Sunday, February 24, 2008

Loving Politics. Hating Campaigns.

I’ve been a political junkie since I was a teenager. In high school and college I considered running for office later in life. My youthful ambitions came to naught for a variety of reasons but I entered adulthood with a strong belief in a public society that offered opportunity to all. I never lost my abiding interest in how and why communities make decisions. Central to that interest is ideas and results and what those results mean to the larger society. That to me is the heart of politics. I can debate ideas, plans and expectations with someone who holds different economic and social beliefs. I can use that discussion to look for ways that differing ideas can come together in the interest of the community. That’s politics and that’s why I am fascinated with it. Hell, it even offers me hope that human beings can live together cooperatively in prosperity and harmony. No doubt about it, I am an eternal romantic..

All this comes to mind as I listen to Clinton and Obama attack each other’s records and experience. I don’t hear an exchange of ideas or attempts to look for common ground–you know, building on their 95% similarity in policy and record, the fact that they are near clones of each other. All I hear is the five percent “difference” that is somehow supposed to mean something to me. Bullshit! That does not speak to me of ideas and solutions; it speaks of scheming, calculated, tactical decision that look only to the moment. That’s a campaign. It offers me nothing. Just like CheneyBush’s and soon-to-be-John McCain’s fearmongering and war offer nothing.

Yet I cannot ignore it since it is the politics of this nation and for that reason, it is important. The events of this year WILL affect me and my world. So here I am again, attracted to a process that is at the same time repelling and distressing. On the other hand, I am not living in an African nation plagued by warlords, tribal violence and desperate hunger. (Just finished reading Allah Is Not Obliged by Ahmadou Kourouma, fiction set in the eternal civil war of Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone told by a 10 year old child soldier. I know enough of the events depicted to know the novel’s setting is true. Such knowledge is always good for a real perspective.)

Still I am living without much hope or expectation for the future of a nation and a world that is the only one I will ever know. No doubt that’s why Obama is doing so well; hope is a big theme in his campaign and a nation will always move toward hope, real or not. I am less impressed with Obama’s hope than most. I’ve seen enough politicians and campaigns to know that possibilities are severely limited in the American political system. I know, too, that the few possibilities that do exist are at best slight variations on the existing policy, that any successful candidate from the American mainstream will govern in the interests of the few. Democrats may offer some crumbs for the masses but the system works in favor of monied and corporate interests. Not much hope there.

The real loser in all this is Hillary Clinton. She is sounding more and more petty and mean in her attacks, which severely diminish her in stature. She would do much better to be emphasizing her own policies and hopes rather than tearing down Obama, by simply stating how and why she thinks his characterizations are incorrect. She can do that without attacking him. Clinton’s campaign failed a crucial test–they were caught entirely off guard by Obama’s success and really had no Plan B. What they’ve come up with on the run has been formulaic and counterproductive. That doesn’t surprise me; the Clinton campaign is riddled with traditional Democratic operatives–the ones tha always seem to either lose to or compromise with the Republicans–and simply expected to cruise on to the nomination by not making mistakes. They gambled on money, Clinton’s inevitability and big primaries with no reserve. Now they are scrambling to catch up. What I hear from Clinton is frustration and fear that the prize really is slipping away. I’m not sure anything will salvage the Clinton campaign, certainly not scorched earth negative ads that offer fodder for the Republicans.

Obama had nothing to loose by running this year. He had organizing skills and the opportunity to look for different strategies that offered the possibility of disrupting Clinton’s smooth trajectory to the nomination. Even if ultimately unsuccessful, Obama would have gained valuable experience and exposure. And if successful, well, that would be good too. Isn’t it?

I’ve pretty much come down to rooting for Obama, even as I see little or no substantive difference between him and Clinton. I respect them both and look forward to Hillary Clinton becoming my generation’s Ted Kennedy, a long-serving liberal senator. Maybe she can do Ted one better by developing the leadership and legislative skills to ensure that no Congress is ever rolled by a president the way CheneyBush has done in the past seven years. In the meantime, I look forward to Obama smoking John McCain in the general election. (Hey! If I’m going to fantasize, the fantasy will be one I enjoy.)

And remember. I’m a romantic. I hope Obama and Clinton will rise to the occasion.

Keep in mind, however, that I am still an undecided delegate and share a vote, sort of, at the county convention. I am pretty sure I would reflect the wishes of the actual delegate but I do still want to hear answers to my call for a demilitarized American society not under corporate control.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Obama hope thing is so empty and I'm sick of hearing about it. You’ve seen the Obama “Hope” posters I take it (the ones with his face in red and blue)? Just came across this parody yesterday:

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the United States, voter registration has never been higher (70 % of the eligible voters ) and yet there has been a steady DECLINE in voter turnout. We had a more than 10 % spike last election after Bin Laden released his video 2 days before the election, and I'm sure there will be another spike this year when Obama becomes the next President. This may placate the masses for a while, but nothing has actually changed. In this day and age of modern technology, a NATIONAL POLL - instituted so the masses can be actively involved in their REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY on a weekly basis, adding in their 2 cents on all the major issues of the week - is the best remedy for ailing voter discontentment. Of course there is probably not one elected official who would ever WANT such a thing, and that has more to do with the FACT that we are a FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC ( google United States, Wikipedia, first sentence ) and NOT a representative democracy. The PEOPLE want to be heard, my most distinguished and learned gentlemen and ladies, or so many of them would not be registering. If you truly want the people to feel positive about politics in general, why not give them an opportunity to become actively involved, say once a week, allowing them to voice their opinions on the major issues. When that day comes to pass, you will have solved voter discontentment in the United States.

4:07 PM  
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2:24 AM  

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