Sunday, May 14, 2017


By Mark Krikorian
The Corner at National Review Online, May 11, 2017

Whoever did that Economist interview that Jonah refers to below seems to be the first reporter ever to ask the president whether he wants to reduce legal immigration. The answer is no:

Do you want to curb legal immigration?
Oh sure, you know, I want to stop illegal immigration.

And what about legal immigration? Do you want to cut the number of immigrants?
Oh legal, no, no, no. I want people to come into the country legally. No, legally? No. I want people to come in legally. But I want people to come in on merit. I want to go to a merit-based system. Actually two countries that have very strong systems are Australia and Canada. And I like those systems very much, they’re very strong, they’re very good, I like them very much. We’re going to a much more merit-based system. But I absolutely want talented people coming in, I want people that are going to love our country coming in, I want people that are going to contribute to our country coming in. We want a provision at the right time, we want people that are coming in and will commit to not getting…not receiving any form of subsidy to live in our country for at least a five-year period.

But the numbers of those people could be as high as the numbers that are coming in legally now? You’re not looking to reduce the numbers?
Oh yeah, no, no, no, no, we want people coming in legally. No, very strongly. Now they’re going to be much more strongly vetted as you see. You know, we’ve broken the all-time record [of detentions at the border] by many times, 73, we’re up to 73, it’s going to go up to almost 80% at the border, we’ve…you know, really stopped it. We also want farm workers to be able to come in. You know, we’re going to have work visas for the farm workers. If you look, you know we have a lot of people coming through the border, they’re great people and they work on the farms and then they go back home. We like those people a lot and we want them to continue to come in.

This isn’t a fresh betrayal engineered by his son-in-law and the other liberal Democrats in the White House. Anyone following Trump’s primary campaign could have predicted this – he repeatedly justified guestworker visas of various kinds and stressed the “big beautiful door” that would be built in to his wall. This is just the usual “legal good/illegal bad” stuff on immigration that most Republican pols have been spinning for years (with some honorable exceptions like Jeff Sessions, Tom Cotton, Lamar Smith, et al.).

Both the anti-borders crowd and some starry-eyed immigration hawks mistook Trump’s commitment to enforcement (which seems genuine) to mean he was also skeptical of the overall level of immigration. And, of course, compared to what’s-her-name, he is, so I certainly don’t regret my vote. But even when he was critiquing current legal immigration policy, he was always somewhat ambiguous, never simply coming out and saying that overall immigration was too high and needed to be reduced.

Whatever the president’s musings on legal immigration levels, his main job is enforcing the law – i.e., preventing as much illegal immigration as possible. And we’re seeing genuine progress in that regard. But it’s Congress that sets immigration levels . In addition to sneaky tricks like slipping to the omnibus spending bill a provision to potentially double H-2B Replace-Americans Visas, there’s also good news from Congress. Along with the Cotton-Purdue bill to end extended-family chain migration, the Kushner family’s shameless promotion of the sleazy EB-5 investor-visa racket in China is improving the prospects of the bipartisan push to rein in, or even eliminate, that dishonest and fraud-addled program that sells American citizenship, cheap.

Regarding immigration policy, Trump is a transitional figure – he’s clearly the most committed and serious chief executive in a long time when it comes to enforcing the rules, but we may have to wait for, say, President Tom Cotton before we have a thoughtful, committed immigration skeptic in the White House.


Open the floodgates of our welfare state to the uneducated, impoverished, and unskilled masses of the world and in a generation or three America, as we know it, will be gone.

Those most impacted are middle class and lower middle class. It is they whose jobs are taken, whose raises are postponed, whose schools are filled with non-English speaking children that absorb precious resources for remedial English, whose public parks are trashed and whose emergency rooms serve as the local clinic for the illegal underground. 

Donald Trump Backslides on Campaign Promise To Curb Legal Immigration



President Donald Trump has slid back from his campaign promises to curb the annual legal immigration of roughly 1 million foreigners. 

