July 21, 2014

On the topic of Obama's failure, Thomas "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Frank emits the purplest prose that ever...

...  included the word "shitty":
The task facing the makers of the Obama museum, however, will be pretty much exactly the opposite: how to document a time when America should have changed but didn’t. Its project will be to explain an age when every aspect of societal breakdown was out in the open and the old platitudes could no longer paper it over—when the meritocracy was clearly corrupt, when the financial system had devolved into organized thievery, when everyone knew that the politicians were bought and the worst criminals went unprosecuted and the middle class was in a state of collapse and the newspaper pundits were like street performers miming “seriousness” for an audience that had lost its taste for mime and seriousness both. It was a time when every thinking person could see that the reigning ideology had failed, that an epoch had ended, that the shitty consensus ideas of the 1980s had finally caved in—and when an unlikely champion arose from the mean streets of Chicago to keep the whole thing propped up nevertheless.

51 comments:

Robert Cook said...

Hmmm...at least in this quoted passage, I don't see any purple prose at all, but a straightforward description of what has happened and is happening in our country.

hawkeyedjb said...

Now that Progressivism has come to mean little more than welfare, dependency and educated-class rent-seeking, it's little wonder that it remains unembraced by America. At least by the normal part of the country that gets up and goes to work.

Ron said...

If, in the midst of all that dreck he calls "prose", he's saying Obama is the champion of all those shitty trends, then, yeah, I agree....otherwise, not so much.

He is a "PanObamaOpticon" of all that is shitty in us.

pm317 said...

In a nutshell: "it was all Bush's fault" writ large. Obama should tattoo that on his forehead.

Paul Kirchner said...

He answered his own question when he wrote, "when everyone knew that the politicians were bought. . ."

Obama was bought too. Isn't it obvious?

J Lee said...

If the Republicans win in 2016 as a voter rebuff to Obama, it's going to be an angry museum, if people like Frank are designated as the planners and curators.

Unknown said...

Wow. Reading the Althouse post I got the idea that Obama was being taken to task for encouraging and developing this stuff. The article run counter.

Saint Croix said...

We have the most leftist president ever, I mean ever, and when his socialism fails, the answer always is, he's not leftist enough.

They would take us all the way to Communism, and when Stalin shows up, again, we would be told, he's a right-winger.

Everything, everything, is the fault of the right-wing. There's some pure Communism somewhere, some green meadow, some pasture where everybody is happy and all good things are provided for free. But we can't get there because of these damn right-wingers, these damn evil right-wingers who corrupt everything and keep us from utopia.

Communism has yet to be tried! Let's try Communism!

You'd think 93 million dead would slow them down a little--here's Bill Maher saying the problem with Communism is that it's too religious--yeah, yeah, it's capitalism and religion and evil that must be stopped. If only we could seize control of the world or something.

I almost want to write a book, What's the Matter With Thomas Frank?, but I would have to seize control of the government and order the peasants to buy it. Which would be fine! But I'd really get sick of everybody calling me a right-winger all the time.

Moose said...

He got to the same place you did - just later.

Mark said...

Hawkeyedjb said the same thing Frank did, only more clearly and with greater wit.

Robert Cook said...

'In a nutshell: 'it was all Bush's fault' writ large. Obama should tattoo that on his forehead."

If that's what you got from it, you didn't really read it.

Robert Cook said...

"Obama was bought too. Isn't it obvious?"

Don't you think that's part of Frank's point?

Charlie said...

…."from the mean streets of Chicago". Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Saint Croix said...

The Obama team, as the president once announced to a delegation of investment bankers, was “the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” and in retrospect these words seem not only to have been a correct assessment of the situation at the moment but a credo for his entire term in office.

What do you say to somebody who sees the world in terms of fat cats and pitchforks? Oh yeah, investment bankers are wearing top hats and monocles and spats, don't forget the spats. And the great unwashed masses are shouting at the gates. With our pitchforks!

Our President is playing Monopoly with fat cat bankers, only he's changed the rules and now there are screaming peasants right outside of Boardwalk.

"You better give me Boardwalk or I'll let the peasants destroy your hotel."

"Who the hell made you banker? This is the worst Monopoly game ever."

So which is worse, that his mind is filled with these 19th century concepts of fat cats and peasants with pitchforks? Or that he's determined to upset all the rules of the game and steal, steal, steal?

At least he never played Risk as a kid. We'd be invading South America.

CStanley said...

Democrats have been very successful in framing this as Republican intransigence, so that the question of Obama not living up to left wing hopes is framed as whether or not he has stood up to the GOP.

If they would step away, they'd notice that Obama himself has been the one suggesting this framing all along, as an excuse- because the reality is that his goals didn't match up with the far left. His ideology represents, IMO, the worst elements of left wing authoritarianism (high degree of federal power, central authority, and unitary executive power) along with a high degree of corporatism (while creating plausible deniability for himself through phony rhetoric.)

