The Zelig Presidency

For those familiar with Woody Allen movies, one of his more unusual ones was Zelig, a movie done in a black & white, semi-documentary form about a man played by Woody Allen who has a rare chameleon-like disorder where he takes on the physical and personality traits of those who he is in close proximity. The movie stands out for its uniqueness but is also a commentary on personality, how a person gets one and how it is defined, and is it even possible to be original anymore, especially when it comes to political, artistic and intellectual greatness.

In the case of Obama, he seems to be the Zelig president. He's been taking on the characteristics and actions of past presidents while displaying no originality. He is Nixon using the IRS to target his political enemies. Here he succeeded where Nixon did not. Nixon's IRS director refused to carry out his orders when instructed to do his bidding but Lois Lerner perfected political targeting to an art. (Her problem was that she got caught.) He is Clinton, both of them, in pushing healthcare reform. And again, he succeeded this time in a big way where Bill and Hillary failed. In many ways he is George W. Bush on steroids when it comes to national security. Obama's NSA has taken what Bush started following 9/11 in expanding the power of the state to new heights, one that Salon calls "Obama's Unparalleled Spy State".

But where Obama has succeeded the most in mimicking his predecessors is his recent executive action on illegal immigration. He is the new LBJ. Obama is keenly aware of how the Democratic Party had essentially locked up the black vote for generations with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although it would have never passed without the overwhelming support of Republicans who were in favor of it in much larger percentages in both Houses than the Democrats on the final vote, it was the Democrats who have gotten all of the credit. Johnson realized that blacks were a huge voting bloc that could be secured with passage of the 1964 Act. He outed his true intentions when he said to an aide on Air Force One "I'll have those n******rs voting for us for the next 200 years". He couldn't have been more right, at least for the next 50 years and counting.

So Obama is trying to succeed again where LBJ did in spectacular fashion: lock up a massive voting bloc for generations, this time the Hispanics. Democrats have already been enjoying a large plurality of the Hispanic vote for the last couple of elections cycles and Obama wants to be the LBJ of his time by ensuring their loyalty for many elections cycles to come. Georgia Hank Johnson (D-GA) even made the absurd proclamation that Obama's executive actions was basically an emancipation proclamation for Latinos. 

Obama at this point no longer cares what the public, the press or even his fellow Democrats thinks of him. He is going down in flames at the end of his presidency, sacrificing his popularity and approval ratings for the long-term benefit of his party. Here again he may be end up being successful, but he is continuing to do what he's been doing his entire presidency, turning himself into a political chameleon, one without an original thought or an original act.

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