Explaining Obama's Ressentiment
Unearned success is the central theme of his life story.
The Romney campaign is out with a very effective new ad illuminating and responding to President Obama's disparagement of individual achievement. The ad constructs a dialogue between Obama and Jack Gilchrist, a political independent who is president of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating Co., a small industrial concern conveniently located in the swing state of New Hampshire.
First we get a medley of Obama quotes sneering at the successful, then a response from Gilchrist, who is shown in various settings: on the factory floor, in his home, with his son and a portrait of his late father.
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Obama recently said his biggest shortcoming as president was that he has failed to tell the electorate "the story that tells us where he's going." But he's certainly told a story: a story in which he has personally achieved great things, like saving Detroit and killing Osama bin Laden, whereas everything that's gone wrong is the fault of somebody else--George W. Bush, congressional Republicans, corporate jet owners, etc.
The problem with this story is that it is manifestly untrue. Obama not only has failed to deliver on the extravagant promises--world peace and racial harmony and receding oceans and free medical care for all. He has fallen short even of a minimal standard of political and governmental competence.
What is the root of Barack Obama's ressentiment? Why does he insist that men like Jack Gilchrist don't deserve their success? Not because they are successful. Even if Obama loses in a landslide, he will have enjoyed more success than most people can dream of in a lifetime.
No, Obama resents their modest success precisely because they did earn it.
Some of you probably think the word in the headline is supposed to be 'resentment' (I did). Here is the definition:
1. Any cautious, defeatist, or cynical attitude based on the belief that the individual and human institutions exist in a hostile or indifferent universe or society.
2. An oppressive awareness of the futility of trying to improve one's status in life or in society.