Thursday, January 31, 2008
In six years as a member of the Wal-Mart board of directors, between 1986 and 1992, Hillary Clinton remained silent as the world's largest retailer waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers.
Clinton Was Silent As Wal-Mart Railed Against Unions
Clinton has been endorsed for president by more than a dozen unions, according to her campaign Web site, which omits any reference to her role at Wal-Mart in its detailed biography of her.
Wal-Mart's anti-union efforts were headed by one of Clinton's fellow board members, John Tate, a Wal-Mart executive vice president who also served on the board with Clinton for four of her six years.
(Complete report with video)
Last night's non-victory victory rally in Florida underscored everything that's awful and ridiculous about the Clinton-Clinton '08 style. They pledged not to campaign in Florida, yet they campaigned there anyway. The primary was unofficial and no delegates were counted, yet they celebrated with a televised victory rally anyway -- ostensibly to trick some casual viewers and supporters into thinking it was a meaningful win.
Imagine, if you will, the Patriots showing up at U of P Stadium tonight and declaring victory even though they've agreed -- "pledged" if you will -- to play against the Giants on Sunday. It's an easy way to declare victory, albeit equally as cheap, dishonest and artificial.
And to observe Senator Clinton's pledge to seat the Florida delegates while, at that very moment, violating a previous pledge, was to observe a Clintonian paradox in its pristine, natural habitat.
As such, it's absolutely astonishing that the Democratic race is as close as it is. If a Republican said something like "Jesse Jackson won here twice" or pledged to grab delegates that don't exist we'd be choking on our own tongues as we convulsed and gasped in shock-horror. There's no excuse for forgiving the Rovian games or the DLC calculation. Just because they're The Clintons doesn't make it forgivable. Up until the last two months, I've been an unwavering supporter of President Clinton. He's arguably the second or third greatest president of the 20th Century next to FDR and JFK and he's presently the Most Popular Living Ex-President In The World, but these past couple of months have been seriously painful.
So how has Senator Clinton lasted as long as she has given her campaign's fun & games? Well, for starters, it doesn't hurt that the Most Popular Living Ex-President In The World is serving as her de facto running mate -- using his position as the Most Popular Living Ex-President In The World to publicly rip Senator Obama every day during New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. (Speaking of which, it's worth noting that in New Hampshire Senator Obama came within three percentage points of both Senator Clinton and the Most Popular Living Ex-President In The World. Any other year, that would've been considered a huge win for Obama.)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
DENVER (AP) - Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voter's sympathies but never diverted his campaign, The Associated Press has learned.
The two-time White House candidate notified a close circle of senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at a 1 p.m. EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty, according to two of his advisers. The decision came after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals who stole the spotlight from the beginning—Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
DENVER (AP)—Democrat John Edwards exited the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters'sympathies but never diverted his campaign, The Associated Press has learned.
This bodes well for Obama.
He and Edwards are similar enough in their platforms that Edwards' constituency could easily align themselves with him.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
By Elf Sternberg
A couple of months ago, I wrote (but did not post) a blog entry in which I metaphorically wrung my hands and quoted Jim Hightower to the wilderness, "If the Gods had meant for us to vote, they would have given us candidates!" I went through the list of candidates and decided ah, to Hell with 'em all.
[My wife] and I have often joked that we should have a weekly weblog, "The Bad Republican and the Bad Democrat," because that's pretty much what we are. I can't toe the party line anymore, not when it's so bloody fucking insane, and she's damnably unhappy with the Democratic kowtowing to unions and the Democratic Party of Washington's latest internal convulsions about opposing the blantantly false House Resolution 888 (which contains a metric arseload of Christian Nationalist deceits) because doing so would give the Christian Nationalists yet another data point in the idea that the Democrats are not a "pro-Christian" party.
But I really can't vote for a Republican this year for the President. The brand is so badly damaged, too tragically so, for me to take any of them seriously. Romney's a power-hungry empty suit, Huckabee's just scary, Paul's got more issues than The Stranger, Guiliani's a thug and goin' down for it, and judging McCain on his principles rather than his service leads me to conclude that he, like the rest of his field, lacks the moral stature and intellectual maturity needed to lead this country.
Of all the candidates on the other side, Hillary Clinton has all the chops needed to be president. She's truly a wonk; she does have all the facts at her disposal. She knows what she would do with each and every department as it came to her. She knows what she would do with the military, but she also knows what she'd do with the Department of Labor (seriously, when was the last time you even heard the Department of Labor mentioned in a news article?), the Department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation. (Have you looked at the President's Cabinet recently? Michael Chertoff looks like he got into Jeff Goldblum's teleportation device and threw the switch just as a hawk flew into the room.)
