Despite his amazing success at raising campaign funds through small donations from individual citizens, Barack Obama never campaigned as a populist. He promised “change,” but his rhetoric always suggested a pragmatic approach to achieving goals that left plenty of room for working within existing corporate and political structures, rather than adopting the “throw the bums out” attitude of true populists like John Edwards and Ron Paul.
Obama also took plenty of money from Wall Street in order to get his campaign up and running; and his cabinet choices (Geithner, Gates, Clinton, etc.) certainly seemed to indicate a desire to reassure the traditional forces of power that change wouldn’t happen too fast!
Of course, it could be argued that he really had no choice if he wanted to overcome the formidable obstacles that would stand in the way of his ascension to the presidency. Had he not taken a somewhat moderate, non-frightening, approach to achieving change, he may never have had the opportunity to begin his primary run on an arc that looked viable enough to overcome the “inevitability” of Hillary Clinton. And he may never have had the chance to attract the large and committed donor base that helped push him over the top!
Although Obama seems to have a sincere desire to promote broad-based opportunity for ordinary people, and to hold even corporations accountable for helping to solve the countries’ real problems, it could be argued that he did what he had to do to get in the position of moving the country in the right direction, while accepting that he had to do it in a way that was tolerable to the already rich and powerful.
In other words, he had to give them some slack.
And it seems that AIG has just taken that slack and tied its own noose. Perhaps a noose large enough to squeeze in the heads of all the Wall Street fat cats who have bled the economy dry to feed their own desire for personal wealth and aggrandizement!
Obama is now in the position where if he does not take a harsh populist stand against corporate interests trying to fleece the American taxpayer, he may not have a chance at a second term! He may lose the dedicated support of the millions of ordinary people whom he has relied upon to give momentum to his policy goals.
While it wasn’t Obama’s preferred path at the beginning, at this point, being a populist may be the pragmatic choice; particularly since, as an incumbent in 2012, he no longer needs Wall Street money to propel him into viability. He needs people – ordinary people – to continue to support him.
As one of those early supporters who is still yearning for a counterbalance to the greed and corporate excesses of the Bush years, I can only hope that this was Obama’s plan all along - that he knew, even as he promised change, that some things never change!
Perhaps AIG just proved him right!