In an interview with pro-globalist Economist magazine, Trump was asked: “Do you want to curb legal immigration?” Trump responded by saying he prefers merit-based immigration of skilled people. The interviewer pressed him again on the scale of legal immigration, asking “[are you] not looking to reduce the numbers?”
“No, no, no, no, we want people coming in legally. No, very strongly,” Trump replied, as two of his economic advisors sat beside him — top economic staffer Gary Cohn, and Steve Mnuchin, the Secretary of the Treasury. 
Trump also backed proposals to keep importing temporary contract workers for the agricultural sector, even though the cheap labor will retard farmers’ emerging interest in buying new machinery, such as robot apple-pickers and robot cow-milkers. Trump told the Economist:
We also want farm workers to be able to come in. You know, we’re going to have work visas for the farm workers. If you look, you know we have a lot of people coming through the border, they’re great people and they work on the farms and then they go back home. We like those people a lot and we want them to continue to come in.
Immigration reform advocates are not surprised at Trump’s back-sliding, but they are confident that Trump’s dependence on his blue-collar base in the 2020 election is pressuring him to stick with his campaign promises, amid constant elite pressure for more legal immigration.
“The president was unambiguous in his [2016] campaign … one of the things he said was that he would support reductions in immigration,” said Ira Mehlman, communications director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “If he is backing off, we will fight to remind him that he did make this commitment during the campaign and we intended to hold him to it,” he told Breitbart.
“Anyone following Trump’s primary campaign could have predicted this – he repeatedly justified guestworker visas of various kinds and stressed the ‘big beautiful door’ that would be built into his wall,” wrote Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “Both the anti-borders crowd and some starry-eyed immigration hawks mistook Trump’s commitment to enforcement (which seems genuine) to mean he was also skeptical of the overall level of immigration,” he said, adding that the next generation of populist GOP leaders — such as Sen. Tom Cotton — understands the many harms caused by mass immigration.
But Trump’s backsliding isn’t a done deal. Former President Barack Obama also backed off many of his promises, even while he was urging his supporters to publiccly protest his actions and to push back the lobbies that were blocking his agenda. Obama also adopted a gradualist stop-and-go political strategy which helped the GOP establishment ignore his gradual progress towards his big-government goals, and he achieved many goals for his supporters via little-noticed court decisions and agency regulations by allied appointees.
With constant pressure by Trump’s supporters, Trump will be more willing and better able to ignore or overcome establishment opposition and gradually get his agenda implemented stage-by-stage.
 In August 2015, Trump issued his very popular immigration plan to raise wages by reducing legal and illegal immigration:
The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans – including immigrants themselves and their children – to earn a middle class wage … Every year, we voluntarily admit another [1] million new immigrants, [plus 1 million] guest workers, refugees, and dependents, growing our existing all-time historic record population of 42 million immigrants. We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to: help wages grow, get teenagers back to work, aid minorities’ rise into the middle class, help schools and communities falling behind, and to ensure our immigrant members of the national family become part of the American dream.
Requirement to hire American workers first. Too many [contract worker] visas, like the H-1B, have no such requirement. In the year 2015, with 92 million Americans outside the workforce and incomes collapsing, we need companies to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed. Petitions for workers should be mailed to the unemployment office, not USCIS….
Immigration moderation. Before any new green cards are issued to foreign workers abroad, there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers. This will help reverse women’s plummeting workplace participation rate, grow wages, and allow record immigration levels to subside to more moderate historical averages.
Trump repeated those commitments in many subsequent speeches. For example, in March 2016Trump called for a two-year pause in legal immigration, saying “I think for a period of a year to two years we have to look back and we have to see, just to answer the second part of your question, where we are, where we stand, what’s going on …  I’d say a minimum of one year, maybe two years.”
In his January 2017 inauguration speech, he described the theme of his administration as “Buy American, Hire American.”
Some polls show that promise is extremely popular. For example, a November 2016 poll by Ipsos showed that only 12 percent of respondents strongly opposed plans to “change the legal immigration system to limit legal immigration.” Four times as many, or 57 percent, back reductions in legal immigration, while 13 percent did not take a position.