On the other hand, Barack Obama isn't a wonk. He's more in the mold of Ronald Reagan: an ideas man, a guy who has things to do and understands that as president he needs to point people at them and have them done. And he's right: under Reagan, the Republicans had all the ideas and the Democrats were exhausted. They may not have been all good ideas, but they at least had the force of presence and the top of mind to propel the country forward.
Now, I like wonkery. I admire it. Which is why I'm going to go ahead and vote for Obama, if my country will let me.
Not because I think he'll make a better executive. Clinton is by far and away more competent to be the executive. Obama will do okay in that regard, just as Reagan did okay.
But Reagan was something more than the executive. Because the presidency is more than "The Executive." He's more than just "the decider guy for the country." The President of the United States is also the Head of State of the Nation.
Andrew Sullivan voiced my conviction for me a couple of weeks ago. I want a child in Africa, or India, or Pakistan, to be able to look at the President of the United States and understand, for the first time, that America is not under the thumb of the same ol' regime. That anyone in America really can grow up to be President, and that we really believe in the premise that "all men are created equal"
Would a woman have the same impact? I don't think so. There have been women leaders of countries far less forgiving of women than the United States: Pakistan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines. People understand that a woman of the dominant regime can rise to power. A Black man is definitenly not of the "dominant regime" in the United States.
So, my endorsement is for Barack Obama. It's not an unreserved endorsement. As an executive, he's "good enough"; as a head of state, he's without peer. As an executive, Hillary's unreservedly competent, but as a head of state, she'd be unremarkable. We've learned that a "good enough" executive will support and maintain the agencies tasked with maintaining the national infrastructure and restoring order in times of crisis (by this measure, George Bush was not "good enough") but he can do no more than that.
It is as Head of State that a president truly stands out on his own, and Barack Obama would do that with greater stature than anyone else currently running, on either side of the aisle.
By Jenny Junipurr
Barack Obama is a great orator.
This is the heart of why I support him more than I do Hillary.
Hillary is a lawmaker, and that's great, but the president doesn't make the laws. S/He can influence the lawmakers (aka Congress), and s/he can veto the stuff s/he doesn't like (as long as Congress doesn't agree enough to turn that veto on its head), but, except in Times Of Extremity, s/he doesn't get to make the laws (and even then, s/he is closely scrutinized, generally.)
People forget that all too often; this is why who you choose as your Representatives and Senators is just as important as who you choose as your President. The President is also heavily responsible for foreign affairs. Bush was a nightmare in large part because of this. Either Hillary or Barack will do much to mend the damage Bush has done. The other most powerful part of the presidency is the placement of judges onto the Supreme Court. Any liberal will do there, for those of us of a liberal bent, anyway.
The main role of the president is visibility and morale. S/He speaks (whether we like it or not) for the people. S/He speaks TO the people, interprets all that is going on and sums it up for the people. S/He influences, through this oratory, the mood of the people. This is why people loved the Kennedy brothers, why Roosevelt was elected again and again (arguably)...because these people could tell us what we needed to hear, could tell the world what it needed to hear, could be convincingly strong and respectable and good.
So, all other things being roughly equal, as they basically are, what matters is who is the greater orator, who can move and inspire the people, who can, with words and conviction, sway people to agreement or at least respect.
In this area, Barack wins hands down. And that's why I hope, with all my heart, that he wins the nomination.
Because only someone who can truly inspire even the disenchanted and disenfranchised is going to be a true catalyst for change.
I am right-wing policy wonk, and pro-war at that, but what is going on transcends partisan politics.
I hear people call the comparisons to Camelot romanticized, but are they? Obama doesn't cheat on his wife with movie stars, nor did he come from any familial wealth, especially that gained by (the equivalent of) drug dealing. It would seem an improvement over JFK, or more appropriately, a real human being that can match up to the image of the martyr JFK became.
The main reason I am voting Obama: maybe, if he is elected, people could go back to talking to each other about things that matter; and it might even be socially acceptable for people to change their mind upon reflection.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
"I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
Friday, January 25, 2008
If we accept the above definition of selling out, then the question we face when we consider this phrase is "What is the best interest of the group?" since selling out is working against this interest. I submit that a political candidate who has a similar pigment does not necessarily have similar values or similar definitions of what is good for the whole. South Carolina voters, by and large, have not queried Mr. Obama on his position on commonly held issues such as affirmative action, the preservation of historically black colleges and universities, the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community, abstinence education, the mortgage crisis, social vs capital welfare, the federal commitment to state level higher education, and the emphasis on standardized testing in the K-12 system.
