Friday, April 25, 2008

Closing the Deal

Ever true to form, the Democrats are about to collaborate with their co-thinkers across the aisle to fund the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at unprecedented levels. Some of them too are having a hissy fit because they weren’t told until yesterday that what Israel bombed in Syria last year was what the CIA claims was a North Korean supplied nuclear reactor. Not one of them points out the obvious: that the only clear violation of international law in the whole affair was Israel’s aggression against a sovereign state. These are just a few of the latest of a seemingly endless stream of Democratic perfidies. But, for the corporate media and corporate-friendly NPR, it is beyond the pale to take the Democrats to task for any of them. They only want to write or talk about the never-ending contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

I can hardly blame them, since I do it myself. In mitigation, I would point out that, though one wouldn’t know it from what media pundits say, the Obama/Clinton struggles do provide a prism through which the larger deficiencies of the Democratic Party become apparent. Moreover, it is an interesting question in its own right why Obama is having so much trouble “closing the deal.” After all, barring some improbable and colossal stumble, he will eventually win the nomination; and the internecine struggle the Democrats are now going through only helps John McCain. I've been writing for months that if Obama is good for anything, it’s for blowing Hillary and her husband out of the water. It’s looking more and more like he’s good for nothing.

Why can’t he close the deal? If recent history shows anything, it’s that in American elections nice guys finish last. I think it became clear in Pennsylvania that Obama is too nice a guy or at least not enough of a scrapper to send the Clintons down to the ignominious defeat they deserve. [True, unlike Bill, Hillary hasn’t killed more than a million people yet. But she did permanently marginalize the very idea of single-payer, not for profit health insurance, and she set the cause of universal coverage back a generation.] In 2000, Al Gore gave up after winning the election; he didn’t have it in him to fight back against James Baker and the other Bush family fixers Poppy Bush had mobilized to install his son in office. In 2004, John Kerry lost the popular vote. But he may not have lost Ohio and therefore, he might have won on electoral college points, just as Bush did (with a little help from some Reaganite Supreme Court Justices). But Kerry wouldn’t fight back either. Obama seems to have about the same fire in his belly; he’s still very much the unthreatening Rorschach Man he was months ago. On the other hand, Hillary, ever a piece of work, has transformed herself into a new model national security, post-neo-con Democrat – a Scoop Jackson for the twenty-first century. In this her latest incarnation, she projects toughness, and she just keeps on going and going.

This would be fine if there were some principled reason for it. But, as we know from the past fifteen years, principles and Clintons are like oil and water. Hillary is fighting for herself; for what she thinks is her due. There could not be a cause less worthy. But at least it does show gumption.

I would venture that it’s her scrappiness, in contrast to the Democratic norm, that’s the basis for the working class support she garners. No doubt there are some white working class voters who won’t vote for Obama because he’s black. But there probably aren’t very many of them, and their numbers are probably no greater than among the vaunted “elites” who support Obama. No, the reason why Obama isn’t doing well among working class voters is that he’s been presenting himself too much like a typical, spineless Democrat. There is not a single, bold program he has offered. He neither seems to be nor is a champion of any progressive, domestic cause.

If only the corporate media and the heralds of goody-goody identity politics hadn’t done John Edwards in! Then Hillary would have an opponent who would at least appear to be fighting for the working class, for all hues of it; not just for inchoate “change.” I’ve voiced the hope that the two Clintonites, Clinton and Obama, would fight each other to exhaustion, and that the Party Elders would turn to Edwards to set matters right. Clinton and Obama are indeed fighting each other to exhaustion, but the Party Elders are too feckless to do anything remotely bold or wise. So we’re left with just the two Clintonites – the one more onerous than the other (for reasons I’ve set out repeatedly – most recently here.) However, the less onerous one, Obama, is a pussycat liberal – a nice guy who, like other liberals (according to Robert Frost), won’t take his own side in an argument. Under Hillary it would be worse, of course, but, even so, someone like that is unlikely to make the Democratic Party better. When Obama becomes President, the Democrats will in all likelihood muddle on from depredation to depredation, just as in recent days -- and weeks and years.

The good news is that, in all likelihood, will become President. For that, thank John McCain and George Bush – not any Democrat. The Democrats betrayed the expectations that led voters in 2006 to give them control of the Senate and the House. They will betray expectations again. But unless that lesson sinks in to a point where voters become indifferent between them and a blatantly greater evil, we’ll get the lesser evil this time around. Against Hillary, Obama may not have it in him to close the deal, and the Democratic leadership won’t dare close it for him. But he can beat out the clock. Then, unless he flubs at levels that would embarrass even Al Gore, and unless he (like Hillary) pays undue deference to McCain’s alleged (actually criminal), “heroism,” he can wait for that doddering, warmongering, Bush emulating “maverick” to defeat himself.

1 comment:

Gordon Barnes said...

I agree with almost everything that you say here, with one exception. I think that you underestimate the xenophobia and ignorance of working class whites. This year I received several emails from working class whites, all about Obama's African father, and his secret Muslim faith, and his refusal to pledge allegiance to the flag, and lots of other xenophobic crap. I suspect that the Clinton campaign facilitated those emails, to say the least, but they were then passed on by working class whites, and believed by working class whites. On 60 minutes there was an interview with a working class white voter from Ohio, in which he expressed worries about Obama, because Obama believes the Koran and refuses to pledge allegiance to the flag, and blah blah blah. So I don't think that working class whites like Clinton because of her "scrappiness." They like her because of her skin color, and because she has amped up her flag-waving, warmongering, patriot-mania, which makes working class whites feel more comfortable. That is why Clinton beat Obama among working class whites in PA by a whopping 32 points. That's also why Obama's poll numbers took such a big hit after Reverend Wright's remarks first came out. It was because a black preacher stood up and spoke out, and it scared all those poor white folks to death. I hate to say all this, and I'd love to be proven wrong, because I want to see the interests of working class people advanced, but I'm afraid that it's true. If I'm right, then in order for a candidate to stand up and say things like Reverend Wright said, and have a chance of getting elected to national office in America, he'll have to be white.