the criticism begins


Obama’s politics is governed by an anti-political fantasy. It is the call to find common ground, the put aside our differences and achieve union. Obama’s politics is governed by a longing for unity, for community, for communion and the common good. The remedy to the widespread disillusion with Bush’s partisan politics is a reaffirmation of the founding act of the United States, the hope of the more perfect union expressed in the opening sentence of the US Constitution. It is a powerful moral strategy whose appeal to the common good attempts to draw a veil over the agonism and power relations constitutive of political life. The great lie of moralism in politics is that it attempts to deny the fact of power by concealing it under an anti-political veneer. At the same time, moralism engages in the most brutal and bruising political activity. But the reality of this activity is always disavowed along with any and all forms of partisanship. Moralistic politics is essentially hypocritical.

Yet, what is most hypocritical, of course, is the talk of change. What are the elements of Obama’s strategy? Let me identify three. Firstly, we have a depoliticized moral discourse of the common good, backed up by a soft and inoffensive version of historically black Christianity. Obama inhabits the rhetorical space of prophetic, black Christianity, while adopting none of its critical radicalism, none of the audacity that one can find in the sermons of Pastor Jeremiah Wright.

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