Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Spoiler (politics)

I don't usually write about politics unless something really annoys or excites me, and stays in my mind for at least a day. I'm not a political junky, but the country seems way to screwed up right now to not at least watch.

I'm starting to think the legacy of Hillary Clinton may end up being the person who brought down Barack Obama enough for the likes of John McCain to beat him. She'll certainly be long gone by the time of the general election, but her current shenanigans seem almost coordinated with McCain. This time it's Obama's talk about how Pennsylvanian's are bitter over lack of opportunity and decades of broken promises from politicians:

they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

That's a tiny snippet, but, well, yeah! It's true! I come from Pennsylvania and that pretty much sums it up. My family left there because of lack of opportunity and most of my relatives followed. Those who stayed are in a precarious situation, along with their family's, and because of widespread teen pregnancy, their families family; an extra generation that us Californiains don't yet have.

Of course many would find me a California elitist, also mentioned in the article, so I'm not sure I have much working man's cred. The comments were taken from a very well done speech that spoke truth about difficult subjects like class and race. Clinton's traditional election year pollyanna schlock-talk and McCain's fervent nationalist flag waving could never touch on these topics with so much honesty. Grover Norquist then jumped on Obama, saying "'He just announced to rural America: 'I don't like you." I think they jumped on Obama because what he said was dangerous to the elites.

It's probably longer than my blog post, but this CNN discussion seemed to sum it up well:

JEFF TOOBIN: I think that is so ridiculous. I mean that is not at all what Barack Obama said. I just think this is an example of how a campaign between the two of them can be purely destructive. And not elevate either candidate. I mean, Hillary Clinton is clearly distorting what Obama said. And by the way, what Obama said is factually accurate. It's been true throughout history that people who have economic problems lash out against various others. I mean, I just think it is an embarrassing for the Clinton campaign to hang on this as if it's some sort of gaffe by Obama.

BLITZER: It's not just the Clinton campaign, Jack it's also the McCain campaign. They issued a statement saying it's a remarkable statement and extremely revealing it shows an elitism towards and condescension towards hard working Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking. It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans.

JACK CAFFERTY: Really? And this is from John McCain?

BLITZER: No, this is from Steve Schmidt a senior adviser for John McCain.

CAFFERTY: Look, Jeff's right. They call it the rust belt for a reason. The great jobs and the economic prosperity left that part of the country two or three decades ago. The people are frustrated. The people have no economic opportunity. What happens to folks like that in the Middle East, you ask? Well, take a look. They go to places like al Qaeda training camps. I mean, there's nothing new here. And what Barack Obama was suggesting is not that the people of Pennsylvania are to blame for any of it. It's that the jerks in Washington, D.C., as represented by the ten years of the Bushes and the Clintons and the McCains who have lied to and misled these people for all of this time while they shipped the jobs over seas and signed phony trade deals like NAFTA are to blame for the deteriorating economic conditions among America's middle class. I mean, I'm a college dropout and I can read the damn thing and figure it out.

If you're really careful, you can talk race in America, but class is something American politicians don't want to address. Class addresses the fact that the values of this country have been seriously undermined by the wealthy, the likes of Grover Norquist. Class talk potentially pokes a hole in the illusion of equality and equal opportunity. It makes the rich nervous, and forces the middle class, who all think they're in a wealthier bracket than they really are, to re-evaluate their positions. The middle-class is where trouble always starts, at least according to Karl Marx and Political Science 101.

If that's too heavy for a Saturday morning, then look! There's a naked woman in the reflection in Dick Cheney's sunglasses! Did I mention people aren't wearing enough hats?


  1. I'm a lukewarm supporter of Obama, but he's spot on when he replies to Clinton and McCain that if they don't think what he said was accurate, then they are the ones who are out of touch.

    I also keep wondering just what Clinton and the Republicans think "bitter" means. Last I checked it wasn't an insult. Maybe I missed the memo that changed the definition from "marked by cynicism and rancor" to "ugly and stupid".

    Perhaps they are overly associating the term with the dismissive phrase "you're just being bitter." In which case I will be looking forwards to the outbursts the next time Obama uses the words "you're", "just" or "being."

    To me this is a big issue, not because of what Obama said (which was simply the truth), but because of how the other candidates reacted in such a way as to show both their disconnect from reality and their hostility to the truth.

  2. What kind of a race is this, anyway - the one candidate with any real charisma keeps making stupid mistakes ("I really didn't know that my pastor was a raving bigot who is out of touch with reality and preaches a divisive and anti-American philosophy, but now that it's been brought to my attention, I won't let it change anything about my relationship with him", "This terrorist guy is my friend, and even though I don't support terrorism, or his actions, I support him and all he stands for"), while the other two could have been hand picked to lose the election (moderates and conservatives hate Hilary - as do people who value truth and integrity, no one really likes McCain, who has gone out of his way to piss everyone off since losing the nomination in 2000).
    The Democrats are self destructing, but the Republicans already made sure that they are in no position to take advantage of the situation.
    It's like some kind of bitter joke -maybe a warped reality TV concept that got out of hand.

    Could it be that neither party really wants the responsibility that comes with the Presidency in the next four years?

  3. I think the Obama foibles are minor in comparison to the open faced lying and distortions that characterize the Clinton campaign.

    As for religious leaders, good ones challenge our assumptions. Sometimes they go over the top. Judging parishioners by their actions seems a bit of a stretch and a good reason for politicians to pick milktoast, neutral, non-confrontational, and relatively boring protestant denominations to identity themselves with. In other words, they gain no juice or inspiration from their religion, which seems to be the case, only the facade of piety.