To a large extent, Trump has followed through on those promises. He has revived enforcement of immigration law, slashed the inflow of illegal immigrants, and he is pushing a popular merit-based reform that would likely reduce the inflow of unskilled legal immigrants. Trump’s merit-based reform is also backed by some GOP legislators who want to increase Americans’ productivity, not just the number of American consumers. 
But Trump is under constant pressure from business leaders — including some of his advisors — who have a huge incentive to boost legal immigration, no matter the cost to ordinary Americans. 
In strictly economic terms, legal immigration is far more important than over-the-border illegal immigration, because it is far larger and has far greater impact on employees, companies, and investors, wages, housing prices, profits and stock prices. In fact, multiple economists — including economists at Goldman Sachs — say government should try to boost the size of the economy by importing more consumers and workers.
Federal immigration policy adds roughly 1 million legal people, workers, consumers and renters per year to the economy. This annual inflow is further expanded by the immigrants’ children, which now combine to create a population of roughly 63 million consumers and workers –not counting roughly 21 million illegals and their U.S. children.
That means roughly one-quarter of the nation’s consumers have been imported into the 330 million-strong economy via legal or illegal immigration.
This legal inflow includes some very skilled workers and some people who become very successful entrepreneurs, but it also dumps a lot of unskilled workers into the country just as a new generation of technology is expected to eliminate many types of jobs. It also annually shifts $500 billion from employees to employers and Wall Street, and it forces state and local government to provide $60 billion in taxes to businesses via routine aid for immigrants, and it pushes millions of marginal U.S. workers out of the labor force and into poverty, crime and opioid addiction.
High immigration also reduces employers’ need to recruit disengaged Americans, to build new facilities in high-unemployment areas, or to buy productivity-boosting machinery or to demand that local schools rebuild high school vocational training departments for the millions of youth who don’t gain much from four-year colleges.
The resulting poverty and civic conflicts increase ballot-box support for Democrats, ensuring that more states — especially high-immigration California — are dominated by the Democratic Party’s big-government policies.
Under Obama, the annual inflow of legal immigrants was roughly twice the inflow of illegals. Roughly 550,000 illegals arrived in 2016, but fewer are expected in 2017, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.
Whenever the inflow of extra immigrant customers is threatened by public opposition, business groups say their companies and investors will be damaged.
For example, in July 2016, a Wall Street firm tried to help Hillary Clinton by declaring that Trump’s opposition to illegal immigration would hurt companies and investors by forcing them to pay higher wages, and by reducing the cost of housing.
“As the immigrants leave, the already tight labor market will get tighter, pushing up labor costs as employers struggle to fill the open job positions,” the report declared. “Mr. Trump’s immigration policies will thus result in … potentially severe labor shortages, and higher labor costs,” the critical report promised. The formal unemployment rate would immediately drop by a third, from 5 percent in 2016 to 3.5 percent in 2017, the report predicts. Housing prices would drop by almost 4 percent in 2018 and 2019, says the Moody’s report, which did not admit that higher wages and lower housing prices are popular throughout America. 
 “Reduced immigration would result in slower labor force growth and therefore slower growth in potential GDP,” or annual economic activity, according to a 2017 report by Goldman Sachs.
Similarly, Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, recently called for an amnesty for illegals and a potentially huge increase in white-collar immigration to help stimulate the economy. “I hope eventually we have proper immigration. Good people who have paid their taxes and haven’t broken the law, get them into citizenship at the back of the line … [and] if people get educated here, and they’re foreign nationals, get them a green card,” he said. 
In the same interview, Dimon portrayed himself as concerned about the economic condition of ordinary Americans, saying:
Middle-class wages haven’t gone up. One is, lower-class wages haven’t gone up enough to create a living wage. One is, people losing jobs, more to automation than anything else. … There’s some more terrible numbers — men, age 25 to 55, the labor-force participation rate is down 10%. That’s unbelievable. There are 35,000 dying of opioids every year. Seventy percent of kids age 17 to 24 can’t get into the US military because of health or education. Obesity, diabetes, reading and writing. Is that the society we wanted? No. We should be working on these things, acknowledge the flaws we have, and come up with solutions. Not Democrat. Not Republican. Not knee-jerk.
But the 2016 election showed that Trump and centrist Americans recognize that higher immigration means reduced wages, more unemployment, more drug addition, higher housing prices and longer commutes. That is how Trump won the 2016 election in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and why his on-again, off-again, pro-American immigration policy is at the core of his impending 2020 race. 
Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC or email the author at