These issues impact the daily lives of Black Americans more than the War, more than the lack of "Vision", and rhetoric about "Change."
Has Mr. Obama been vetted? What is his position on each of these issues?
If you, as an individual Black voter, are voting for this man without knowing the answers to these questions then you are not merely giving away your vote; you are selling out. You are not voting for the good of the race, for the good of South Carolina, for the good of your children. You are voting because of pigmentation, not policy articulation. You are voting because it makes YOU feel good to have a viable Black candidate. You are voting because YOU want to see a Black man sitting in the Oval Office. It matters not whether or not this is the right Black man, it only matters that it is A Black man.
This is tremendously insulting to African-Americans on a number of levels, not the least of which are the assumptions that we are...
a) A monolithic block of sheep-like drones who all vote the same way for the same reason.
b) The only group of citizens that doesn't take a candidate's character and record into consideration when making voting choices.
and c) Apparently incapable of doing even the simplest of online (or otherwise) research to find the answers to the questions we have of the candidates.
The simplest of Google searches (not to mention just going to Obama's official site) answers his queries...
I'm quite sure the voters of South Carolina have done this and more.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Several Phoenix Latino political leaders publicly endorsed Barack Obama for president Tuesday.
The former members of the Arizona presidential steering committee for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, said Obama's political views on education, health care and immigration will best benefit Arizona's Latino community. Richardson dropped out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.
John Laredo, former Arizona House Minority Leader, said Obama's work against racial profiling and other issues have benefited Latinos.
"His history as a civil rights attorney, in particular his focus on voting rights, his support of the Dream Act - those things are what matters to the Latino community here," he said. "We need someone that's not going to take our vote for granted."
State Rep. Steve Gallardo said Obama's experience addressing the needs of people of color is documented. "Look at what he's done for minorities and Latinos in Illinois," he told Latino voters. "When you look at education, health care, housing and particularly immigration, Obama has been at the forefront."
Former State Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez said because Obama's father was from Kenya, Obama can relate to many Latinos' desire for immigration reform.
"He's the son of an immigrant. There's a worldview - a whole world - captured in that statement that those of us who are immigrants and children of immigrants understand," Gutierrez said.
State Rep. David Lujan said no other candidate could support the Latino community better than Obama, regardless of how much experience they have. Arizona Latinos need someone with a fresh perspective in office, he said.
"It's one thing to have experience. It's another to be able to implement that change," Lujan said.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Clinton vs Obama on CNN: Debunking Hillary's "slum lord" attack.
Bill the Attack Dog: Debunking Bill's attacks on Obama's Iraq war position, alleged strong-arm tactics in Vegas, and comments on Reagan.
The Democratic Party Establishment or What the mainstream media is NOT telling us about Nevada
By Christopher Fung, Ph. D.
There are three basic points to emerge out of the latest media kibbitz-fest.
Firstly, the so-called split between latino voters and black voters. Can I just register here that I am really tired of all this badly-remembered first-year sociology that passes for journalism in this country. So to those so-called commentators I offer the following reminders:
- Latinos are not a monolith. “The” Latino vote doesn’t exist. What is true for conservative upper-middle class Cuban exiles is not true for middle-class Chicanos and neither are good proxies for working class first and second generation Hispanic Americans in northern cities who in turn are very different from formerly rural Mexican citizens employed in the United States legally or otherwise (who by the way, aren’t eligible to vote). The most likely reason people in the media have for trotting out these tired and inaccurate statemetnts about latino/black rivalry is INTELLECTUAL SLOTH (not to mention a certain tolerance for careless sophistry, but we’ll get to that later)
- Granted there are places where black and latino communities see one another as competition, but these are overwhelmingly in areas where both communities are poor and working class and where economic pressures are high. This is generally LESS true in Las Vegas than it is in the working-class neighborhoods of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York city where the most highly-publicized friction - most notably, competition over key economic resources such as relatively well-paying service jobs and most importantly, access to public housing takes place.