    The big issue with Obama is that he's right on the edge of being impolitic. If he was less eloquent, he could never pull it off. He's certainly rallying the young and the educated, who like that he's speaking truth about issues that are normally buried, but he shocks and outrages the political mainstream, who are incapable of such eloquent speech on such touchy issues. They can't even join the discussion because of a) their perception of being insiders and thus out of touch themselves, and b) their inability to convincingly speak truth about difficult subjects (or in Clinton's case, just about anything, including walking off a plane).

    My guess is that a successful Democratic president will, at best, be known as someone who put the US's economic house back in order, restored our relationship with the rest of the world, and somehow ushered us into a more sophisticated, knowledge based economy that didn't just involve McJobs. He or she will be the guy in the middle that cleaned up G.W.'s mess and set the stage for the president following them.

    I expect more of the same with McCain.

  4. I see the religion thing as being a major issue for Obama - because his inaction on the subject makes it worse.

    He could either:
    a) Come out and admit that he enjoys the drama of the racist hyperbole, and maybe even agrees with his pastor's lies and distortions of the truth.
    b) Come out and admit that he doesn't really pay attention to the sermons (like most American church-goers) and only goes to church to keep up appearances. He could go on to explain that he feels that he needs to appear to be a devoted Christian to overcome the questions about his Islamic father and upbringing.
    Denounce his pastor as being a dirty, lying racist, and the type of person who works against hope, and furthers the division of our society (when Obama is supposed to be about hope and unification).

  5. I think his speech on race relations pretty much put that issue to bed, at least for most people. Some won't accept it as an answer, but that's essentially his answer.

    If the best anyone can come up with in regards to Obama is guilt through association for some poor remarks from his pastor and occasional impolitic gaffs, than I think he's doing vastly better than Clinton or McCain.

    There are two things that I see that differentiate Obama from Clinton. First, if he's elected, he will have done it on small contributions and far less corporate sponsorship. I'm hoping that could make him more accountable to voters and less to corporate interests.

    Second, although his policies are not much different from Clinton's, his ability to inspire and think large has the potential to inspire others to greatness. How can anyone imagine Clinton or McCain doing anything but politics as usual?

  6. You dems can fight all you want, McCain is going to win in November regardless! :) Yes, I'm a hard core gamer and a true McCain supporter as well.

  7. You say that as if you were saying "I'm a true 49ers fan."

    Myself, I pick my candidates based on what they stand for, not who they are, or what party they belong to. While I support much of what McCain used to stand for, I'm disgusted at how he has sold out his principles to get the nomination.

    But don't mind me, you can go ahead and cheer on your team... er, candidate. Lord knows that's the way it seems most of the electorate behaves.

  8. I was going to say that none of us here identifies themselves as a Democrat. Most are probably libertarian at best. If the Republicans hadn't turned this country upside down over the last 8 years, breaking all norms of responsible behavior, McCain might have a chance.

    Heck, if it was back in the day with McCain vs. Gore, I would have voted McCain. If the Republicans somehow had a "come to Jesus" moment and realized how incredibly bankrupt their policies of the last 8 years have been, I would consider voting for McCain. I just don't think the country could survive another 4 years with a Republican in charge, unless your rich of course, in which case you should do even better.

  9. I'm certainly a lot closer to being a Democrat than I was eight years ago, but calling joedog one makes me chuckle :-)

    You should qualify that "rich" as "rich enough to have most of your assets overseas" because for the first time in my lifetime the Republican party has the worst economic program.

    The Democrats may be "tax and spend," but the republicans are "spend and spend some more." At least the Democrats generally acknowledge that you actually have to have the money before you can spend it.

  10. While my Republican credentials may have slipped since my days as a party volunteer, I still think of myself as being mostly conservative (if not reactionary). I am also a Christian - and somewhat evangelical at that (although I try not to be pushy about it, I am ready to share my faith and help others to find salvation, comfort, answers, or whatever they need from a religion).
    However, I find that the merger of the Republican party and evangelical Christians has not been good for either.
    Conservatism is about taking care of what you have:
    Conservation of resources and protecting the environment are conservative values - just ask Teddy Roosevelt.
    Avoiding high cost government programs that discourage people from thrift is a conservative value.
    Avoiding high taxes is a conservative value - but only if matched with spending within our national income (spending more than you take in can hardly be called "conservative").
    Smaller government with limited powers, and more decision-making power for local governments are conservative ideals.
    Having a strong national defense is a conservative ideal - so much so that security is the one area of government that conservatives have traditionally favored investing large amounts of tax money into.
    Having young adults be well prepared for the workforce and public service, and instilled with the common values of our society by a public education system - available for all citizens - has also traditionally been a conservative value.
    Preservation of rights and freedoms to the lowest level possible - states rights, local power, and the rights of the individual (religion, gun ownership, political freedom/choice, etc).

    Instead of these, our so called conservative give us:
    Sad and pathetic attempts to control abortions.
    Sad but more effective attempts to control our own right to decide how we wish to die.
    Attempts to protect the "sanctity" of marriage - by using religious, rather than civil, traditions to define the potential scope of marriage.

    There are so many issues out there that are important to conservatives (be they Republican, Democrat, or from a third party), yet aren't being addressed by the candidates, that it makes me want to cry. Obama sometimes scratches the surface - as when he talks about the bitterness that afflicts many of us - but doesn't seem willing (yet) to delve deeper. Perhaps after the election, he will be able to do so.

  11. I am somewhat ticked off by the attacks on Obama for saying that some blue collar Americans are bitter about their declining role in our society (declining buying power, political power, social power, etc.). People ARE bitter about these things, even if you don't agree with everything Obama said about the causes and effects of the bitterness.