Sunday, December 2, 2007

Brown, Black and Blue

The December 1 “Brown and Black Forum” in Des Moines, Iowa, attended by all the Democratic candidates except Mike Gravel and by none of the Republicans, clearly demonstrated a few well established, but not always acknowledged, facts:

1) that not only are the Democrats better than the Republicans on “the issues,” but also that every Democratic candidate is vastly more capable, on every pertinent dimension, than every Republican candidate. It is as if in utero they got more of whatever it is that promotes cognitive development;

2) that the best of PBS (Ray Suarez) and NPR (Michelle Norris) stand in roughly a similar relation to the luminaries of CNN (for example, Wolff Blitzer and Anderson Cooper, the emcees, respectively, of the two most recent CNN “debates”);

3) that even, notching up the discussion several quantum levels thanks to (1) and (2), some shibboleths of our political culture remain sacrosanct: among others, that Cuba is and will remain evil until Fidel Castro passes away, and that uppity Latin Americans – especially ones like Hugo Chavez, who aren’t even100% white – certainly have their nerve for wanting to use their country’s oil wealth to benefit their own citizens rather than American capitalists. It’s especially galling, it seems, that Chavez will even go so far as to use democratic means to this end.

4) that Hillary Clinton is the worst of the lot on these points, as on almost every “issue,” but that the others, Dennis Kucinich excepted, aren’t much better;

5) and that even the most probing and intelligent moderators PBS and NPR have won’t push the limits on (3), even though they probably know better. Neither will they in any other way question unassailable “mainstream” thinking.

There were also some less well-known facts that emerged:

6) that, the ostensibly unelectable candidates – Kucinich, especially – have learned how to address the media’s marginalization of them with dignity and humor;

7) that Barack Obama’s calls for drawing Americans together can be almost as tedious as Mitt Romney’s invocations of “family values” or Rudy Giuliani’s use of 9/11;

8) that Joe Biden becomes more inadvertently funny the more resolutely he ensconces himself on his high horse, and the more arrogantly he boasts of his “experience” and of the soundness of his unsound ideas, like dismembering Iraq; and

9) that John Edwards can wax eloquent when he isn’t waxing Clintonite -- in other words, when he talks about domestic, not foreign, policy. He was especially eloquent when he spoke about poverty and the evils of racism.

In a slightly more rational world, Edwards would be running ahead of Barack Obama who would, in turn, be running way ahead of Hillary Clinton, particularly at a Brown and Black Forum. After all, it is precisely brown and black voters who have born the brunt of the domestic policies of the past several decades; for them, one would think that poverty would be a major concern, powerful enough to trump Obama’s (disputed) blackness, not to mention Clinton’s je ne sais quoi. But of the three “electable” (that is, well-financed) contenders, he’s doing the least well among browns and blacks and Clinton is doing the best. Go figure! It was her husband, after all -- the man to whom she is joined politically (if in no other way) at the hip --whose policies devastated the emerging black and brown middle classes, bringing a few “minorities” to the top while lowering the majority into the ranks of the poor. To his everlasting credit, Ray Suarez did ask Hillary about her husband’s reforms of the federal legal system, pointing out that they have played a significant role in vastly increasing the incarceration rate among black males. He might also have asked her about how the neo-liberal globalization Bill Clinton did so much to promote has harmed African-American youth. But this minor deviation from the Republicrat script turned out to be a flash in the pan. Clinton gave a Clintonian weasel answer – the kind that lets her supporters hear what they want to hear -- and the matter was dropped.

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