By Michael Albert at Aug 27, 2008
I don't get it. Normal serious people, even serious leftists, seem unable to abide their own beliefs. Or more accurately, we abide our beliefs sometimes, and then we ignore them other times, bouncing back and forth between attentiveness to our own insights and dismissal of our own insights without noticing the oddness of our occilations.
I often talk, for example, with people who will agree, or who will even raucously applaud, or who will even put forth themselves the idea that American presidential candidates, including all those we have all been encountering in recent weeks, and not least Obama, routinely lie, and, in any event, say nothing that we can count on as revealing their true views - save regarding, perhaps, some social issues.
More, the leftists know, and I actually think pretty much everyone knows, that outside of some social issues, again, even if we could know a candidate's personal views, we wouldn't thereby know what he or she will do, or even what he or she could do, in office. Rather, we know, when our minds are operating, that what candidates can and will do depends far more on national and international events, on the interests of those who pay the candidate's bills, and on pressures dissenters can muster, then on the candidates' own views.
So, the candidates' words don't tell us what the candidates really believe, but only what they feel they need to say to hold on to their donors, to not arouse media ire, and to somehow curry favor with various voting constituencies.
And more, I think leftists and really pretty much everyone, in sober moments, knows that even if the candidates' words told us what the candidates really believe, that still wouldn't tell us what the candidates will do.
We know that. We really do know it.
And yet, nonetheless, we sit around discussing what the candidates say as if their words are the most important thing we can assess.
We argue over this or that little statement, or publicity stunt, or even past policy, or whatnot else, all staged and gussied up for display, all reeking with opportunism - as if we are talking about the pronoucements of scrupulosly honest all powerful beings who always say what they think and always do what they say.
Why does this happen? Why do our wisest insights disappear every four years?
I am not saying there are no differences between candidates. I am not saying don't vote if you want to.
I am saying, however, (a) don't make believe voting is more than a few minutes in a polling booth, and (b) don't exhibit false hope about a candidate or, perhaps worse, have no hope about a candidate but exhibit false advocacy of one, just to pass the time, look sensible to others, or justify your own pulling of a lever.
If Obama wins it is better for gorernment policies than if McCain wins, sure, though I don't know how much better. And it is a lot better for what it will say about the electorate. So, yes, I want Obama to win.
But that is it. Obama isn't radical. He isn't progressive. He is Black, which is mind bogglingly good for some implications, but which is not definitive, even regarding policies bearing on race.
Obama isn't about peace. He isn't about equity. He isn't about justice.
Obama is about winning.
And even regarding winning - his understanding is a bit different from ours.
We tend to think winning means get the most votes. But Obama won't aggressively appeal down to win more votes, because doing that even if it won the presidency would be antithetical to the desires of the people who invest in him, work with him, advise and instruct him, and most likely to his desires too. He will, instead, try to take some religious voters from McCain, who needs all of them to win, and he will try to get more independents to go his way than Kerry or Gore managed to attract. In short, he and McCain will essentially battle over a few percent of all voters, instead of Obama seeking support from the 50% of the population that doesn't vote at all. They would both agree that to try to inspire the poor and disenfranchised, to give those folks real reason for excitement and hope, is just too risky a path to take - not for winning the election, but for pursuing elite interests.
So, the odd charade and peculiar game proceeds. A lot is of course at stake. But there is no reason whatsoever for us to dispense with our minds while the election goes on. And, even more, we should work hard to prevent an odd dismissal of our own best views infecting our thinking not just now, but after the election as well, when we need to apply pressure rather than celebrate or moan.
Okay, but why we dispense with our insights about the two party system, about our elections, about the candidates, about society?
I have to say I am not sure. But here is one hypothesis. We are, naturally enough, incredibly desirous of improvement of society. But, we tend to have no deep abiding belief in our own capacity to bring about such improvement, much less a whole new system. So - when elections come around, we get sucked into them due to hoping that someone will make things better for us, via a shortcut that doesn't entail long and arduous struggle and lasting commitment, a shortcut that brings rewards sooner rather than later.
The real price of it is that whatever momentary sustenance false hope in candidates and in the election gives people, the long term effect of ignoring our own best insights tends to undercut the necessary arduous struggle and lasting commitment we really do need to muster.
Can we do better this time? I surely hope so.