To the extent that this is DC beltway mentality, yes, he embraced and propped up the status quo. But Democratic voters need to wake up and notice that their party has been embracing the big money donors that way for years. Anti-corporate rhetoric is cover for writing regulations that allow for regulatory capture.

GOP voters too, need to see their party's complicity more clearly (small government rhetoric while promoting policy that is anything but, and policy that favors "business" which means large corporations getting favors over small business,)

Michael K said...

The hysterical left is getting crazier. Frank lost his did on the WSJ because he had one idea add never came up with another.

Michael K said...

his "gig" Damn autocorrect.

rhhardin said...

It's the pathetic fallacy.

Christopher B said...

The Who had it right, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss".

Except you can plan on Frank (and the rest of the left) getting fooled again in 2016.

Ann Althouse said...

@Cook This is a sentence:

"Its project will be to explain an age when every aspect of societal breakdown was out in the open and the old platitudes could no longer paper it over—when the meritocracy was clearly corrupt, when the financial system had devolved into organized thievery, when everyone knew that the politicians were bought and the worst criminals went unprosecuted and the middle class was in a state of collapse and the newspaper pundits were like street performers miming “seriousness” for an audience that had lost its taste for mime and seriousness both."

Diagram it and get back to me.

Ann Althouse said...

Ending with "both" was especially absurd.

Ann Althouse said...

Also, consider the bullshit of " It was a time when every thinking person could see…"

That is, if you don't see what he sees, you're just a person who doesn't deserve the adjective "thinking."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Ann,

Yes, you zeroed in on the same sentence I did. "Every thinking person," forsooth. I'm reminded of the time Adlai Stevenson was assured that "every thinking person" had his vote, to which he responded, "But I need a majority!"

CWJ said...

hawkeyedjb wrote -

"Now that Progressivism has come to mean little more than welfare, dependency and educated-class rent-seeking, it's little wonder that it remains unembraced by America. At least by the normal part of the country that gets up and goes to work."

Excellent observation. I would quibble with limiting this to "Progressivism" though the current crop of progressives illustrate it clearly. I would just say that this is our post New Deal federal system generally regardless of the label. One large voting group directly rewarded in one way or another by Washington plus a smaller influence and policy peddling group whose continued success is largely dependent upon using the federal government to create or preserve economic advantage that a free market would not normally provide.

That's a powerful combination that is not dependent upon the labels of the players. Nearly imposible to fundamentally change once established short of societal collapse. And repeated throughout history.

As for "...the normal part of the country that gets up and goes to work," well we all need our kulaks to milk.

Big Mike said...

Thomas Frank seems to assume that change is necessarily good, all by itself. The possibility that the change we are witnessing is in the wrong direction from "the shitty consensus ideas of the 1980's" just cannot be processed by that tiny thing he jokingly calls his brain.

Original Mike said...

"It was a time when every thinking person could see that the reigning ideology had failed, that an epoch had ended, that the shitty consensus ideas of the 1980s had finally caved in—"

No, Thomas, every thinking person does not agree with your liberal arrogance.

Fernandinande said...

Right-wing obstruction

What he meant was "wreckers and hoarders".

John said...

Original Mike said...

No, Thomas, every thinking person does not agree with your liberal arrogance.

Right but wrong, Mike. It is the "No true Scotsman..." fallacy.

According to Thomas worldview a person who does not agree with his liberal arrogance is not a "thinking person"

Every thinking person agrees with him. You evidently are not thinking.

John Henry

Real American said...

an actual "thinking person" would never describe himself as such.

Michael said...

This is the guy who believes the people of Kansas are too stupid to think for themselves. As any thinking person would agree.

Steven said...

Obama, indeed, kept the whole thing propped up nevertheless.

The problem of imagination, here, is that Frank thinks that the solution to the failure of Washington's current ideas would be a reactionary reversion back to the old ideas of the mid-20th Century.

In fact, progress can be summarized in two words -- "Tea Party". Not saving and rebuilding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not increasing the subsidies from Sallie Mae, not preserving the Ex-Im Bank, not giving bailouts to banks too big to fail . . . but dismantling the whole stinking crony-capitalist government-financial complex. And Obama has resisted this future to the absolute limit of his power.

Frank, of course, can't see that Obama has put up truly heroic resistance against everything Frank opposes, because Frank fantasizes about an impossible reactionary march back to FDRism. He condemns his general for extracting a draw under unfavorable circumstances, dreaming that somehow victory was possible, and ignoring the true achievement of staving off, for another eight years, the inevitable defeat.

John Lynch said...

Yeah, what Robert Cook said.

How is this different from what Charles Murray would say? Well, Murray would say it better, without the hyperbole. The gist is the same.

I've been saying for years that Obama is a status-quo president. What he was elected to do was pay off his special interest coalition, nothing more. He runs the country as if it was Chicago.

Scott M said...

and when an unlikely champion arose from the mean streets of Chicago to keep the whole thing propped up nevertheless

Obama's about as Chicagoan as I am Hawaiian.

Original Mike said...

"You evidently are not thinking."

I try not to, this early in the day.

Original Mike said...

Oh, you said Thinking!

n.n said...

