From Open Left:
I’m a great believer in overdetermination. Virtually nothing in human affairs has a single cause. So nothing in this diary is meant to disparage, diminish or trivialize other factors. There are all sorts of socio-political reasons for Obama’s obsessive and equally fruitless mania for “consensus.” Corporate power has grown so enormously over the past 40 years that it’s grown far more daunting to oppose it straight-out, and this, in turn has given rise to a welter of reasons not to do so-not to mention the entire Versailles political culture that finds such opposition quite literally unthinkable.
But there’s more to Obama than simply going along with the political tides. There’s also the vast pretense of doing no such thing-of being someone who brings sweeping changes … by seeking consensus with the titanic forces of the status quo. Contradictions such as this should also be understood as being primarily generated by the socio-political system as a whole. (Just to take one example-if Obama really were the great reformer he pretends to be, would he have been Wall Street’s #1 beneficiary of campaign contributions in the 2008 election cycle? Or would he have been starved for such funds, like, say, John Edwards, or even Dennis Kucinich?) But a politician who actively and continually embodies such contradictions in their everyday life will have a definite edge if their personal psychology is particularly suited to embracing those contradictions for purely internal reasons. A true believer in public falsehoods has the edge of “authenticity”-always a big plus in politics. And it’s hard to argue that Obama’s relentless, ideological commitment to centrism is inauthentic.
So what explains it? The specifics may be rather complicated, but in broad outline, the answer is fairly simple: it’s the ego-defense mechanism known as reaction-formation.
I’m not sure how much of this I buy, but it does raise some important questions. For instance, if a leader’s (or citizen’s) psychological problems result in part from the socio-political system as a whole, cannot that system be said to be dysfunctional on a much deeper and more radical level than is usually meant when described that way in the mainstream media? Read more here.