Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rorschach Man

The danger of an outright Clinton Restoration is still considerable; but, with Super Tuesday approaching, the rush is on to endorse Barack Obama. It’s not just the Kennedys; Susan Eisenhower, “lifelong Republican,” has gotten in on the act too. Caroline thinks Obama is “inspiring,” like her father; Susan thinks he’s “pragmatic” and sensible, like her grand father. These endorsements would be reasons to vote against Obama, were he not running against the Clintons. Camelot was bad enough; in retrospect, the boring, uninspiring and uninspired Eisenhower years were better, but who needs that again either! There was, and maybe still is, a chance that we can do better; but the Forces of Darkness (the corporate and corporate friendly media, mainly) in conjunction with a politically clueless Democratic electorate have all but done that prospect in. So, yes, lets hope Obama beats Hillary on Super Tuesday. Vote for him, faute de mieux. But endorse him? How pathetic is that!

That’s precisely what moveon.org did. They polled their members who voted overwhelmingly for Obama. The way they posed the question – forcing a choice between Clinton and Obama – constrained the answer. Who wouldn’t vote for Obama in those circumstances? Lots of people, probably, as we’ll soon see. But those people, the ones who aren’t covert racists, are a tad deluded; they think Bill Clinton’s presidency wasn’t god awful. Compared to Cheney and Bush’s, they have a point. But anything or anybody, except maybe John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Preacher Huckabee, would look good in comparison with those two. That doesn’t change the fact: the Clinton administration, with its Iraq sanctions, its Yugoslavian wars, its murderous bombing raids and, let’s not forget, its Reaganite assault on the poor and “the great forgotten middle class” (aka the working class, but no Clintonite will use those words), the inevitable by-product of free trade, deregulation and the diminution of already feeble welfare state institutions, was indeed god awful.

The New York Post, Rupert Murdoch’s flagship scandal sheet, endorsed Obama too. What gives with that? Bill Clinton’s media giveaways and his support for media deregulation were good for Murdoch, and the Clintons have been kissing Murdoch ass assiduously for years (especially after Hillary decided to run for the Senate). They’ve had some success. If nothing else, Murdoch never went after Hillary the way “the great right wing conspiracy” used to go after her and Bill. Why didn’t he endorse her then? After all, he is not averse to helping out inveterate opportunistic centrists who can be useful to him (Tony Blair, for example). You’d think the devil would go with the devil he knows. There has to be some percentage for him in The Post’s endorsement. Is it just that he wants to get on the good side of the candidate he thinks will win? Or are more sinister machinations going on? The media are mum. Perhaps time or somebody’s self-serving memoir will tell.

Schemers apart, it seems that, through the skillful deployment of vacuous abstractions (change, hope, unity), Obama has made himself into a Rorschach man in whom na├»ve people see what they want. Whether or not there’s any there there – that too only time will tell. What is clear now is that there’s enough ambiguity and vagueness in Obama’s “message” for quite a few people to think that a vote for him really is a vote for change and/or hope and/or unity and/or who knows what. What these endorsements tell us about Obama has been clear for those who are not willfully blind for a long time. The more interesting question is what they tell us about the endorsers.

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