Saturday, January 2, 2010

Obama's Secret Power Base

By Joel Kotkin

As his first year in the White House ends, both liberals and conservatives are angry with Obama. But he’s got a completely different group of people to answer to.

Looking back at President Obama’s first year in office, this much is clear: Obama first enraged the right wing by seeming to veer far left, then turned off the left by seemingly to abandon them. Even as Fox News fundamentalists rail against “socialism,” self-styled progressives like Naomi Klein scream about a “blown” opportunity to lead the nation from the swamp of darkest capitalism.

Both right- and left-wing critics fail to consider the fundamental nature of the Obama regime. This presidency represents not a traditional ideology but a new politics that mirrors the rise of a new, and potentially hegemonic class, one for which Obama is a near-perfect representative.

Every president and political movement, of course, brings to power an often-hoary group of grasping interest groups. Under the conservatives and George W. Bush, the favored classes included standbys like the fossil-fuel energy companies, Big Agriculture, suburban homebuilders, and the defense industry.

Rather than the “good old boys,” Obama’s core group hails from what may be best described as the “creative class”—the cognitive elite, or, to borrow from the Daniel Bell’s The Coming of Postindustrial Society, the “the hierophants of the new society.” They come not from traditional productive industry, but the self-conscious “knowledge” sectors—such as financial services, the software industry, and academia.

From early on, Barack Obama attracted big-money people like George Soros, Warren Buffett, and JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon far more effectively than his opponents in either party. As The New York Times' Andrew Sorkin put it back in April, "Mr. Obama might be struggling with the blue-collar vote in Pennsylvania, but he has nailed the hedge-fund vote.”

Other bastions of support could be found in Silicon Valley, where Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and venture capitalist John Doerr were all early backers. Obama, the former law school professor, also did exceedingly well with academics, and many of his pivotal wins in the Midwest rested heavily on both votes and volunteers from college constituencies.

Finally Obama gained the early support of public-sector unions, now arguably the dominant power within the Democratic Party. Together, these groups now enjoy the lion’s share of influence inside the administration.

Read the full article here.

Joel Kotkin is Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, California, and an adjunct fellow with the Legatum Institute in London. He is the author of the forthcoming The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 out from Penguin in early February.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bob -

    It's precisely what I was saying in my post about the hedge fund people,..the hedge fund people get on very well with analysts, journalists, and managers..because that's what they really are..

    It's the rule of the mandarins.
    Though in this case, the technocrats are also oligarchs or connected to oligarchs in many fields.

    But the analysis is not new. James Burnham wrote about this decades ago.