Maria Shriver, Garrison Keillor, Michael Bérubé and Me: Why I Will Vote For Obama Today, Probably
The joke in that title belongs entirely to Professor Bérubé whose endorsement of Barack Obama at TPMCafe you should read as much for its wit as its wisdom, even though I don't quite share his Clinton fatigue.
Let me start by discussing all the talked-about reasons for choosing Obama over Clinton that did not, I repeat, did not influence my decision.
I do not believe that Hillary, or her ex-president husband, have run a Rovian smear campaign against Obama.
I do not believe they played the race card.
I do not believe that either Hillary or Bill will say anything or do anything to get elected.
I don't believe that what either or both Clintons' careers in politics and governance have always been about is themselves.
I don't believe Bill Clinton has a pathological need to hog the political spotlight, nor do I believe Hillary's would be a co-presidency, nor that "Bill" would be rattling around the White House with nothing to do. Clearly, he would resume the work he has been doing with his foundation, his Presidential library and the graduate school of public service he has founded at the U of Arkansas, that is also part of the library.
I do not believe, as William Greider, a writer whose work I have admired and probably will again, would have it in The Nation, that "...the Clintons play dirty when they feel threatened. But we knew that, didn't we?"
No, some of us didn't and we still don't.
The recent roughing-up of Barack Obama was in the trademark style of the Clinton years in the White House. High-minded and self-important on the surface, smarmily duplicitous underneath, meanwhile jabbing hard to the groin area. They are a slippery pair and come as a package."
The thought of the Clintons back in the White House makes Greider "queasy." :
The one-two style of Clintons, however, is as informative as low-life street fighters. Mr. Bill punches Obama in the kidney and from the rear. When Obama whirls around to strike back, there stands Mrs. Clinton, looking like a prim Sunday School teacher and citing goody-goody lessons she learned from her 135 years in government.
The style is very familiar to official Washington, not just among the Clintons' partisan adversaries, but among their supporters. The man lied to his friends. All the time. They got used to it. They came to expect it. I observe a good many old hands among the Senate Democrats are getting behind Obama. It would be good to know more about why they declined to make the more obvious choice of endorsing the power couple.
Reading Mr. Geider's unsourced assertions made me queasy, and not about the Clintons.
I hope most of you will recognize that Greider is writing from that eye of the perpetual perfect storm of Clinton Hatred that has been distorting and degrading our political discourse since the day the Clintons walked into the White House. That has always been my worry about a Hillary Clinton candidacy, and the war against the Clintons has been even worse this time around, mainly because it has been joined by so many Democrats, especially Obama supporters. Not only do I fear the SCLM will be relentless in their pursuit of bringing another Clinton down, I don't think it will end if she is elected.
Doesn't it distress me to allow the conservative movement and the press which serves its interest so relentlessly to choose whom we choose to be our candidate? You bet it does. I'm not suggesting that we give into the right-wing war against the Clintons, which emerged out of the three decades war against liberalism, the sixties, and the Democratic Party, and morphed into the war against Gore and against Kerry. But I'm reluctant to fight it during a campaign for the Presidency that Democrats have a chance to win, and possibly even to win big.
On the other hand, if Hillary does become our candidate, fight it we must, and fight it we will, I hope. This is such an important subject I'm saving my further thoughts on it for a separate second part to this post.
I also want to make clear that I have had my own problems with both Clintons. I'll never forgive Bill Clinton for what he did to Lani Guinier. Then again, I'll never forgive FDR for what he did to 120,000 Japanese-Americans. Persons disappoint us; those who wield power often disappoint us deeply. In this post, I think my disappointment with Senator Clinton is palpable.
Hillary has turned out to be a better candidate than I had expected. She's taken positions that are genuinely liberal. If she wins the nomination I will work for her election and vote for her gladly.
So why am I trending toward Obama?
Well, first, there is Iraq. Let us face it; Hillary's votes for the AUMF and against the Levin amendment are a problem for her she hasn't yet found a way to talk about, or to get out from under. It keeps her from being as clear a harbinger of change than Obama. That and the drag on her candidacy the press will exert, with constant references to the Clintons' past struggles, make it hard to see how she can be as effective as Obama as a messenger for change.
As you can see my decision is based on razor slim differences between these two candidates. Nor do I wish to suggest that Obama is without his own negatives from my perspective.
Like my compatriots here at Corrente, I'm suspicious of the unity theme, especially when Obama stays vague about the kinds of policies around which he wishes to unite us. More problematic than that, I resent the decision of his campaign to use their change trope as equally against Bill Clinton's presidency as against its Bush bookends. It's clear to me that is exactly what they have been doing, eliding Clinton and both Bushs, and worse still, using some of the nastiest right-wing anti-Clinton tropes to do it, all the while claiming to be the victim of that "vile Clinton" machine, as Bob Somerby might put it.
It has made me angry that they have been able to pull it off, altough the SCLM made it relatively easy for them; note, I hold Obama himself responsible for this gambit. On the other hand, it was a neat political move, and if he can do that against McCain, I'm prepared to forgive him.
I would never vote for anyone just because he had the right political chops. If I hadn't become convinced that Obama is a genuine liberal/progressive candidate, I would not be voting for him. I won't go into the specific data which has led me to this conclusion here, since it is not my purpose to persuade anyone to vote for Obama today. I suspect that by tomorrow we will know that this campaign for the Democratic nomination is far from over. My purpose in this post is to lay down a different set of observations than some of my blogmates as part of an on-going discussion about how this election is related to the movement most of us feel we're part of that seeks to move this country in a genuinly liberal/progressive direction.
I recognize that Obama represents a gamble, and that the Clinton camp has a point when they talk about a role of the dice. But change elections are always that. In Obama's case we've seen him pull together a first-rate campaign, fully the equal of the so-called Clinton machine, both in terms of raising money and organizationally. He's won the confidence of people I respect, people like Ted Sorenson, for instance, and yes, Ted Kennedy, Toni Morrison, and more important than all of those, Michael Bérubé. And Barack does seem to be inspiring new and younger voters.
There are important minuses. Obama's health plan is to the right of Hillary's, and I fear he'll find it difficult to get out of the corner into which he's painted himself. I haven't liked some of the intra-party divisiveness he and his wife have introduced into the campaign, and her reluctance, yesterday, to say without hesitation that she could vote for Hillary were Obama not to become the nominee almost tilted me back to voting for Hillary. To keep my support past today, Obama is going to have to show me that he can first unite the Democrats behind him, and second, that he will unite his voters behind Hillary if she is the candidate.
The risk is bigger with Obama; he might not be ready for the kind of dirt that will be thrown at him as the actual candidate. Hillary is. Worse still, he may not be as ready to be the President, on day one, as Hillary likes to put it, as he thinks he is.
Bottom line time: I'm willing to take that risk because I also think the gain may be bigger, not only with a bigger win, including increasing the Democratic majority in both houses, but also with a better win than would be possible with Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, on behalf of a true liberal/progressive mandate that is rooted as firmly in the future as it is in the past.