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Valerie Jarrett Is The Left’s Dick Cheney

Valerie Jarrett looks exactly like what the left claimed Dick Cheney was: the real administrative power behind a shallow figurehead president.

The progressive left has an answer for whom to blame for this White House’s many faults: Valerie Jarrett. The most read piece on Politico at the moment is one calling on President Obama to fire Jarrett. Noam Scheiber’s piece at The New Republic illustrates why progressives are finally voicing their frustrations with Jarrett’s avowedly corporatist approach to governance, leaking quotes to display her status as a yes-woman with naive views of Obama’s popularity (Mika Brzezinski is here for the defense).

Scheiber’s achievements list two-thirds of the way through the piece leads into an interesting point about why progressives feel so dissatisfied:

The Obama era has been deeply disorienting for the left. Eight years ago, progressives would have delighted at the idea of a president who withdrew from Iraq [ed. note: ha!], remade the rules for Wall Street, slowed the proliferation of greenhouse gases, brought the country within spitting distance of universal health care, and multiplied the rights of gays and lesbians. And yet it’s hard to be a self-respecting progressive these days and not feel a frustration that borders on disillusionment. The victories have been muddled, the errors unforced, the ambitions preemptively scaled back.

There’s something Scheiber is missing, here, though – his piece doesn’t so much reach a conclusion as just end. What the Obamas and Jarrett represent as a the ideal modern liberal throuple is the logical end point of the rent-seeking and regulatory capture necessary when government enters into an unending quid pro quo dance with major institutions. The populist rhetoric deployed by the original progressives against the unchecked power of corporate entities and elites and the need for government to step in to the gap ignored the way these processes actually play out. Obamacare’s essence was branded as empowering people, but of course, in practice it actually empowered major entities in the health care industry. A bill that was supposed to help people is also about funding hospital consolidation, the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, and a host of for- and non-profits. The largesse of government takes from the taxpayer and expects something in return – namely, that these large institutions will bend to the will of the powerful, in return for protection from risk.

A few months back, in a piece for Commentary, I wrote: “History may ultimately consider Obama’s 2008 nomination as a representation not of progressivism’s resurgent appeal, but as its death rattle—a speed bump along the way to the Democratic Party’s becoming a fully corporatist, Clinton-owned entity. In practice, the party now resembles a protection racket with an army of volunteers, with friends who never suffer and enemies who never relax. And who are those enemies? Not big business or Wall Street, which has paid their way to new alliances; not America’s insurers, whose products Democrats have made it illegal not to buy; not privacy-challenging government, which Obama has expanded to unprecedented degrees. No, the only enemies who really matter to today’s Democratic Party are those wayward intolerant social-policy traditionalists with their un-American views of religious liberty.”

The Obama-Jarrett administration has played this tune for six years – and only now are progressives waking up to the reality that all along, they were the ones being fooled. Ultimately, Jarrett looks like the real guiding hand on this White House, taking the inchoate agenda offered by the 2008 campaign and crafting it into the approach Obama has deployed almost from the beginning. Jarrett looks exactly like what the left claimed Dick Cheney was: dealmaker, corporatist, and the real administrative power behind a shallow and uninterested figurehead president, who’s just relieved he doesn’t have to answer to those progressives any more.

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