- Did anyone bother to look at who was organizing for Hillary amongst “Latinos”? I haven’t checked myself but I’ll lay even money that many of the people who did so are strongly connected to the Democratic Party apparatus in Las Vegas. As the new constituency within the Democratic Party, it’s much more likely that Latinos inside the Democratic machine will follow the party line. African Americans on the other hand have had to endure several decades of Democratic establishment collusion with Southern white supremacists and high capitalists. If the Nevada results showed anything, they showed that blacks are no longer willing to blindly follow the Party leadership.
This brings me to a related point. Why is no-one paying any attention to the respective degrees of support for Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton by the conservative (establishment) faction of the Democratic Party?
My own connections with the Democratic Party in Hawaii lead me to suspect that there is a vicious struggle going on nation-wide between the establishment structure of the Democratic Party which is overwhelmingly pro-Clinton, and the “radical”, “younger” and “more ethnic” segments of the Party who support Edwards, Kucinich and Obama. The old guard have grown fat on the patronage of their centrist DLC-oriented leaders. In Hawaii, this faction have stymied attempts by progressives to move the party away from appeasement and corporatism over several decades now.
The party bosses in Las Vegas would have pulled out the stops for HRC but in the rural areas, and in places where people were freer to make up their own minds, Obama and Edwards together were the preferred candidates.
This election is more than just a rejection of George Bush, Karl Rove and the sons of Gingrich. It’s also a referendum on twenty-odd years of failure by the Democratic Party establishment. The MSM may not understand it, but the old guard definitely does. And that’s why they’ve gone to bat with all the tricks they can muster in support of their candidate. “Mob-handed” is what they call it in Britain, and it’s a pretty apt turn of phrase.
In a way, Hillary doesn’t deserve this. She is probably more towards the progressive wing of the party than her husband on a personal level. BUT, she is and has been for the last four years, the anointed candidate of the DLC. If the Republicans are scared shitless about facing the electorate, the Democratic establishment is as well. We can only expect more quasi-legal tactics and bullying from them as time goes by. Not all branches of the Democratic Party are as notoriously self-serving as the great party machines of Chicago, Boston and New York, but you can bet your bottom dollar they all have vested interests in retaining power in opposition to the progressive forces represented by the “change” candidates.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
There are many things to admire about the New York Times. A complex and nuanced understanding of the vast diversity of Latino America is not among those things.
In a story on page A1 of the Times yesterday, reporters Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Steinhauer stated that Latinos are not going to support Senator Barack Obama in his bid for the White House because, “in Obama’s pursuit of Latinos, race plays a role.” In other words, they said that Latinos would not vote for a black man, and backed it up with nothing other than a couple of anecdotal quotes from random Latinos in Los Angeles.
The sloppy, inaccurate story goes on for 32 agonizing paragraphs, using the terms “black” and “Latino” as though they were mutually exclusive – which they are not. Historians estimate that 95 percent of the African slave trade to the Americas took place in Latin America.
To this day, the vast majority of people in the African diaspora live south of the U.S. border, in Latin American countries from Brazil to Colombia to Cuba and, yes, even Mexico. The song "La Bamba," in fact, was brought to the Veracruz region of Mexico by Africans enslaved to the Spanish. The song likely has roots in the Bembe (Bantu) culture from what is now the Congo. This is only a stone's throw, geographically, from the Kenya of Obama's father's birth.
How quickly we forget in this country. How brutally we refuse to learn.
The New York Times not only ignores completely the African history of Latin America by positioning "blacks" against "Latinos" as if none of us were both. To do so is enormously irresponsible because it dissolves from public consciousness the fact that African slavery was a crime committed all across this hemisphere, by colonial Europeans who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. The story also erroneously portrays Latinos as a race unto themselves - an error egregious enough to be stated in our own census bureau's definition of Hispanic as a person "of any race". Including "black".
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Hillary Clinton carried the day in the statewide Nevada Democratic caucus, but Barack Obama carried Northern Nevada.
Obama's performance in Northern Nevada surprised some political watchers, not because Obama did well but because Clinton did not.
"Hillary Clinton won in Clark County, but she lost virtually everywhere else," said Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno and a registered Republican. "Up here, every precinct that I talked to somebody in, Obama won and won handily. In some precincts it was 2-to-1, and I'm like, holy moly."
In Northern Nevada counties, Obama won in Washoe, Storey, Humboldt, Elko, Pershing, Eureka, White Pine, Churchill, Douglas and Carson City. Clinton won in Nye, Mineral, Lander and Lyon counties.