Mexico’s looting and ethnic cleansing of a once American state.

OBAMA-CLINTON-TRUMPERnomics: The Massive Transfer of Wealth to the Super Rich Ratcheted up!

The American oligarchy, steeped in criminality and parasitism, can produce only a government of war, social reaction and repression. In its blind avarice, it is creating the conditions for unprecedented social upheavals. It is hurtling toward its own revolutionary demise at the hands of the working class.
“The massive transfer of wealth will not go to investment, but to acquiring bigger 

diamonds; more luxurious mansions, yachts and private jets; new private

islands; more  security guards and better-protected gated  communities to

segregate the financial nobility from the masses whom they despise 

and fear.”

 “Our entire crony capitalist system, Democrat and Republican alike,

has become a kleptocracy approaching par with third-world hell-holes.

This is the way a great country is raided by its elite.” ---- Karen




REGIME and GOD FATHER, GEORGE SOROS… .global looters of the poor!



Dershowitz on Obama: 'He Hurt America So Badly': Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz says that although many liberal Democrats like him supported President Obama’s domestic policies, Obama “will go down in history as one of the worst foreign policy presidents ever.”


Dershowitz on Obama: 'He Hurt America So Badly'

By Barbara Hollingsworth | December 27, 2016 | 1:16 PM EST

Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz. (Fox & Friends)
( -- Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz says that although he and many other liberal Democrats supported President Obama's domestic policies, Obama “will go down in history as one of the worst foreign policy presidents ever.”
 “He will go down in history, President Obama, as one of the worst foreign policy presidents ever,” Dershowitz said during a Monday interview on Fox & Friends. “What he did to Syria, and what he was partly responsible for happening in Aleppo, creating a vacuum for Russia. …
“Look, I supported his domestic policy. I liked him on Supreme Court appointments. But he created a terrible conflict for people, many like me liberal Democrats who support his domestic policy, but think he was an appalling--appalling--president when it comes to foreign policy. He hurt America so badly."


Final Death of the American White Middle Class

Under the Obama administration, more Americans have found 

themselves consigned to economic ghettos, living in 

neighborhoods where more than 40 percent subsist below the 

poverty level.


Millions more now live in “high poverty” districts of 20-40 

percent poverty, according to recently released report by the 

Brookings Institution.

THE OBAMA BOOK DEAL: Sixty-five million dollars—or even $267.5 million—is a small price to pay for the contribution the former president made to enriching the already fabulously rich, defending the American ruling elite’s geopolitical interests around the world and continuing the assault on the wages, benefits and living standards of the working class.


