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25.5.08

On her part

Mikkel has some interesting arguments about the Hilary/Obama catfight a few posts down.
All I'm saying is: Hillary Clinton is not out of the race yet, even if she's been written off by a bunch of people a bunch of times. I think that's a wise decision on her part. The longer she holds out, the better for her.

This is not politics, it's American politics. Those people aren't candidates, they're competing consumer brands backed by investor groups. Anything could happen. Some nutcase could attempt an assassination, some scandal could emerge, fanatic muslims or christian survivalists could blow something up, there could be an earthquake. Any one of a dozen more or less likely scenarios could rip the carpet away from under the undoubtedly very talented and charismatic Mr. Obama and his campaign to become the most powerful man on earth.

Is she hoping for an assassination attempt or something of that sort? I don't think so - I think she's holding out for some sort of deal. But is she prepared to exploit that eventuality? Definitely! And she should. It's not a game of scrabble.

Personally, I think they're both pretty bad candidates for the most influential job on the planet. No matter who wins we will grow to hate them in the next five to nine years, as America continues to play the part of the obese schoolyard bully. Will the Israeli occupation of Palestine have ended in nine years? No. Will America commit itself to ending world hunger and saving the environment? No. Will American war criminals be tried and sentenced by an international tribunal? No.

There will be no real change, not from within America. Not by either one of these two candidates. But let's see them fight it out to the end before we call a winner.
To which I gave a long and slightly rambly reply:
No, Mikkel, I think you're wrong on several counts.

First off, if she is counting on scandals and assasinations, she should get out. If she has decided that barring extraordinary events she is going to lose, then she should back out gracefully and allow the candidate to concentrate on his opponent. That’s what she is supposed to do in this process.

Second, one of the things that makes Obama's campaign interesting is that he has managed to reduce the amount of corporate money flowing into his campaign – he doesn't take money from federal lobbyist organisations – and is largely running on small donations made by private individuals. Though nobody escapes corporate money now (given through private donations) without substantial election finance reform, he is probably the most populist campaign in recent US history to have gotten this far with this little corporate money. Edwards would have been more in the populist vein, maybe, but he couldn't raise the money or the enthusiasm. I think a race between Obama and Edwards would have been a far more interesting one than the one we have now.

But I think we should put the notion that they are both "consumer brands backed by investor groups" to rest. They are, as you point out, American politicians. And they are "real" candidates. I think one of them is a lot more "real" than the other, and would prefer him as the candidate no matter which half-black male candidate wins the nomination. What I mean by real is that I think Obama is more flexible, more genuinely concerned with the lives of other people, and that he has a greater sense of moral decency which, while it sounds like a cheap campaign slogan, is actually something I’d really like the world’s most powerful man to have.

But more importantly, I think your pessimism is unneccesary. As we have so often discussed with regards to Norwegian politics, Mikkel, things change slowly. The electoral process is like swimming through syrup. There's probably some metaphor about the ship of state and the rudder and how slow it turns (especially in syrup), but it escapes me. The point is: in Norway, some people on our political wing feel that we should take the all-or-nothing-at-all approach to politics, and these people are, I think, a political problem, because they are standing in the way of real change. I know you agree with me on this, at least partially.

I think a Democratic president, no matter which one of the candidates he is, will be turning the ship in the right direction. It will drift slowly in a better direction. And maybe the next president along, in eight years, will be able to take it even further.

So I hope you understand why I am feeling optimistic. I know that Obama is leagues to the right of where I am. I know that he probably isn't going to be doing anything effective about Palestine (though I believe he is the candidate with the most potential to learn that he is doing something wrong while in office), that he will be doing too little on world hunger and climate change, and that the US war criminals who have been running the country for eight years will most likely go free.

But though I agree with you that Israel and Palestine are still going to be a huge problem, the rest of the questions you invoke are also good signposts for what kind of difference an Obama presidency can make:

Obama supports the International Criminal Court. He does so very, very quietly. But he does. Google Obama international criminal court. If he does ratify the ICC treaty, then that means that American war criminals can and should be tried there.

Obama will also actually, good grief, ratify Kyoto. And with Schwarzenegger going green in California, we might actually start to see something happening on climate change. Not enough, but more than nothing (the McCain position). And I'm sure that Obama will offer Al Gore or someone like him a new cabinet post as secretary of the environment or something like that. And while Al Gore isn't perfect either (he did do some _really_ stupid things when they were drafting Kyoto), Obama, possibly with Gore just leagues better than what is happening now. On these issues, Obama will be backed by the most left-and centre-oriented congress in decades.

