As Girard often points out, scapegoating only works with all its original power in societies which don't have the concept of scapegoating. But ours does. So these political feints are far more recognizable for what they are.
And like any faltering Democratic pol, the president took the easier and lower road of bashing a bogeyman: financial institutions. . . .The reason this won't work is the same reason that these same ruses won't work when used by the political right: the Christian revelation of them -- while capable of being temporarily overridden by momentary political passions -- has crippled their power to produce sustainable forms of social solidarity.
There's nothing like inciting witch-burnings and stonings of bankers and investment execs to distract the public from the complete failure that the empty-suited Mr. Obama is. Appealing to people's primal appetites for revenge, resentment, and envy is, according to the time-honored formula, a sure way for the president and Democrats to move the heat from them to whatever handy victims they can find -- as in the past, doctors and pharmaceutical companies, but never parasitical trial attorneys. . . .
Mr. Obama may gain some quick traction and a modest bump from raising his club and landing it squarely on the heads of bankers and Wall-Streeters, but the benefit can't last. Why? Because it won't do a darned thing to put people back to work or give them the sense of security that their jobs are staying. Banker-bashing won't pay anyone's bills. Americans will end up seeing the president's shenanigans as a useless, if temporarily amusing, reprise of A Clockwork Orange, where delinquent youths vented their rage over their failings on the adults.
One caution: when such things fail, they tend to rebound on those who resorted to them. As most know, and as my last blog post suggests, I have long been deeply skeptical of our current president's ideological bias, intellectual narrowness, inexperience, preening self-referentiality, and moral depth, but if his presidency implodes, we will need to turn our attention to fixing what's broken and not indulge ourselves in recriminations.
Photo credit: New English Review