"That's worrisome if I'm a Democrat," Herzik said. "That means your traditional Democratic core is for Hillary Clinton, and once you get outside of that, there's no love."
John Whitesides writes for Reuters:
Obama, an Illinois senator who is dueling Bill Clinton's wife Hillary for the Democratic presidential nomination, said the former president had made statements about him that were untrue.
"You know the former president, who I think all of us have a lot of regard for, has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling," Obama said in an ABC interview to air on "Good Morning America."
"He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts -- whether it's about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas," he said.
"This has become a habit, and one of the things that we're going to have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he's making statements that are not factually accurate," Obama said.
Bill Clinton has been an active presence on the campaign trail for his wife, a New York senator, and has become increasingly critical of Obama as the rivalry between the two senators has intensified.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Jay Smooth breaks down the reality of American elections and why it's so important to stay true to our convictions all the way through:
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The most amazing thing about the 2008 presidential race is not that a black man is a bona fide contender, but the lukewarm response he has received from the luminaries whose sacrifices made this run possible. With the notable exception of Joseph Lowry, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference veteran who gave a stirring invocation at Obama's Atlanta campaign rally in June and subsequently endorsed him, Obama has been running without much support from many of the most recognizable black figures in the political landscape.
That's because, positioned as he is between the black boomers and the hip-hop generation, Obama is indebted, but not beholden, to the civil rights gerontocracy. A successful Obama candidacy would simultaneously represent a huge leap forward for black America and the death knell for the reign of the civil rights-era leadership -- or at least the illusion of their influence.
Last spring, Al Sharpton cautioned Obama "not to take the black vote for granted." Presumably he meant that the senator had not won over the supposed gatekeepers of the black electorate. Asked why he had not endorsed Obama, Sharpton replied that he would "not be cajoled or intimidated by any candidate." More recently Sharpton claimed on his radio show that the candidates' recent attention to issues of civil rights was a product of pressure from him.
As polls show increasing black support for Obama, Jackson, Sharpton and Young begin to look like a once-wealthy family that has lost its fortune but has to keep spending to maintain appearances. Obama's tepid early showing among blacks in the polls had more to do with name recognition and concerns about his viability as a candidate than with Jackson or Sharpton withholding their endorsement.
Ignoring Sharpton or Jackson is not the same thing as taking the black vote for granted. It is a reasonable calculation that neither of them can deliver many votes and certainly not enough to offset the number of white votes that their approval could lose Obama. Jackson and Sharpton might be holding out for a better deal in exchange for their support, but with Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock among Obama's list of supporters, they have little to bargain with.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
By Kara Owl
Between the lies about "experience" and the distortions about the lack of information about what Obama truly stands for, if you didn't know where to look, you'd never know the truth.
As the televison show once said, the truth is out there, though, and here is a taste.
The truth is, Barack Obama is the candidate with the most practical experience currently running. His 8 years with the Illinois Senate plus his three years with the US Senate trumps both Hillary Clinton's 7 years with the Senate or John Edward's 6 years.
Hillary's claim of 35 years of experience, when examined under a microscope, falls apart. In 1972, she was in law school, and unless she wishes to claim that her experiences in law school were political, that particular claim fails to hold water. She was on the board of Wal-Mart, among others, while her husband was Governor of Arkansas, which would put her in the same position that Dick Cheney resigned to avoid as Vice President.
John Edwards resigned during his first term as a senator to run for president in 2004, and when he failed at his Vice-Presidential bid, began working for the political action committee he founded in 2001. His sum experience as a politician is less than one total term as senator.
The other attack often thrown at the Obama campaign, that he stands for "change" but nothing else, is also an empty one. A simple visit to his website, Barack Obama.com will show you a laundry list of issues with detailed plans to fix the problems inherent in each.
Obama's plan to fix the economy would begin with a tax credit to the working class (including self-employed small business workers), then he would create a universal mortgage credit, expand the earned income tax credit, eliminate income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000, expand the child and dependent care tax credit, and simplify filing of tax returns by giving Americans the option to receive pre-filled tax forms should they desire. And that's just the beginning.
Obama believes that strengthening the economy starts with education-- and his education plan is one that will truly begin at the beginning-- with a Zero to Five plan that he hopes will quadruple the number of children going into Early Head start and he plans to increase funding for Head Start and thus improve the quality of both. He also plans on working to ensure that all children have access to pre-school or some alternative affordable and high quality educational alternative that will ease the burden on families that find it difficult to work and pay for child care at the same time. His goal during his first Presidential term would be to create a Presidential Early Learning Council in order to promote a collaborative program across across federal, state, and local levels.