Saint Croix:

It may be necessary to invade Central and South America. Obama describes the illegal aliens as refugees. Around one million annually is an exodus. It is evidence of failed states or an ulterior motive.

Robert Cook said...

"@Cook This is a sentence:

"'Its project will be...etc.'

"Diagram it and get back to me."


It may be a convoluted sentence, but that doesn't make it purple prose...or not clear or not true.

Sam L. said...

What's the matter with Obama?

Not enough paper in ten million trees to cover that topic.

Saint Croix said...

Thomas Frank is like a Marxist professor who is really excited that one of his students is in the White House. But now he's dismayed because he realizes that his student was actually that stoner kid with the Che T-shirt who skipped class all the time.

"Where the hell is your term paper, Barry?"

"Sorry, man, I was working on my autobiography."

William Chadwick said...

Thomas Frank, the Linda Lovelace of State-fellators, would no doubt have liked it if "Il Dufe" had completely succeeded in turning the US into Venzuela del Norte. That's gratitude for you! The Red Diaper Baby in the White House gave it a pretty good shot and once Nuse Ratched succeeds him, the job should be complete.

Ann Althouse said...

"It may be a convoluted sentence, but that doesn't make it purple prose...or not clear or not true."

It is overwritten in a frilly way that attracts attention to the words in a manner out of proportion to any substance.

Are you trying to argue over the meaning of the term purple prose or do you disagree with my assessment of how bad it is and how much it deserves ridicule?

Robert Cook said...

"Are you trying to argue over the meaning of the term purple prose or do you disagree with my assessment of how bad it is and how much it deserves ridicule?"

Both. I don't think it is overwritten or frilly or out of proportion to any substance or that it deserves ridicule. I think it is a plain statement of the reality of the society we're living in today, written with appropriate urgency and scorn.

harrogate said...

"Are you trying to argue over the meaning of the term purple prose or do you disagree with my assessment of how bad it is and how much it deserves ridicule?"

The sentence you quote lists characteristics of the age. I would call it sligbhtly on the purple side in that it *does* feature overly elaborate syntax. And perhaps worse still for those already predisposed to reject his analysis, the sentence shows some passion.

But at the same time he is not straying from the substance of his own purported topic, which centers on the challenges (itemized in the sentence you quote and elsewhere in the essay) that Obama's library will face, and the likely ways in which the library will meet those challenges.

Paul Brinkley said...

Also, consider the bullshit of " It was a time when every thinking person could see…"

That is, if you don't see what he sees, you're just a person who doesn't deserve the adjective "thinking."


See also: kafkatrapping.

Paul Brinkley said...

I continue to wonder how people like Mr. Frank can not know they look like trolls to the other side. My strongest theory is that they truly view the other side in contempt, as lower forms of life; therefore, if they look like trolls, it's not like they need to care.

averagejoe said...

Got to chime in with the other commenters who are most struck by the reference to president Tinkerbell coming "from the mean streets of Chicago". This is one of the talking points that illustrate the unprincipled demagoguery of progressive democrat party members. Of the little we actually know about Barry's past is that he was raised in an upscale Hawaiian neighborhood by his grandmother who was vice president of a bank, and he attended private schools before he going to ivy league colleges. While a state senator in Illinois he lived in a million dollar mansion in an upper-class area of Chicago. The only way you could say he was from the mean streets is to reference his visiting them as an ineffectual community organizer, yet the progressive storyline has this posh pussy surviving the urban jungle, pulling himself out of poverty by the bootstraps, akin to Lincoln teaching himself to read and write with chalk on a coal shovel. This fantasy about Obama is a lie that progressives keep telling everyone when we all know it to be complete bullshit.

Anthony said...

One of the concerns I have post Obama is that the progressive intelligentsia is now really going to turn on the rest of us.

Anthony said...

@averagejoe -- I worked at teh same law firm as the Obamas, though at different times. And they lived in Hyde Park -- while on the South Side, the ultimate liberal upper middle class bubble.

Biff said...

"The task facing the makers of the Obama museum..."

...will be finding enough marble and granite for the edifice.

Even before Obama was elected, I was wondering what his Presidential Library and Museum would look like, given his speeches as a candidate in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Germany and in front of Greek columns at the Democratice National Convention.

Biff said...

One more thought about the "task facing the makers of the Obama museum" - perhaps Greek columns aren't the way to go. Obama's policy choices and world view seem oriented toward banal 1960s-style intellectualism, so perhaps a building constructed in the brutalist style of architecture so beloved by 1960s governments would provide an appropriate documentation of his legacy. With so much decaying concrete, you almost wouldn't need any actual letters, memos, photos, etc!

Robert Cook said...

"Got to chime in with the other commenters who are most struck by the reference to president Tinkerbell coming 'from the mean streets of Chicago.'"

You do realize that Franks is being sardonic here, don't you?

In fact,the entire article is a blast at Obama's feckless presidency. (The tell, for those who missed this, is in the second half of the article's title: "An ineffective and gutless presidency’s legacy is failure.")