Superman Checked Out of the Supermarket

Barack Obama and the vacuous politics of image Spring 2017 
Politics and law

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

In the summer of 2008, Barack Obama was hailed as the healer who would redeem a barren time. (See “Obama, Shaman,” Summer 2008.) He “isn’t really one of us,” journalist Mark Morford opined in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Not in the normal way, anyway. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet.”
Yet when, in January, the 44th president made his way through the Capitol to witness the inauguration of his successor, even those on his side could not disguise a sense of letdown. In The New Yorker, George Packer lamented Obama’s “difficulty in sustaining public support for his program and his party.” Slate’s Jacob Weisberg conceded that Obama’s “inability to produce any durable consensus must count as a tremendous disappointment.” Harvard’s Stephen Walt went so far as to say that Obama’s presidency, for all its promise, was a “tragedy.”
The rest of the country was no less ambivalent. Polls showed Obama to be personally popular as he left office; but at the same time, the Associated Press reported, more Americans felt that his eight years in power had “divided the country” than felt that they had “brought people together.” The result, as Obama departed the White House, was that “just 27 percent see the U.S. as more united as a result of his presidency.”
Illustrations by Arnold Roth
Illustrations by Arnold Roth
What went wrong? The word we reach for, in attempting to explain an ascent like Obama’s, is “charisma.” But it is a treacherous word, with several meanings. Max Weber, who first applied the term to secular leadership, thought William Ewart Gladstone its most notable modern exemplar. In his 1879 Midlothian campaign, Gladstone broke with convention to speak directly to the British people at mass meetings and open-air rallies. The spectacle alarmed Queen Victoria, who, after the victory of Gladstone’s Liberals in the 1880 general election, at first refused to accept the Grand Old Man as her prime minister. She would “sooner abdicate,” she wrote, “than send for or have any communication with that half mad firebrand who wd soon ruin everything & be a Dictator.”
Gladstone’s charisma was an instrument of policy: he sought both to end British support for the Ottoman Empire (which Benjamin Disraeli was backing as a counterweight to Russia) and to advance his own liberal agenda. By contrast, Obama’s 2008 campaign is remarkable for how little it had to do with policy. It was not the candidate’s “new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot” that captivated the imagination of the country and, indeed, the world that year. Obama’s campaign closely resembled the book that served as its blueprint. What at first seems the weakness of The Audacity of Hope—its vacuousness—is, in fact, its genius. In it, Obama conspicuously resists the temptation to put forward specific solutions to the nation’s problems. “I offer no unifying theory of American government,” he conceded in the prologue, “nor do these pages provide a manifesto for action, complete with charts and graphs, timetables and ten-point plans.”
What Obama offered in lieu of a program was an image—one calculated to appeal to the mood of the moment, one that he could rely on his enthusiasts in the media to embellish. (“I was,” he admitted, “the beneficiary of unusually—and at times undeservedly—positive press coverage.”) He was a child of Kenya and Kansas, of Hawaii and Indonesia, and the exoticism of his background seemed to mark him out as the incarnation of the multicultural romance of the age. The media swooned. In extravagant panegyrics, much was made of the coolness of his demeanor, his Harvard degree, his literary skill. “I think he’s more talented than anyone in my lifetime,” the New York Times’s David Brooks said. “I mean, he is pretty dazzling when he walks into a room.”
That so prodigious a combination of virtues should be found in one man—and a black man, too!—enthralled the fourth estate. For as the novelist Darryl Pinckney observed in The New York Review of the Books, 2008 was “not a color-blind election. People aren’t voting for Obama in spite of the fact that he is black, or because he is only half-black, they are voting for him because he is black, and this is a whole new feeling in the country and in presidential politics.” The desire to be part of the “whole new feeling” perhaps accounts for the element of condescension evident in the press hysteria of the time—the cooing over complexion—as well as the parading of righteousness. In romancing Obama’s image, the journalist could exhibit his own purity on race questions and congratulate himself on his virtue.
Like other purveyors of fables, the Obama romanticists pointed to the fabulous qualities of their hero’s ascent. The Washington Post’s David Maraniss, musing in Haji Ramli Street in Jakarta, where Obama had passed part of his boyhood, “could not help but be overwhelmed by how utterly improbable” it was that such a child should have grown up to conquer the plain-vanilla heights of the Yankee political establishment. The twists and turns in Obama’s story were made to seem as magically implausible as those in a tale from The Arabian Nights, and it was a bit disconcerting to find, in media accounts of the golden child of the souk making his way to his miraculous treasure, a reworking of Orientalist fantasies that the late Professor Said taught good liberals to deplore.
