As I near the end of volume one of Barrack Obama’s memoir, The Promised Land (2020), two sections are coming to stand out for me; sections that are indicative of a blind spot Obama shares with many of his detractors on the left. In one of these sections, Obama offers a sympathetic reading of the visceral white Christian nationalist hostility to him and everything he stands for. In the second passage, he openly wonders at why Republicans refuse to entertain legislation that only months earlier with Bush in the White House they had lustily endorsed. The two phenomena are intimately related. But Obama, and many of his left-wing detractors, keep them separate.
The hatred directed toward him, Obama attributes to un- and underemployment, to having been ignored by members of both parties since the 1970s. The refusal of Republicans to countenance legislation they had supported only months earlier, legislation that would lift working families out of poverty and extend the same privileges to them that are enjoyed by the educated, investor class, Obama cannot quite fathom. Why would Republicans refuse to help those whose anger is directed against him, against Obama.
This dilemma ought to be familiar. Left-wing Obama detractors regularly lay into the elitist, educated class, blaming them for having ignored the working class. The elite, educated class should abandon their identity-based, environmental, tree-hugging, trade- and tech-hungry narratives and embrace the working class, manufacturing carbon-heavy, predominantly white and male narrative that feeds anger against Wall Street Democrats like Obama. Then Democrats could seize the white Christian nationalist initiative and defeat the Republicans at their own game, like Andrew Jackson did, when he fed white anger by rounding up and slaughtering Indians in droves, before expanding the slave state into Texas.
Remember, Jackson too donned an anti-elitist, anti-banker, anti-Wall Street demeanor. But, of course, the bankers had the last say. They were only all too happy to have Jackson doing their bidding. And that precisely is the blind spot.
Indian Wells did not create white Christian male anger against the elites. Jimmy Carter’s and Bill Clinton’s neoliberalism was a petri-dish for white Christian male anger. Indian Wells simply packaged that anger. They created the narrative that is now on the tongues of every left- and right-wing pundit: white Christian men are angry. They are angry at educated, elitist, social democrats who wish to deprive them of their freedom. Why would Republicans want to promote this narrative?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, you are not paying attention.