By Michael Albert at Feb 12, 2008
I keep getting asked what are you going to do about the election? Who do you like? What do you hope for? What does it mean? And so on.
Well, okay, I guess like everyone else, I ought to have an opinion or two - though I am not entirely sure why. And I guess these substantive questions are much better than more typical pundit pontifications about who is wearing what, or smiling at who, or getting nervous, or being confident. As to why I ought to care, of course I hear the bell tolling: The fate of the planet hinges on it. Well, I hear that,yes, but it isn't my bell. I doubt, first off, that the key factor in their being a future or not, or even in what shape that future will take, is who becomes president. It has never seemed all that central to me, and it won't become so, I suspect, unless there is really someone in place to win who would want to make a real difference, and who might have the means to do so. Not to mention voters being able to discern any actual honest differences amidst all the obfuscation, emptyness, and downright lies.
But Obama, some would say to me, he's the real deal. He's much much more progressive than Clinton. And then others say, in my other ear - I do have two, still - but Clinton, Clinton has the means and the heart for it. She is much much more able and schooled than Obama. The former person says, a black president, a black president, how can we not seek a black president? But in two part disharmony, at the same time, I hear, a woman president, a woman president, how can we not seek a woman president?
I think the claims querying my doubts are wrong. Neither candidate wants to matter - in the way that I mean the word, at any rate, as in truly serving the interests of the poor and weak, or even serving anyone other than the rich and powerful, save as a derivative necessity. In that sense, neither Obama or Clinton are particularly progressive. Obama is arguably, based on statements, a bit better on international relations. But contrary to what many on the left seem to think, Clinton appears, however, again based on statements, to be a bit better on domestic issues. But regadless of who is a little better or a ltitle worse on this or on that, the gaps between them, even if we take their words as gospel accounts of their real views - which only an idiot would do - are tiny. As to bringing real change, neither has any chance of doing that unless there is a massive outpouring of desire, or unless the country's condition literally requires change - which I happen to think is going to prove to be the case - and if both those conditions hold, either or both the candidates will bring change, whether it was their intention or not. But as to one of them making change that wouldn't happen in any case and wouldn't happen if the other was in office, neither candidate has the means for that unless one or the other really appeals downward, to the poor, galvanizing serious comittment and conviction and comprehension - for real program. And, sad to say - but of course, if it were otherwise they wouldn't have gotten this far - neither Obama or Clinton is about doing that. That difference, one that would really matter, isn't there.
On the other side of the coin, I admit that part of me is astounded - black/black, woman/woman - just like the comitted advocates. That a black and a woman are competing to be the candidate and that one is going to win is incredible, in my view, and a real indicator not really about them, or about the process, but about the massive historical gains accomplished despite all the left's problems, over the past few decades. The country is not nearly the malignant, overtly racist, overtly sexist, pathetic briar patch it was not long ago.
I think someone wanting Obama to be president, a black president, is fine. I think someone wanting Clinton to be president, a woman president, is fine. I think, other things aside - though in the end, other things matter too - it is wonderful that both are conceivable and one may happen. And I think either occurance will have very very positive effects for young people of all backgrounds, boosting hope and confidence in some constituencies, reducing fear and loathing in others. Absolutely. But all that, while true, is different than saying these particular candidates are the second coming of of Emma Goldman or MLK Jr. Those who say they, or at least Obama, echoes JFK have a much much better claim to accuracy - but that accuracy doesn't excite me. Kennedy was in substance a gigantic trojan horse horror for the planet and society, a kind of massive fraud: cute, clever, confident, and charasmatic, but system preserving in every other respect, and in many dimensions, system aggravating. You can hide a lot behind inspiring words and big smiles, it turns out. Saying Obama is cut from that cloth is not a testimonial, it is just saying he has better camouflage than Clinton.
But Michael, Michael, Michael - both ears are bombarded - I know you hate everyone who is associated with anything other than revolution yesterday - but forget that for a minute. What do you think about their relative merits? Shouldn't we all support one and reject the other, and decry as devils anyone who opts for any other view?
Well no. I can see a person of good will and understanding - a leftist - voting for Obama or for Clinton in a primamy, to become the candidate. And I can see a person then voting for either of them against The Bombadier, or instead, in a safe state, voting for a third party candidate. But I can't see any of those perfectly understandable choices being so CORRECT or so MORAL or so WISE that a person making it ought to feel like everyone who disagrees and makes a different one of those choices is an idiot or a sell out, a racist or a sexist, on that account.
Insofar as something matters in this election it is that someone other than The Bombadier wins. And regretably, that is not a certainty. But, after beating McCain, what matters is that progressive and left sentiment and activism grows, rather than it getting displaced into some kind of love affair with the new black or female president - and that is not a sure thing, either.
As leftists, and people reading this blog likely are that, I don't think we have a lot to contribute to who is the democratic candidate or whether the democratic candidate defeats The Bombadier. On those fronts, we are esentially spectators. But about whether opposition grows or fades after the election, which is all important, regarding that we are key players. And that's where our efforts seem to me to be best spent.
But but but, I hear, Obama, Obama, Obama. Well, listen up, the crap about joining hands is crap. Obama's economic advisers are indistinguishable from Clinton's. And so on. The things I think about, when I think about this at all, are, I admit, odd compared to others rumination. I think (a) will racism allow McCain to win more than Clinton being old line and mysogyny, will allow him to, or vice versa. Who can better beat McCain. No way to know - so I stop thinking about it. I think (b) if Obama arouses masssive hope and involvement and then lets everyone down, will it produce anger leading to opposition that compels gains, or will it produce new cyncism and therfore nothing much good? No way to know - so I stop thinking about it. I think (c) will Clinton winning despite being old style cause there to be a serious left opposition right out of the gate (unlike with Bill) in turn compeling gains, or will it deaden invovlement and produce nothing much good? No way to know - so I stop thinking about it.
If we get the Bombadier it will be a depressing commentary indeed on our society...incredibly so. If we get either Obama or Clinton it will be a historic step in the grand march toward actual civilized life because of what it says about consciousness throughtout the land. How much more it engenders will be up to those who put on pressure for more. And that should be us. So get ready. Don't get sidetracked.