Lambert endorses Hillary
[I have dear friends who will vehemently disagree with me about this. But so be it; I have to make a choice!]
Now that Edwards is out of the race I find myself, like VastLeft, surprised, even chagrined, to find myself endorsing Hillary. But there it is. I wish this could be something other than a rambling, impressionistic post, but heck: Maybe that's how we all make decisions anyhow.
My bottom line is this:
I feel that I know Hillary. For all her faults, I know her.
I want to entrust the very challenging future of our country to someone I know. Simple as that.
I don't feel that I know Obama, and the more I learn about him, the less I like.
When I think about Hillary, I think of incredible discipline, focus, courage, and endurance in the face of constant, manufactured hatred by the same people and institutions who are also assaulting our Constitutional form of government. Her ability to "work every day" in the face of all that tells me a lot--and maybe all I need to know--about her strength of character.
When I think about Obama, I think of great oratorical gifts combined with a cool--perhaps even a chilly--intelligence; a man who is a little detached; a man who has risen very far, very fast, but whose achievements are much more potential than actual. I also see a man who hasn't really been tested: He hasn't lost a child, like the Edwards; or had marital difficulties, like the Clintons; or served in the military and been tortured, like McCain.
And needless to say, Obama hasn't been tested in the arena like Hillary has. Not yet.
So, if I ask myself what personal qualities I want in a candidate--especially if things are going to get as bad as I think they are--then discipline, focus, courage, and endurance weigh a lot more heavily in the scales for me than oratory, intelligence, and great (though untested) potential.
If this were 1960, it might make sense to elect a JFK (though, in retrospect, Camelot was never Camelot). But it isn't 1960. It's more like 1929. I want someone who believes in government, who wants to make government work for us, who enjoys making government work, and that can only be Hillary.
Now, I originally started out in "we've got three good candidates" mode, and didn't see much difference between Hillary, Obama, and Edwards. Then I began to get the Edwards message about overweening corporate power; it seemed to me, still seems to me, that if you can't state the problem clearly, you'll never come to a solution.
But I also looked at Obama, and the more I saw, the less I liked. What drove me away was his language* (and language is one of the things that Corrente is all about: Inventing language, critiquing languge, propagating language, listening for language). I say "drove me away" quite deliberately: From Iowa onward, Obama sent dogwhistle after dogwhistle to tell me that he didn't really want my vote--or those of people like me, despite all the fine talk about Unity. Obama dogwhistled Social Security "in play" when he didn't have to, muddied the waters on privatization, and never unmuddied them. His economic advisors dogwhistled tax cuts as a panacea, another Conservative talking point. I suppose, these days, it's necessary for politicians to pimp their faithiness, so I don't hold that against Obama (much), but a dogwhistle like sharing the same stage with gay-hating Donnie McClurkin hurts my ears. And now Obama's dogwhistling the right again by recycling the same Harry & Louise ad that helped destroy universal health care under Clinton (and butchering his own plan, too.) And each dogwhistle has been followed, as the night the day, by another round of What Obama Really Meant. Send the dogwhistle; issue the clarification. We know the drill. I finally decided that the true meaning of Obama's rightward slide was the simplest; he's not dogwhistling to me because he doesn't think he needs my support and doesn't want it, probably because progressives, being policy driven, aren't especially malleable.** Obama's appealing to the right by using right wing talking points because he intends to win and govern from the center right. And he's excluding me and mine because we'd only get in his way. Obama just won't be that progressive. Or that much of a Democrat.
But even leaving aside the right wing talking points, what really frosts me about Obama's language is the vacuous buzzwords--buzzwords that have all the depth of a ringtone and which, when examined, turn out to be either morally corrupt or intellectually dishonest. Take Unity--please. Unity for what? Yes, we can what? What can Unity possibly mean in practice except continuing to give the same party that turned us into a nation of torturers and is still busily trying to destroy the Constitution veto power over all our policies? That's immoral. What we ought to be hoping for is that Republicans face justice, that their brand is destroyed for a generation. We shouldn't be re-legitimizing them after they've done so much to delegitimize themselves. Or take Transformational, which seems to be replacing Unity, now that it's worn out. Transform to what? Is the idea that America's first woman President wouldn't be (somehow) transformational? If so, that's intellectually dishonest.