Yet Obama’s image owed quite as much to repackaged Western myths of the hero as it did to romanticized visions of the East. The motive of the Old Western hero, Lionel Trilling observed, “is the legendary one of setting out to seek his fortune, which is what the folktale says when it means that the hero is seeking himself.” Obama’s first book, Dreams from My Father, is a quest book, the story of its young hero’s search for a way to reconcile his blackness with his whiteness. The tension between the two identities is resolved when Obama discovers his vocation as a pacifier, a healer of divisions. “Religious or secular, black, white, or brown,” he wrote in The Audacity of Hope, we “need a new kind of politics,” one that could replace the old divisive politics by building “upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans.”
Obama was well aware of the appeal of the heroic and redemptive myths that he was tapping. As a student at Columbia, he told a friend that he had been impressed by T. S. Eliot’s poetry, in which he found “a certain kind of conservatism which I respect more than bourgeois liberalism.” He was drawn to what he called the “fatalism” of The Waste Land, born of the poet’s preoccupation with “fertility and death.” Eliot’s fatalism was that of Christianity; not only the title of The Waste Land, Eliot wrote, “but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jesse L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance.” Eliot equated the Grail that the hero seeks with the fertilizing blood of Christ, which (in theory) could redeem a barren time. Obama found his own Grail not in Christian eschatology but in a redemptive secular politics: he would show his fellow Americans how “we can ground our politics in the notion of a common good.” Divisive public questions could be transcended through the grace latent in the personality of the hero.
It was all very easy for a skeptic to mock, but the image of the redeemer prince, much embellished by Obama’s media devotees, proved immensely appealing in a secular age bored with secularism, a scientific age that found no salvation in science. John Stuart Mill described how, in a moment of disenchantment with the spiritual dullness of liberal progress, he turned for consolation to the poetry of Wordsworth. In 2008, the poetry, the spiritual consolation that a good part of the American electorate sought as an antidote to its own discontents, was Barack Obama himself—or rather, the image that that gifted fabulist impressed upon them.
It wasn’t entirely new. In his 1960 Esquire article on John F. Kennedy, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” Norman Mailer argued that a charismatic leader could liberate America’s hidden potential, all that virtù and desire that had been forced underground both by an unsatisfactory politics and by “mass civilization,” in which so many “electronic circuits” made “men as interchangeable as commodities.” Kennedy, Mailer believed, was the “existential hero” whose “royal image” could be a salve for America’s “malnourished electronic psyches.”
A rambling, self-indulgent piece of writing, Mailer’s essay was more a symptom of the hysteria that Kennedy aroused than a sober analysis of it. What he called his “rich chocolate prose” anticipated the inanities of the more outré expositions of Obama’s own splendors in 2008. Was America brave enough, Mailer asked,
to enlist the romantic dream of itself, would it vote for the image in the mirror of its unconscious, were the people indeed brave enough to hope for an acceleration of Time, for that new life of drama which would come from choosing a son to lead them who was heir apparent to the psychic loins?
This was a roundabout way of saying that it was not Kennedy’s policies that were liberating but his image. It was not his “prefabricated politics” but his charismatic person that would rouse the country from its dogmatic slumbers. That Kennedy was “young, that he was physically handsome, and that his wife was attractive were not,” Mailer maintained, “trifling accidental details but, rather, new major political facts.” A Kennedy presidency, he believed, would “touch depths in American life which were uncharted” and promised to usher in a post-political age in which the nation would “rise above the deadening verbiage of its issues, its politics, its jargon, and live again by an image of itself.”
I suppose that there is a little demon in every soul that would have it grovel before the hero and lick his boots. During most of human history, boot-licking has been the rule rather than the exception, as it continues to be in much of the world today. What is astonishing about Mailer’s apology for the politics of image is how oblivious he is of the morbidity of the thing. The sort of hero-worship that Thomas Carlyle embraced has often been described as a pathology of the Right, but Mailer shows that the Left, too, is hardly immune to its appeal.
The most obvious problem with the politics of image is that its natural home is in authoritarian states, where its purpose is to divert the masses’ attention from whatever policies are being implemented by the hierarchs at the top—thus the personality cults of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and others. But in free constitutional states, where politics involves convincing people on the merits, image is largely irrelevant after the election has been won and attention turns to the brass tacks of lawmaking. Kennedy, for all the brilliance of his person, was unable to get his program enacted; Obama, though he saw his health-care legislation pass on a party-line vote, never succeeded in convincing the bulk of the country of its wisdom. The legislation cost him his House majority, and during much of the rest of his presidency, he sought to govern by executive order. It is true that his popular image insulated him, to some extent, from the animosity that, in a free state, government by ukase naturally excites, yet this can scarcely be thought a healthy development in the political life of a republic.
