Van Jones said in Rebuild the Dream, "For millions of people the thrill of seeing Barack Obama beat the odds to become president of the United States was one of [the] most exciting and uplifting experiences of our lives. The feelings of joy, hope, and anticipation were heady and unforgettable."

If he's going to win the 2012 presidential election, Obama will have to win back the support of many of his 2008 followers who became disgusted by his policies and actions, many of which have flouted promises he made as a candidate. In the 55 brief chapters in Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion editors Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank list some of them. They include his:

  • Approval of the assassination of Americans overseas if they're suspected of "terrorism";
  • Perpetuation of the Afghanistan war;
  • Attacks on medical marijuana;
  • Failure to close Guantanamo;
  • Failure to prosecute Wall Street and the Bush administration;
  • Promotion of genetically modified crops, biomass combustion, the Keystone XL pipeline and nuclear power;
  • Support of the Honduran coup;
  • Pursuit of the drug war;
  • Escalating use of drones for killing "terrorists" and civilians;
  • Prosecution of Bradley Manning;
  • Surge of nuclear weapons manufacture; and
  • Attacks on Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

  • Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, ed. by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank. Oakland, Ca.: AK Press, 2012, 319 pp, $16.95.
    One of the most intriguing essays is "Obama the Deregulationist," by Andrew Levine, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and author most recently of The American Ideology and Political Keywords and other writings on political philosophy. He has been a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and research professor in philosophy at the University of Maryland-College Park.
    "Levine argues persuasively that 'Obama is a libertarian, and therefore not, according to the most pertinent sense of the term in our political discourse today, a liberal.'"
    Levine argues persuasively that "Obama is a libertarian, and therefore not, according to the most pertinent sense of the term in our political discourse today, a liberal."

    That, Levine contends, makes Obama a president who asks "not what capitalism can do for you but what you can do for capitalism."

    Levine says of Obama, "[B]ecause unlike the liberals in whose ranks conventional wisdom casts him, he is an enthusiastic, not a reluctant, free marketer. ... As much as any bona fide (right-wing) libertarian, he is guided by the idea that market arrangements, left undisturbed, lead, as if by an invisible hand, to the best of all possible worlds."

    Levine says the "new" libertarians such as Obama support progressive ideals that the left holds in high esteem. "What they [claim] is that the way to achieve those goals, the only effective way, is to let markets do their beneficent work."

    Recognizing Obama's libertarianism, Levine says, explains the "public option" in "Obamacare" as "window dressing," whereas "the 'private option' was never in question." It also explains "Obama's readiness to let Wall Street call the shots, and his attack on business regulations."
    "That, Levine contends, makes Obama a president who asks 'not what capitalism can do for you but what you can do for capitalism.'"
    Obama's libertarianism explains further "why [he] is so eager to get the most shameless corporate types into his administration, and why, on matters of war and trade and other issues of immediate concern to capitalists, he can't do enough for them -- to the detriment of his core constituencies."

    Obama's moves aren't "just political maneuvers or expressions of unrequited bipartisan yearning, and neither are they concessions to ineluctable constraints. They are misguided but principled positions...."

    ***

    The prose in Hopeless is pithy and saucy. Though some academics contributed to it, the book isn't written in scholarly fashion, yet the analyses are sharp and well documented. It's a useful read for those debating whether to vote for the lesser of two evils or a third party.

    The book is perversely consistent in its misuse of commas, such that reading it is annoying and distracting to those who know better. It incorrectly avoids using commas between independent clauses separated by conjunctions -- "This usage is wrong and that one is right" -- and incorrectly uses them when a sentence has one subject and an article --"I wrote this sentence, and forgot to proofread it."

    A copyeditor should correct those errors before another printing of the book occurs.

    Linda Greene can be reached at lgreene@bloomington.in.us.