To Obama, teachers are an invaluable resource that can aid in all of his plans for the economy and education, and he wishes to promote education of current teachers, the development of bright new teachers, and the retention of experienced teacher-mentors with ongoing movements in teacher education, mentoring, and incentives for shared planning and learning time. He would also support service scholarships to recruit and prepare teachers who commit to working in underserved districts, and career pathways that provide ongoing professional development and reward accomplished teachers for their expertise.
Finally, he believes we need to increase our math and science graduates, and encourage our undergraduates studying math and science to pursue graduate studies in order to strengthen our workforce and promote innovation.
This is just scratching the surface of the Obama plan-- a detailed plan for the American people that starts with change that we can all believe in.
Obama gets major labor endorsement in LA- Los Angeles Times
Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz Co-Hosting Fundraiser For Barack Obama - MTV.com
Andrew Sullivan responds to Richard Cohen - The Atlantic.com
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Prof. Melissa Harris-Lacewell weighs in on Steinem, feminism, and the gender/race issue in politics...
Race and Gender in Presidential Politics: A Debate Between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell
In the race for the Democratic nomination, a victory for either Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama—as the first woman or African American Democratic nominee—would be unprecedented in U.S. history. We host a discussion on race and gender politics with feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem and Princeton University Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell.
Transcript is here.
Monday, January 14, 2008
By Christopher Fung, Ph.D.
It's not news to anyone who's been paying attention to US politics for the last 20 years, but one of the things that the Democrats appear not to understand (and why Republicans since Reagan have been caning the Democrats in national elections up until very recently) is the crucial difference between policy and personality.
For those of us who saw Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" one of the most striking things was the way in which Al Gore as a person came across: wonky sure but also immensely concerned, human and competent. Some reviewers actually went so far as to dub the movie an extended commercial for a possible Gore run at the presidency for 2008. Of course they were wrong, but the point is well made: The Al Gore of "An Inconvenient Truth" was light-years away from Al Gore, Presidential Candidate of 2000 in terms of that elusive but gold-standard term in American politics: likeability. Had Al Gore of 2005 run in 2000 he wouldn't have needed Gore v. Bush to adjudicate the outcome of the election. But of course, this didn't happen. Not because Al Gore the man was different, but because he came across in a more humane and emotionally intelligent way from the focus-grouped middle manager he appeared to be in the 2000 election. Similar arguments can be made about John Kerry in 2004 and are also true for Hillary Rodham Clinton in this election cycle.
It's no accident that the only Democrat to break through the Republican lock on the White House was a man who had immense personal charisma. While Bill Clinton may not have been the "first black president" as some of his boosters have designated him, he was certainly a man who understood image and charm. He connected with people on an emotional level. Whether genuinely or not, George W. Bush was able to do this for enough people to give him the election in 2004 and enough votes to get appointed to office by the Supreme Court in 2000.
THe United States in the late 20th-early 21st century is a nation that has increasingly sought to define itself primarily in personal terms. Social issues are now understood in terms of the ways they affect people personally, your health status is now in the hands of personal trainers, your understanding of the world is defined more and more narrowly by commercial culture, and by the purveyors of folk libertarianism in terms of personal wants and interests. These have even become seen as the engines of evolution via the intellectually problematic, but highly popular rise of evolutionary psychology and radical human sociobiology.
In this kind of terrain, a policy wonk is a candidate with one hand tied behind his or her back. While some of us do pay attention to the issues, it's clear that for many people in the electorate, "the issues" are way too abstract and way too "intellectual" for easy emotional comprehension. And whether we like it or not, emotional comprehension is the actual battleground on which politics is fought in this country.
I'm no great fan of this development. Believe me. As David Edwards says in "Burning all illusions", the primacy of emotionality as the dominant way of thinking about the world has lead to huge levels of self-delusion and consequently our complicity in many, many terrible things. But since this is where people actually are, it would be foolish to act as if people really were better than they are at this specific moment in time. If you want to reach people with a progressive agenda you have to realize that many people will not recognize the merits of the argument on their own because their whole lives have been oriented in exactly the opposite direction for so long that envy, fear, malevolence and ultra-competitiveness have become expected and to some extent "normal".
