I get it why this sort of thing makes good people excited after so many years of destruction and despair, but, honestly, will Americans never tire of returning to the bloody well of self-congratulatory celebration of their "can do" spirit? Do we need yet another survey of what American Empire does when it gets in its head that it needs to save the world, unsolicited, and on its own terms?
A couple of days ago I indicated the hesitant shift of my support from the fatally-eclipsed Edwards campaign to the endlessly-dawning Obama one. In making this choice, I am pinning my hopes on the creative collaborative energies of his many good and hopeful supporters -- who seem to me far more progressive and principled and feisty than the candidate who inspires them.
But it is obvious I feel ambivalence about Obama that I never felt for the righteous (but far from perfect) John Edwards. And as I said, my partner and I have split our allegiances cordially between Obama and Clinton where once we were united, so there's ambivalence all over my household these days.
Actually, ambivalence is a blander word than the worry I feel.
Here is an assertion from a LiveJournal post by Roz, that I found via a link over at Lance Mannion's blog. It names much of my worry very succinctly: A Clinton Presidency is going to be unexciting, not especially idealistic and only better by comparison with Bush. But it will break no one's hearts.
It goes without saying, actually, that since this is an American Presidency we're talking about, even a tired technocratic one would deal death and destruction across the globe, even if it weren't in the corporatist-militarist mode Clinton seems too eager to embrace as her husband -- probably the best Republican President of the twentieth century, whatever his official Party designation -- did before her. So, one can be sure that Clinton would preside over many a literally broken heart. But I fully get Roz's point, which is a different one. Here's how I would put my own spin on it:
If what finally determines my support of Obama over Clinton is my excitement about the inspiring provocation of people-powered progressive politics of his supporters, it is important to consider whether the damage to that energy from "betrayal" by an Obama Presidency that failed to live up to their ideals and expectations, perhaps rather dramatically, would be greater or less than the damage done to it by a comparably compromised and corporatist Clinton Presidency few expected more from in the first place?
Here is a bit more of the tail end of Roz's post (follow the link for the whole fine thing), in much of which I feel she is speaking my mind for me, although not changing my mind much, ambivalent as I already am feeling about the whole thing:
I have known idealists who went stale, and I have seen people who evoked mass enthusiasm in spite of not being nearly as good as their fans thought, and I have known machine politicians who worked hard for the common good.
I don't know what to think about the American elections -- a black President would be a good thing, and so would a woman President.
What I do know is that a husband and wife team is not a dynasty, and that people whose supporters go on and on inaccurately about dynastic politics should not be seeking out the endorsement of actual dynasts. Ted Kennedy is an admirable man whose opinion I respect -- but not when he is acting as part of a dynasty rather than as a distinguished senator. Caroline Kennedy is wholly and solely a member of a dynasty, and her endorsement of Obama is a dynastic one.
'A President like my father' -- by which I take it we are not supposed to understand a man who will nearly cause nuclear holocaust, who will get the US into another disastrous war, who will stand aside from important social causes.
I think better of Obama than that he is the over-rated JFK's natural heir.
What I do think is that I would rather have a battered pragmatic public servant than an untried personable spinner of wonderful empty words; I see the idealism that has focussed on him and I remember how many of my friends had real hope from Blair as opposed to voting for him because it was important to get the Tories out.
A Clinton Presidency is going to be unexciting, not especially idealistic and only better by comparison with Bush. But it will break no one's hearts.
I look at my friends list and see a lot of wonderful ideals and I worry that Obama will break your hearts if he attains power.
I hope that I am wrong.
As an interesting complement and perhaps slight corrective to some of the above, I also resonated with Ralph Nader's (of all people) comments about Obama in a discussion with Amy Goodman over at Democracy Now! a couple of days ago:
RALPH NADER: My assessment of Barack Obama is that he knows what the score is in terms of the maldistribution of power. He knows what he has said in the past about the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the need for Palestinian rights and a two-state solution. He knows that this war was a criminal war in Iraq and we’ve got to get out of it in a responsible, expeditious manner. He knows that corporations have too much power over workers and consumers and small taxpayers and elections and the government.
But when you watch him, he stays at a very high plain of generality and abstraction about change, and we’re one nation, and we’re one people. And that may sing with the desire of people to feel like they’re part of a unity, but it doesn’t do much for the productivity of the political dialogue. He does not get specific enough. Therefore, I think his main problem is he’s censoring himself, and that is not sufficiently rationalized by saying that’s just a tactic to win the primaries and get elected. After a while, day after day, week after week, when you self-censor yourself, you become a different person, and it’s a reflection on character.
This seems to me a necessary corrective to the many people who keep telling me Obama is better than his current rhetoric suggests, and that I must trust he won't be a corporatist triangulator once he is in the White House, whatever his willingness to take up or at any rate dog-whistle tired right wing frames about social security privatization, Harry and Louise-style socialized medicine baiting, cozying up to wouldbe "curers" of homosexuality, and so on. Of course, even if he were such a figure (as I rather wearily suspect he would be) this would not provide much of a contrast with Clinton as far as I can see, and so, again, it is the world-changing energy of his supporters as against Clinton's that justifies my endorsement of Obama... even as I worry on top of everything else that too much of this very energy is awfully shallow and narcissistic and may not long survive the inevitable heartbreak of Presidential "pragmatism" when it comes.
God, I miss John Edwards.