passions are much more influential, which is why truly happy people have little impact on politics, since it would never occur to them that a politician is responsible for their personal happiness. But unhappy people find all sorts of illusory reasons to explain their unhappiness, including politics. (And we all know that leftists tend to be unhappy, if only because it is quite difficult to be happy if the reasons for happiness or unhappiness are projected into the all-powerful State; in other words, the locus of control is situated outside the self.)
Just as the large group is mainly driven by fantasy, it is primarily looking for a leader who can reassure it about the world and diminish its anxiety. In this regard, it is a mistake to think of the leader as an oedipal (ages 4 to 6) parent; the process is much more primitive, involving the need for preverbal and pre-oedipal (before the age of three) projection and containment, which is in turn much more "psychotic" and fantasy laden, since it escapes the reach of language. Using this method, one would not say that President Bush has, say, a 25% approval rating, but a 75% “toxicity” rating. Meanwhile, Obama has what, a 12% toxicity rating? As soon as he actually does something, he will begin to accumulate toxins, and this number will rise. [Conveniently, Rasmussen actually takes this approach, measuring "passion" in both directions; thus, today 43% strongly disapprove of the job Obama is doing.]
It is fascinating to note that as the left became so unhinged in their fantasies about President Bush, they came to imagine that he actually did fight back in the most dangerous and extreme ways -- that he didn't tolerate dissent, that he questioned people’s patriotism, that he destroyed our civil rights, that he punished ideological enemies, that he defecated on the Constitution (you can read that projection with braille!).
deMause notes that people who are stripped of important group fantasies will feel like they are going crazy -- just as primitive groups who are suddenly “decultured” of the myths that have served to organize their cognitive/emotional world. This is why the left has not been comforted by Obama's ascension, but is as nutty as ever. The reason for this is that the hard left is ultimately motivated by hatred (and its derivatives, such as envy and contempt), so losing their primary totemic object of hatred is profoundly disorienting.
It is fair to say that the left has been dealing with this sort of primitive anxiety since the 1980’s, as their various political fantasies have been discredited one by one. But just like a religious group that predicts the second coming, the majority of leftists simply dig in their heels when their predictions prove false. This shows the extent to which outward political ideology often rests on a deeper structure of irrational fantasy that is nearly impossible to eradicate. I think it also explains all of the manic and irrational giddiness we are seeing in the media, as their fantasies are restored.
And now we come to the future. deMause outlines a four-part process that the fantasy leader undergoes in relation to the group. At first the group will see him as unrealistically strong, magically able to unify the group and keep enemies at bay. Certainly we saw this in the months after 9-11, when President Bush was so popular. Again, his popularity had little to do with the actual merits of his policies, but with the public’s need to feel safe, and the feeling that Bush would protect them. Obviously, this is where Obama is, except that the omnipotent fantasies of strength surrounding him are unusually grandiose and primitive.
Stage two is the “cracking” stage, when the feelings of magical nurturing begin to deteriorate, so that the public’s mood begins to feel unstable and dangerous. The leader begins to be experienced as weak, unable to control events. Here again, when this happens, look for the left to frantically attempt to re-project all of this into President Bush, in order to perpetuate the fantasy. [I believe that we are now hovering at this phase, which is why Obama sounded more like Dick Cheney during his speech the other day, finally acknowledging that we are a nation at war. In other words, he's trying to project Cheneyesque strength to counter his own transparent weakness. -- GB]
Stage three, “collapse,” occurs when the public begins to feel that the fantasy leader is helpless to prevent catastrophe -- when the group’s anxiety has become unhinged and uncontained. This brings on pure rage and free-floating paranoid fantasies of death and destruction. Thus, in the case of President Bush, he was unrealistically blamed and vilified for all sorts of things outside his control -- hurricane Katrina, rising gas prices, "global warming," the Democrat-fueled housing bubble, etc. At this stage, the fantasy leader is seen as weak and vulnerable, which triggers a wave of near homicidal anxiety that aims to purify the group by ritual slaying of the divine king, identical to what took place in the most primitive tribes.
Obama doesn't seem prone to locate our enemies externally, where they actually exist, i.e., in Islam. But every theology needs a satan. Again, for this reason, I think the fantasists of the left will be unable to "let go" of President Bush, since he has become so vital to their psychic equilibrium.
[Although Sarah Palin also works as a poison container for many on the left, to such an extent that the fate of democracy is in her wicked hands.]
The credo of the left: To Project and Deceive