The great exemplar of the technocrat, however, is not the hapless Dukakis, a high-IQ moron if there ever was one, but our current president himself. His book was called The Audacity of Hope, but only his ambition is audacious. A centrist, a pragmatist, a seeker of consensus: he plays it safe, like every other product of the system. He seeks to wear the mantle of the visionary, but his vision is technocracy itself—those “common sense” solutions that he always likes to talk about. If politics is the art of the possible, Obama’s failure as a leader is precisely his conception of what is possible, his meek acceptance of the limits of the status quo. Like a student who’s afraid to take a course he might do poorly in, he dodges the difficult fights. If that analogy seems strained, consider that he actually maintains a list of his achievements (yes, really), and that he gave himself a 70 for his first two years in office (that is, he thinks that he accomplished 70 percent of what he had hoped to achieve). He’s grading himself, in other words, and on a rather generous curve—almost too perfect a metaphor for the meritocratic mind-set. The electorate, that year of 2010, was less impressed, though the outcome came to him, apparently, as quite a shock. Incapable of comprehending the developing disaster, which has crippled the rest of his presidency, he seemed to think he’d ace the midterms (the confluence of terminology is sweet) if he only got the answers right. He also couldn’t understand why people might object to some of his appointments—figures like Timothy Geithner or Larry Summers, both of whom were central to creating the conditions that led to the financial crisis. They’re “the best,” after all; whom else would you choose to run the economy? Obama’s arrogance and that of his advisors, as ill-concealed as it has proved to be unearned, is that of the double-800 crowd. It’s as if he can’t believe that anybody might reject those commonsense solutions once he has explained them carefully enough—as if he has no conception of competing values, interests, or perspectives, no idea that society is more than just equations. With his racial identity and relatively humble background, his election has been called the triumph of meritocracy. The sad thing is that that’s exactly what it was.