In this week’s New Yorker, political reporter Jane Mayer unveils what we at Tenured Radical are not learning from those fifteen or sixteen robo-mails that come off the interwebz and onto our desktop: the Obama campaign is behind on its fundraising primarily because liberal-minded billionaires who floated the campaign in 2008 are unhappy.
“But they are billionaires, Radical!” you say — astonished. “Why are the billionaires unhappy?”
Apparently it has nothing to do with Obamacare or the tax code. It’s about parties. It’s about showing the love. According to his critics in the Hamptons, Malibu and Palo Alto, the President doesn’t call to schmooze, doesn’t drop them notes, and doesn’t send bar mitzvah cards. He doesn’t do endless “grip ‘n grin photos” that donors spend 10K for so that they can pretend to their friends that they are Barack O’Buddies. He doesn’t call the megawealthy in the middle of dinner parties so they can show off over it during dessert. The Lincoln bedroom remains virtually unslept in.
In fact, the President has left the impression with these twenty-something dotcommers, hedgefund boys, and movie producers that they may be able to sell a billion books by mail, but they don’t have the kind of expertise he needs to run a complex economy, two wars, an education system, and what is left of our welfare state.
This hurts the feelings of 1% liberals since, just like the conservative 1%, they really believe that they are successful because they are smarter than everyone else. They believe that in return for their massive donations, which might guarantee for the 99% the civil rights that the mega-wealthy will always be able to purchase for themselves — education, legal representation, reproductive choice, health care, transportation — a President ought to treat them as though they are special. Unlike Republican corporate wallahs, who only want to be guaranteed permanent rule over the rest of us, the Liberal Billionaire Boys Club also wants, as Aretha puts it, “a little respect.”
Just when you thought you had run out of new things to like about Barack, you read a story like this and think: despite the drones, Guantanamo, and being late to the party on gay marriage, he’s got….integrity. Tenured Radical might just spend some time banging on doors in Pennsylvania after all.
Not that Americans talking to each other could re-elect a president nowadays. Post-Citizens United, the electoral process is drowning in dough, which makes this a particularly bad time for former liberal sugar daddies to turn their interest to orphaned horses, buying a public school, or solving the problem of world hunger. According to Mayer, while Bill Clinton was superb at greening up Democratic coffers by making ki$$ing wealthy patootie look fun (and even Jimmy Carter was persuaded to lay on the lips), Obama thinks that he has better things to do like putting Americans back to work. As a result, his Super PAC, Priorities USA America is wheezing a bit.
Liberals are a particular chore for a political fundraiser to manage, according to Mayer. “Creating a sense of intimacy with the President is especially important with Democratic donors, a frustrated Obama fund-raiser argues: ‘Unlike Republicans, they have no business interest being furthered by the donation—they just like to be involved. So it makes them more needy. It’s like, ‘If you’re not going to deregulate my industry, or lower my taxes, can’t I at least get a picture?’ ” As another major donor from 2008 complained, “There’s been no thanks for anyone!”
He adds that in 2008 he gave “multiple millions” to groups working to elect Obama. But, he notes, although he has attended various White House functions, and has met Obama on several occasions, “I don’t think they have a clue who I am. I don’t think they even know how much I gave.” He says that he has been introduced twice to [senior advisor and presidential assistant Valerie] Jarrett, “and neither time did she remember who I am.” Instead, he says, “she seemed to think she was blessing me by breathing in the same space.” Despite repeated pitches, he has not yet given money to Priorities USA. In his view, the Obama White House has not followed the fundamental rule of donor maintenance, which he himself has practiced while fund-raising for other causes: “You have to suck up!” With Obama, he says, “I don’t know if it’s a personality thing, an ego thing, or an intellectual thing. I just don’t get it. But people want to be kissed. They want to be thanked.”
Goddess forbid that the nation’s first black president might have an “ego thing” going on. Of course, the rich are different from you and me, Scott — they have more money. As a consequence, they have a far greater need for recognition and love, as opposed to the rest of us who could just use a more democratic society.
Seriously, I hope Barack’s Billionaires are humiliated by this article. But I doubt it — so here’s a little grassroots action instead. The TV ad you wouldn’t pay for, Mr. Moneybags? I will post it here for free.