Posted by David
on Jun 8, 2008 in Upside-down Hippo
| 0 comments
As often as I do it, I don’t really like talking about politics. If it were just a matter of policy wonkery, I think I could handle it, but dealing with people’s visceral reactions, and my own, to different politicians is exhausting.
Still, I don’t feel I can let this historic week go by without commentary. Barack Obama as the first black presidential nominee from a major political party is a huge accomplishment, unimaginable just a few years ago. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was also historic for reasons of her sex and because it will probably go down in history as one of the worst-run Democratic campaigns of all time. I don’t believe those two factors are connected, and yet they stand out in my mind.
During the last election cycle, I was passionate about Howard Dean, who had a great early showing and then fizzled out after his Iowa scream was elevated to iconic proportions by a cynical and self-important press corps. Then we ended up with Tin Ear Kerry, who could argue circles around the sitting president but could not respond effectively to his opponents’ evil tactics.
This time around, Edwards was my early favorite. I felt he had his finger on the pulse of what it would take to pragmatically address our ongoing domestic crises. It is notable that I loathed Obama for several reasons:
1) His lofty rhetoric, so often praised by those who heard it live, did not make much sense when read in transcript, thus contributing to the mistaken notion that he was an “empty suit.”
2) That same lofty rhetoric about uniting the nation sounded to me as if he did not intend to prosecute the very serious war crimes of the current administration, which is the mistake that Ford made while pardoning Nixon so the nation could “heal,” a decision that led directly to Dick Cheny and his cadre of monsters taking over the government and destroying the constitution thirty years later.
3) Obama’s association with Joe Lieberman, one of the most loathsome political figures of modern times, served to reinforce the impression that national unity meant a continuation of the status quo of Democrats being punching bags for the Republican’s schoolyard thuggery.
When it came down to Obama and Clinton, I had some serious thinking to do. On the one hand, while I loathed her established tactics of triangulation against the liberal wing of her party, corporatism, war-mongering, and sneak attack politics . . . and I was starting to loathe her campaign operation based around same . . . I did sort of admire her on a personal level, and I did feel that having a no-nonsense woman as America’s face to the world would do a great deal to heal our current ills. Her healthcare policy, from what I could understand of it, was also moderately better than Obama’s.
On the other hand, as Clinton’s campaign worsened, and I got to learn more about Obama, such has his refusal to take lobbyist money (a huge corrupting force in politics) and that his mentorship under Joe Lieberman was assigned rather than of his own choosing, I started reconsidering him as a viable candidate. Indeed, the less fair Clinton and the media seemed to be toward him, the more I found myself reflexively defending him to myself. That’s when I knew I had made my choice.
Since then, I have become even more impressed with Obama’s abilities. His active and timely defense against the predictable attacks of his opponents is refreshing and dignified. There is no nonsense about him, he simply tells it like it is, uses his opponents’ words against them, and moves on. Since he became head of the DNC and has forbidden lobbyist donations from that organization, as well, he has earned my true and committed respect. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I do think that there is much more “there” than I had allowed myself to hope. If he allows, encourages, or spearheads investigations and prosecutions into the crimes of the past eight years, making “never again” his slogan . . . if he works to revive the constitution from the tattered corpse it has been left by this criminal administration, reversing the clear violations of our rights, dismantling the culture of fear, and divesting himself of the illegally amassed “executive power,” he will be near perfect in my eyes.
Most importantly, a tough but approachable Obama would help accomplish what most people and institutions have despaired of: the beginnings of the healing of the racial divide in the United States. Every black person in this country will be aware, even if just on the periphery of his or her consciousness, that his or her options are no longer as limited as they were just months ago. Every white person will have to revaluate their preconceptions of “the other.” A true dialogue on race and reconciliation, overdue for over a hundred years, is almost inevitable in an Obama administration.
At this point, running against a corrupt, old lunatic with no moral center or fresh ideas, I find it difficult to believe that Obama will not win the coming general election. I see a repeat of Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole in 1996. While McCain tries desperately to distance himself from his entire political career in order to appear fresh and relevant, his fundraising is as dried up as his soul and nobody from any section of his party is enthusiastic about him. Meanwhile, Obama is poised to set the terms of the debate. He is young, handsome, enthusiastic, has some great (if slightly too moderate for my tastes) policy ideas, and the power of history on his side. He could lose, certainly, as the corporate media aligns against him and the subtle and not-so-subtle racist attacks flood the airwaves. He could lose if the morons in Kentucky and elsewhere decide that his skin color is more important than the fact that he is the person who is actually trying to raise them up, whereas McCain, like all Republicans, banks on their continued ignorance and complicity.
But I hope he wins.
As an atheist, America is the only thing I have to believe in. The constitution that supposedly makes us all equal and free is like my bible. Watching the America of my ideals devolve into a corporatist police state over the past thirty years (but especially the past eight) has ripped out my heart. Watching our potential greatness and moral authority give way to petty internal squabbling and worldwide revulsion against us has sliced my poor heart into little pieces and flushed them down the toilet.
Now, like so many people, I place my faith in Barack Obama to make things right again. If he betrays that faith, it will die, and America will die, and the world as we know it will end.