(I'm back after a protracted absence. I also contribute to the Canadian Dimension blog, where I tend to write more about nerdy financial stuff.)
I've never believed Barack Obama was the great saviour who would deliver us from all the follies of neoliberalism and Bush era militarism and neoconservatism. The Obama administration's decision to adopt the Bush line on extraordinary rendition shows that they are quite capable of cynical disrespect for human rights.
To be clear, I am not dismissing the significant differences between Obama and Bush, not the least of which is the competence of the new administration and chief executive. But the real differences in style and substance, and the utter discrediting of the Bush era, are not the only reasons for Obama's standing.
It has been amazing to watch during the ascension of Obama and the development of the financial crisis how media elites and the ruling classes can quickly recalibrate their beliefs in the least accountable way possible. Everyone is a Keynesian now, but apparently nobody was wrong before.
Barack Obama is a part of that readjustment. As I wrote at the CD blog, I don't believe the financial crisis is yet a crisis of capitalism. Part of what is missing is a political organization and an alternative political subject that could supplant capitalism. The financial crisis could yet brew into a full blown crisis of capitalism, and it is possible, as many economists have opined, that policy makers are moving too slowly to prevent this from happening. One of the missing factors is delegitimisation severe enough to create an opening for other political forces - if there were any. Part of Obama's job is to keep that space from opening. In that sense he is a very necessary leader. He may not succeed in setting appropriate policy, but so far his presidency is a triumph of symbolism.
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