Barack Obama is important because he has good ideas but he's even more important because he is the one candidate who is able to engage uncommitted American voters on emotional grounds and bring them over to his side. While John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich may have more progressive policies, they are not able to close the deal emotionally with the electorate. And while I like the idea of a woman as president, I have grave doubts over whether Hillary would be a progressive president because she is unable and unwilling to break out of the corporate-driven strategies of the Clinton 42 presidency.
Obama projects interest, he projects vision and he projects a determination to do well by the people he is talking to. HRC may well have many of the same personal qualities but she isn't able to embody those qualities in the same way that Barack Obama can.
This argument is not meant to apply to everyone. It will not work for those who are fully-committed to white supremacy or to robber-capitalism. It does not need to work for real progressives who already understand the importance of a candidate like Barack Obama. But it is VITALLY important to reach those people in the middle who have a vague inkling that something is wrong but have no idea how to go about dismantling the problematic parts of our collective heritage for fear that they would end up losing what small gains they feel they have been able to make.
Enough of these people voted with the wingnut base to give George W. Bush the election in 2004. But rather than adopting Republican-lite policies a la Joe Lieberman and the Democratic Leadership Council, what progressives should be doing is connecting the powerful messages of progressive politics to an emotionally authentic person.
That person is Barack Obama. He has the ability to connect to the folks in the middle, and just possibly convince them that they CAN have prosperity and justice at the same time. It's the emotional possibility of the goal that needs to be worked, not the philosophical righteousness of the position, or the "electability" analyses of the cowering, timorous (and well-paid) corporate shills of the current Democratic establishment.
Twenty-five years ago Ronald Reagan was the focal point of a turning point rightwards in US politics. It's about time true progressives learned to put his tactics to their own uses.
Contributed by Paul Collins
During the New Hampshire debates, Barack Obama warned that we should not underestimate the power of words.
He was clearly referring to their positive effect but the Clintons, ironically, have illustrated Obama's point on the negative end of the spectrum.
As Laura Washington writes in the Chicago Sun-Times:
Their words raised hackles. Apologies followed. We like this Obama guy, they said. We meant no harm, they said. We were misunderstood, they said.
They may have meant one thing. But many will hear something else.
Obama is "the other." He is dangerous. He is hustling, criminal, back-alley black man.
Racial code words are not new to American politics. The Rev. Jesse Jackson joked about "Hymietown." George H.W. Bush trotted out Willie Horton. A campaign ad starred a Playboy-esque blond bombshell beckoning to Senate candidate Harold Ford. George Allen had his "macaca" moment.
This campaign must be different. Hillary Clinton's stunning New Hampshire upset last week came courtesy of her overactive tear ducts, the pundits say.
Obama had just beat Clinton --badly -- in Iowa. She is tired, defeated, maybe afraid.
At a New Hampshire coffee shop, a woman asked if she was OK. Clinton teared up, her voice quavered: "I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backward," she replied. "This is very personal for me -- it's not just political, it's not just public."
Listen to the words. "I just don't want to see us fall backward." Backward to what?
To that black man. That black man who beat Hillary. That black man who made the white woman cry.
White New Hampshire voters came to her rescue. Poor Hillary. Don't worry -- we will protect you. We will save you.
Our racial wounds are deep, their impact subliminal. Words have consequences. In these sensitive times, they can activate our most unconscious fears and tap the deepest recesses of our ugly history. Every black man in America knows it. Especially Barack Obama.
Listen to the words.
Listen to the words indeed.
The Clintons have spent the past week backpedaling.
Attempting to clean up the mess they made with black voters because of their words.
Beginning with Bill Clinton's tirade at a rally for Hillary in New Hampshire.
Frank James, reporting for The Chicago Tribune, provides the transcript of Bill's rant (along with the oft-replayed video clip):
"But since you raised the judgment issue, let's go over this again. That is the central argument for his campaign. 'It doesn't matter that I started running for president less a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois State Senate. I am a great speaker and a charismatic figure and I'm the only one who had the judgment to oppose this war from the beginning. Always, always, always.' "
"First it is factually not true that everybody that supported that resolution supported Bush attacking Iraq before the UN inspectors were through. Chuck Hagel was one of the co-authors of that resolution. The only Republican Senator that always opposed the war. Every day from the get-go. He authored the resolution to say that Bush could go to war only if they didn't co-operate with the inspectors and he was assured personally by Condi Rice as many of the other Senators were. So, first the case is wrong that way."
"Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, numerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say, that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you're now running on off your website in 2004 and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?' Give me a break.
"This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen...So you can talk about Mark Penn all you want. What did you think about the Obama thing calling Hillary the Senator from Punjab? Did you like that?"