Finally, a word about the OFB. I've seen the point made that it's not fair to judge a candidate by their supporters, and indeed there are (no doubt) many Obama supporters who have thoughtfully considered their choice*** (and are not leaping onto the bandwagon because everybody loves a winner). In fact, the reverse is true. It was highly relevant information about Bush that his supporters ("the base") were Christianist lunatics who believed that God was in the White House. Similarly, it's quite relevant that the OFB -- having matured in an environment where full spectrum dominance by right wing media was the unquestioned norm -- are quite comfortable with right wing talking points like "trial lawyers," private accounts for Social Security, virulent Clinton hatred. (I hadn't thought of TravelGate, a ginned up pseudo-scandal if ever there was one, in years; until, in fact, the OFB recalled me to it.) Right wing talking points are, as they were designed and paid for to be, poison pills for progressive policies. Surely, therefore, the OFB would be a drag on whatever progressive policies, if any, Obama sought to adopt?****
So, in summary, I think Hillary's a known quantity and I trust her to do the best job possible in hard times. I think Obama's not tested, and he's lost my trust with his right wing dogwhistles. (On policy, putting Social Security in play, and coming out with a poorly conceived health care policy didn't help either.)
He hasn't asked for my vote, so he's not getting it.
[Some notes on the Iraq, Endorsements, and our famously free press in follow in Appendices.]
NOTE * In other words, the very thing Rove would attack, since oratory is Obama's strength. You know, we've been able to come up with some reasonable attacks on this blog, with no money at all and in our spare time, though I say it. I shudder to think what a well-funded Republican attack machine could do. If there's anything we've learned from the dominance of the Conservative Movement, it's that language is the terrain on which political battles are fought, and that--as Orwell knew, a corrupt language means a corrupt polity.
NOTE ** It's the same deal with Obama not working with the netroots, and building his own Internet organization; which was itself built by wresting control of of a MySpace page built by a genuine fan and putting it under the control of the campaign. The OFB should reflect, if they could reflect, on the chilly intelligence at work there.
NOTE *** Without resorting to the functional equivalent of a farcical aquatic ceremony.
NOTE **** It also really bugs me that after both NH and NV the OFB eagerly attempted to delegitimize an election result with baseless charges. That is extremely short-sighted, bad for the party, and bad for the country, because it poisons the well for the general, where we have hard evidence that in both 2000 and 2004 the Republicans engaged in wholesale theft, and there’s no reason to believe that it’s not in their playbook still.
ON METHODOLOGY: I don't worry about the candidates' web sites or position papers, because in a year, nobody will remember them. Please don't paste material from such into the comments section. I focus on the talking points and the rhetoric--anything with a transcript or a YouTube--because in a year, or ten years, that's what people will remember. "Read my lips; no new taxes." "It's the economy, stupid." "Compassionate conservatism." It's the talking points and the rhetoric that lead to the mandate, not the position papers.
Appendix I Iraq
I know that for many people, the defining issue is Iraq, and that issue made me hesitate for a long time, since I wasn't sure how it weighed in the balance. This is where I finally came down.
First, the election is about the future, not the past. I don't think Hillary's going to get us into a second Iraq (Kyl-Lieberman notwithstanding), and I think she's going to get us out as fast as she can. I don't think Obama is going to be able to do any better, and--especially when you take into account his desire for Unity and conciliation--might very well do worse.
Second, I think Obama is getting way too much mileage out of a speech he gave in 2002, at the state level, when he had no skin in the game. I'm glad he made the speech, but it's a form of "cheap grace" to stand up for the right thing when there's no political cost to doing so. I'd be a lot more impressed by the 2002 speech if Obama had used Senate Foreign Relations subcommitee chairmanship as a bully pulpit on Afghanistan and Iraq. He did nothing.
If the choice were between and end to our imperial project, or going on with it, my choice would be clear. But that's not the choice on offer, sadly. Obama wants 100,000 more troops. For what?
Appendix II Endorsements
Appendix III Our Famously Free Press
A salient feature of the last two Presidential election cycles has been that the Village, acting through our famously free press, has selected our Presidents for us, by giving favorable coverage to their candidates of choice, and unfavorable coverage, or no coverage, to the candidates they oppose. In 2000, they brought Gore down to where the margin was close enough for Bush and the Supremes to seize power. In 2004, they allowed the Swiftboating of Kerry to proceed unchecked. Meanwhile, the issue of Bush's "missing year" in the Texas Air National Guard was studiously ignored. The press also fully cooperated with the Bush administration in politicizing the terror "alert" system.
Now, we should not think the the press always gets behind one single candidate, but they are always restricting our spectrum of choices. This year, they refused to cover either John Edwards or Ron Paul (going to so far as to deny Paul a debate slot when his numbers both financial and polling showed he deserved it). And although they prefer Hillary to Edwards, in the same way that high schoolers prefer someone in their clique that they hate to an outsider, they have always given Obama totally uncritical coverage, while slamming Hillary on a daily, even an hourly basis. As they have been doing for the last ten years.
Alas, there is a direct corellation between favorable coverage from the Village and the degree to which The Covered One will Fuck the American people. We have only to look back at the Bush administration to see this immediately. Sure, the wheels are coming off the wagon now, but sweet Jeebus, think what it took!
Of course, when McCain comes along in the Straight Talk Express, we will see how fickle, and how juvenile, the press can be. One pleasant scenario for a Hillary nomination and campaign would be direct action against the press....