What is most malignant about the politics of image is the way that it induces people to find consolation in remote figures glimpsed in a magazine or projected on a screen. Already, in the nineteenth century, Flaubert showed his Emma Bovary escaping the actual life around her through a fantastic identification with romantic personages and distant scenes. “If only she could lean over the balcony of a Swiss chalet, or enclose her melancholy in a Scottish cottage, with a husband wearing a long black velvet cloak.” As solipsistic technologies offer ever more possibilities of escape—ever more “reality” shows that are fundamentally unreal—life becomes, in the words of Santayana, “the joy of living every life but one’s own.”
Mailer rightly predicted that the politics of image would make for the ultimate reality show. With Kennedy’s election, he wrote, “America’s politics would now be also America’s favorite movie, America’s first soap opera, America’s best-seller.” Resembling Gregory Peck one moment, Marlon Brando the next, Kennedy, in Mailer’s evocation, was less a politician than a “movie star, his coloring vivid, his manner rich, his gestures strong and quick, alive with that concentration of vitality a successful actor always seems to radiate.”
Put to one side how politically corrupting a personality cult of this kind is, how it tempts us to relax our vigilance, to give up the hard work of thinking through the issues on our own because the appealing figure on the screen has done it for us. Put aside, too, the danger inherent in making the chief executive into a quasi-divine figure, the object of adoration more than a little reminiscent of that bestowed on the Roman emperors. What is most troubling about the transformation of yet another realm of experience into an exercise in media-massaged groupthink is that it further diminishes the ever-shrinking zones of life that are lived outside the gravitational pull of mass society and lie beyond the reach of its screen romance.
The deadening of this older way of life—the diminishment of life writ small—began long before the advent of electronic communications. The Viennese thinker Camillo Sitte traced the progress of the bacillus in his 1889 book City Building According to Artistic Principles, in which he described the decay of traditional artistries that gave the old way of living its charm, a charm that can still be sensed in old European towns that have been spared the bulldozers of the barbarians. Here, in ages materially much poorer than our own, was a cultural artistry that was much richer, one that drew on local inspirations to create places where people wanted to be, as opposed to places where they go only for some limited utilitarian purpose, their hearts the whole while being elsewhere, like Emma Bovary’s in her daydreams. From the Piazza San Marco in Venice to the modern shopping mall is a steep descent.
The point is that the genius and passion that once went into the maintenance of local forms are now, to a great extent, channeled into the life of the universal civilization. Instead of being a valued actor on a small stage, one becomes a passive spectator of the drama of the mass stage. The cycle is vicious; as our sense of ourselves as individuals rooted in a particular place among particular people diminishes, we are the more tempted to identify with one or another of the collectivist hordes on offer: the electronic mobs that light up the circuits of Facebook.
Death by monotony, by sameness, by loss of identity,” Gerald Brenan wrote in his classic study, The Spanish Labyrinth, is “the fate held out by the brave new world of universal control and amalgamation.” Our overinvestment of passion in this universal culture not only leads to the drabness and homogenization that Brenan deplored; it also exacerbates the very divisions and animosities that Obama promised to transcend. For just as, in our character as mass-people, we lovingly build up our mass idols and endow them with superhuman, quasi-magical properties, so we as passionately abhor their voodoo-doll nemeses and exaggerate their vices. The apotheosis of Kennedy required the damnation of Nixon. The delirious chants of “yes we can” find their analogue in the no-less-frenzied “lock her up.” The hysterical hatreds of mass politics are inseparable from their equally unreasonable idolatries. It is precisely because the remote personages we adore or revile are essentially unreal, the projections of fantasy, that we respond to them in ways that we rarely respond to those whom we encounter in our ordinary flesh-and-blood lives. The new technology, with all its virtues, has aggravated the evil. Read the comments section of any controversial piece of writing published online, and you find a degree of vitriol and incivility rarely encountered outside the virtual mobocracies of cyberspace.
Ten years after Obama announced his candidacy, his politics of image appears more a symptom of the problems he attempted to address than a solution to them. He promised to bridge our divisions, yet both the hysterical adoration and the fanatical revulsion he inspired had as much to do with a disconnectedness in our manner of living as they did with the ostensible issues of the moment. With the decay of older forms of belonging and of solace, it is perhaps only natural that we should seek synthetic substitutes. But the result is a morbidity that will not be healed with “a fantasy and a trick of fame”—the artifice of image that is becoming the essence of modern politics. Such artifice can only make it worse.