Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Primary Day

marjorie says...

There are things I like and dislike about both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

I like how incredibly tough and confident Hillary Clinton is. Many people would have crumbled after the crap thrown in her direction over the past two decades, but like my sister said, Hillary is almost to the finish line. I like Obama’s freshness and his calm earnestness. They are both smart as heck. They would each bring different strengths, perhaps not performing as well as the other in one place while excelling in another. Both have bags full of policy prescriptions that I like for domestic maladies that plague us and both preach the green economy mantra.

I dislike that both are neoliberals. There are trade agreements, and then there is a neoliberal approach through the WTO. It’s in this latter more general area that you can clearly see their orientation in this regard, which explains why the extensive list of their corporate funders looks the way that it does. They both move to the right on certain touchstone issues, such as immigration. Obama might be a hair less centrist right on this issue, but that is hardly an endorsement.

They will for the most part be business as usual on the foreign policy front, and surely both will beat the Republicans hands down when it comes to diplomacy. Obama has indicated he would be more willing to turn a new leaf with people such as Hugo Chavez, which is something we need. We need to keep our door open for the possibility of rapprochement, as a rule, and hawkish mentalities often get in the way of that. Clinton has chosen to run as more of a hawk so with peace-yearning Dems she's taken a big gamble.

Speaking of hawks, in all the rhetoric about getting back to being a peace-loving nation, people seem to forget that we are war-mongers and always have been. Yes, our attack on Iraq (which began with Bush Sr.) is outrageous. But so were the Central American wars of the 80s (pre-dated horrifically by the Guatemala coup of the 50s), the assassination of Allende in the 70s, the invasion of Vietnam in the 60s, our meddling in Iran in the 50s (talk about chickens coming home to roost), and these are just the highlights. The list of our interventions, both overt and covert, is pretty extensive. With all our focus on Iraq, which I completely agree is a major crisis, we shouldn’t forget our less understood role in bolstering oppressive regimes the world over. The U.S. President is part of the political system that keeps our military industrial complex in place, and Obama would not change this as President. But I agree that he would most likely be less hawkish than Clinton. Is this the best I can ultimately hope for? An American president who is “less hawkish”? I think so…

One of my co-workers the other day asked me, in the face of my pretty entrenched structural perspective about U.S. government, “when does it change?” This is a good question. A more perennial one perhaps, is: does it happen through presidential elections?

But despite my highly critical view of U.S. government and our role in the world, this particular election has caught my attention more than most presidential elections do. When it comes to unifying the nation, I don’t think Obama has some kind of miraculous ability to neutralize the Republicans or the rightwing in general. And I think Clinton has demonstrated she can work with Republicans in the Senate quite well. Presidential candidates run on this theme every time, and then business continues apace in D.C. I like Hillary and I think she is being overly villainized by too many among progressive circles during this primary. But aside from the hype, I can see why Obama engenders a feeling of “hope” among people. He’s in many ways an unknown entity; that combined with his intelligence and his rhetoric of change make it easy to be hopeful. I have a pretty good sense of where Clinton would take us. With Obama, I can be open-minded much more easily. And I’ve always been a day-dreamer.

I want to touch on one of the themes we keep hearing in this election, which is that race and gender don’t matter. Well, this is not true. They do matter. And it’s interesting to me that many of the people who act out of the belief that they matter throughout the course of their daily lives, year in and year out, are now saying that identity doesn’t matter. If these two were white men all else held equal, I don’t believe we’d see half as much fervor about which we are going to vote for today. It’s not invalid to include identity in your decision making process when it comes to candidates such as these. Indeed, for me it’s an important consideration that is all wrapped up together in a complex little knot of a decision.

I’m very pleased with the Democratic Party for providing a slate that included these two, plus Bill Richardson and a liberal John Edwards. I hope this trend toward diversity continues. Regardless of which of the final contenders wins the primary, they’ll have a tough general election on their hands. As we’ve seen time and again the Republican juggernaut can't be taken for granted. When it’s all said and done and if the Democrat wins, this doesn’t end in November. We’ll have to work harder to hold them accountable, because we are easily co-opted. If there’s any political lesson from the 90s for me, it’s that one. On that note, I guess I will go vote today. After all, this is the reason I registered as a Democrat in the first place.