The idea that who is president in the US doesn’t mean anything died with the Bush presidency. Can you imagine how much better the world would have been had the chads been hanging slightly differently? It wouldn’t have been perfect, but there is not a single doubt in my mind that it would have been a vastly better place.

My point is this: while Obama is still far to our right (the right-wing intelligentsia here in Oslo are big Obama supporters), and is not the president _we_ want in the US, he is the president we are, I hope, going to get. It's not who we want, but it's the best of what we have. Not the best of all positive worlds, but the world we have. Despite all the campaign slogans, he does represent actual change for the better. After 8 years of the Bush nightmare, we might actually see positive development in US politics. Better economy, better education, stronger federal control. That is, contrary to what you are saying, real change. With some luck, the US might start to undo the damage of the Bush presidency next January.
One thing I forgot to say in my reply is that I think Mikkel is right that it's a wise decision on her part to stay in the race.

This is precisely my point. It is a rational decision on her part. She is maximising her potential for achieving the presidency, even though she knows she has been beaten, barring unlikely historical contingencies.

But she is making a bad decision for her party, and for the left wing of US politics.

I don't want a president who puts her own rational acts above the collective good. That is not what leadership is all about. I expect a leader to sacrifice herself for the greater good.

5 Comments:

Blogger Mikkel said...

"If you tread the path of demons, tread it in the most cruel, most hideous manner. If you build a mountain of corpses, build it to the sky. If you shed blood, let it run like a river. "

I'm off to work now, but I'll definitely come back to this.

May 25, 2008 1:48 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

First of all, let's put this in context: Like a whole bunch of people, you favour Obama over Clinton. Like a whole bunch of people, you have predicted the undoing and defeat of the Clinton campaign for some time. And for some time you have been proven wrong. Along with a whole bunch of people.

Unlike you I don't support either candidate. I find that choosing between them is like choosing between drinking a glass of piss (Obama) and a glass of blood (Clinton). If you press me, however, I will choose the blood. And while I will agree wholeheartedly that the only thing keeping the Clinton campaign afloat at this time is the pure tenacity and willpower of Hillary Clinton herself, I fail to see how those traits make her unsuited for the U.S. presidency. Quite the contrary.

Also, I hope you don't seriously believe she's keeping her fingers crossed for an assassination on Obama, because that is so obviously just not the case.

Now, saying that Mr. Obama is a "real politician" instead of a product, simply because he has "reduced the amount of corporate money flowing into his campaign", is like saying that Albert Speer was OK because he wasn't a convinced anti-Semite, even if he was a member of the nazi party. Mr. Obama is undoubtedly a product. It says Change on the package, but if you read the list of ingredients, you'll see that the product contains mostly The same. And that's what we'll get for four to eight years no matter what you say he "quietly endorses". I really fail to see what's so great about him. I think your trust in him is completely misplaced. You see him as flexible, I see him as slippery. If he had the level of moral decency you claim, he should have addressed the very real issue of American racism in a less, well, slippery way. He's had more than ample opportunity. I'm not saying he's an oreo, but in my view he's black like Oprah - whose endorsement he so happily embraced.

You may find that my pessimism is unnecessary (as I find your optimism, at the very least, naïve), but I have never said it didn't matter who's in the white house. Any one of the two democratic candidates is far better than McCain (drinking a glass of sulphur). If the Democratic Party has actually suffered from the almost undivided media attention, as the Obama camp claims, still remains to be seen.

I will agree that a good leader should have the collective good in mind, if not sacrifice herself for it - that's a bit drastic, isn't it? But to suggest that Hillary Clinton is somehow obligated to "step down gracefully" for the good of the Democratic Party (or "the left wing of U.S. politics" (?!) as you call it), is just empty Obama camp rhetoric. Clinton, like Obama, has only one obligation: The obligation to champion the political beliefs of the people who have put their trust in her: Not you, not senator Obama, not the media, not the Democratic Party, not the citizens of the United States of America: Just her voters.

No one else.

Now if you Obama stooges could stop whining about it, that would be nice. Because it hurts my ears.

^_^

May 26, 2008 1:21 am  
Blogger anon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 26, 2008 9:06 pm  
Blogger anon said...

.. and now over to Fox News and Liz Trotta

May 26, 2008 9:11 pm  
Blogger anon said...

... and The New York Times (Bob Herbert): "A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 6 in 10 Americans said that they were worried that someone would try to harm Senator Obama if he became the Democratic nominee. More than 8 in 10 African-Americans expressed fear for his safety."

May 27, 2008 9:17 pm  

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