"Or what about the Obama hand out that was covered up, the press never reported on, implying that I was a crook? Scouring me, scathing criticism, over my financial reports. Ken Starr spent $70 million and indicted innocent people to find out that I wouldn't take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon.
"So, you can take a shot at Mark Penn if you want. It wasn't his best day. He was hurt, he felt badly that we didn't do better in Iowa. But you know, the idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months, is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that's in the media, doesn't mean the facts aren't out there.
"Otherwise I do not have any strong feelings about that subject."
While Clinton's point was to distort the truth about Obama's opposition to the Iraq war (The Chicago Tribune also provides video of Obama's response to Bill Clinton, setting the record straight), the outburst had the more immediate consequence of appearing to suggest that Barack Obama's entire campaign was a "Fairy tale".
There's a great gem at the end of James' article that draws a comparison to another one of Bill Clinton's famous finger-pointing tirades:
Another problem: when he gets angry as he did Monday night, he reminds people of some of the worst moments of his presidency, especially the infamous, finger wagging performance when he asserted that he didn't have a relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
That's poison for the New York senator's campaign. The downside of the Clinton years and the specter of a repeat of such messy drama in another Clinton White House is what makes many voters reluctant about voting for the senator.
Next came Hillary's poorly worded and altogether ill-advised statement about the roll of President Lyndon Johnson in making the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a reality.
"I would point to the fact that that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done. That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became a reality in peoples lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it, and actually got it accomplished."
There is a general sense, from both black leaders, and the black community at large, that these remarks appear to diminish the role of Dr. King in the struggle for civil rights, while elevating that of President Johnson.
In both cases, the Clintons have attempted to falsely accuse Barack Obama's campaign for allegedly taking the quotes out of context and putting a negative racial spin on them.
A claim that Obama himself has consistently and truthfully refuted:
"This is fascinating to me. I mean I think what we saw this morning is why the American people are tired of Washington politicians and the games they play. But Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn’t make the statement. I haven’t remarked on it, and she I think offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King’s role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act.
"She is free to explain that, but the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous. I have to point out that instead of telling the American people about her positive vision for America, Senator Clinton spent an hour talking about me and my record in a way that was flat out wrong.
"She suggested that I didn’t clearly and unambiguously oppose the war in Iraq when it is absolutely clear and anyone who has followed this knows that I did. I stood up against the war when she was voting for it, at a time when she didn’t read the intelligence reports or give diplomacy a chance. She belittled the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate despite the fact that she stood on the sidelines during that negotiations on that bill.
"I have to say that she started this campaign saying that she wanted to make history and lately she has been spending a lot of time rewriting it. I know that in Washington it is acceptable to say or do anything it takes to get elected but I really don’t think that is the kind of politics that is good for our party and I don’t think it is good for our country and I think that the American people will reject it in this election."
Indeed, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn (among others) rebuked the Clintons for their remarks on his own accord (and with good reason).
As reported by Carl Hulse for The New York Times:
Mr. Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement and a power in state Democratic politics, put himself on the sidelines more than a year ago to help secure an early primary for South Carolina, saying he wanted to encourage all candidates to take part. But he said recent remarks by the Clintons that he saw as distorting civil rights history could change his mind.
“We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics,” said Mr. Clyburn, who was shaped by his searing experiences as a youth in the segregated South and his own activism in those days. “It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.”
Clyburn continued to keep the heat on the Clintons by releasing an additional statement the following day:
“There are many things I have fought for in my life, and first and foremost is my belief that every man, woman and child should be given an equal opportunity to succeed. That is my guiding principal in the upcoming South Carolina Democratic Presidential primary. I told the DNC, the South Carolina Democratic Party and the South Carolina General Assembly that I would do everything I could to ensure this first in the South primary is a success. My position and my focus remain the same, and I have conveyed that to the campaigns of Senators Obama, Clinton and Edwards.
“I encourage the candidates to be sensitive about the words they use. This is an historic race for America to have such strong, diverse candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. I want what is best for South Carolina and the nation – a successful South Carolina primary and a strong Democratic nominee.”
All this is to say that the real "fairy tale" here is the Clintons' belief that they can say and do whatever they wish without paying the price.
Hillary Clinton has learned a hard lesson about the power of words. One that will impact her standings among black voters, not just in South Carolina, but all across the U.S.
Obama currently outpaces her in polls of black voters nationally by enormous margins.