Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dream Ticket

In recent days, but especially after the West Virginia primary, many pundits and a few politicians have been calling for an Obama-Clinton ticket, a so-called “dream ticket.” Among the most egregious of the politicians is the venerable Mario Cuomo. Cuomo is always disappointing because he looks and sounds like he should know better -- like a shrewd Italian or Irish liberal of yesteryear. But he never gets it right. Putting Hillary Clinton on the ticket would wed Obama to Clintonism even more than he already is. What Cuomo calls a dream ticket would in fact be a nightmare.

Should it come to pass, it should, but probably won’t, drive many of those who harbor hopes for an Obama presidency into the arms of the Green Party or Ralph Nader. That would not be a bad thing if, by November, the Republicans remain squelched -- as they now seem to be after Travis Childer’s victory in last Tuesday’s special election in a solidly Republican congressional district in Mississippi. An electoral insurgency to the left of the Democratic Party is always welcome; especially at this historical watershed. But its benefits would hardly counter the harm of a Clinton semi-restoration.

Meanwhile, after John Edwards’ endorsement of Obama yesterday in Grand Rapids, and after his substantial showing in West Virginia (where, while not running, he won 7% of the vote!), the prospect of a more suitable “dream ticket” has been given new life. Edwards could energize organized labor, and he could help Obama gain a foothold with those white ethnic voters we’ve lately been hearing so much about. From a strictly electoral point of view, tapping him for VP is probably wiser than bringing a “national security” Democrat on board, as many pundits have been recommending. From a moral and political point of view, it’s obviously preferable. To be sure, it’s far from clear that Edwards would draw Obama to the left, rather than vice versa; but it’s not out of the question. In any event, it would be salutary for the Democratic Party and the country to have someone on the ticket more nearly in line with the policy aspirations of the majority of Democratic voters.

Edwards’ endorsement speech was a variant of his old stump speech about the two Americas; less inspiring perhaps than a Barack Obama speech, but more substantive and, of course, more progressive. He started out, though, with a now obligatory paean to Hillary. It was more than a little nauseating. The one good thing was the booing her mention elicited; booing that Obama, by Edwards’ side, did all he could to quiet. Booing is hardly adequate recompense for authorizing Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – and now, with the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, in Iran as well! It’s even less suitable “punishment” for her one quasi-official role in her husband’s administration – where she succeeded in permanently marginalizing the very idea of single-payer, not for profit health insurance, while setting back the cause of universal coverage for a generation.

But to the extent that she wants to take credit for her husband’s presidency, as she has repeatedly throughout the primary season, the booing in Grand Rapids was grotesquely inadequate. Bill Clinton’s efforts to continue the “Reagan Revolution” by dismantling our increasingly feeble welfare state institutions and by deregulating everything in sight was bad enough. So too were his preparations for Bush II – for the so-called “war on terror” (actually, on civil liberties and other traditional freedoms), his unilateralism, and his disregard for international law. But then there are the actionable offenses – like killing roughly a million Iraqis through sanctions, bombing Afghanis, Somalis and others for the sake of political expediency, and aiding in the dismantling of Yugoslavia and in the ethnic cleansings and civil wars that proto-neocon policy engendered.

The Democrats won’t even impeach Cheney and Bush, let alone bring them and the other criminals in their administration to justice. They certainly won’t come to terms with the political shortcomings and blatant criminality of the Clinton years. But the facts are what they are. Booing Hillary – as the Obama (and Edwards) forces set out to make nice to her, is a ridiculously lame response. But at least it points in the right direction. It offers some reason to hope that the Clintons really can’t fool all of the Democrats all of the time.

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