Monday, June 30, 2008

Remember the Reasons

On “the issues,” it was always a wash between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; if anything, Obama was even worse. They agreed about everything – except mandates for health insurance. Clinton was for them; Obama against. On the face of it, this made her plan better – at least for inching closer to genuine universal coverage. Her plan probably is better, but it is far from certain; there are good arguments on both sides – and far better arguments supporting a single-payer system. This is why both Obama’s and Clinton’s plans are profoundly unsatisfactory. It is why there is no case to be made for or against either of them on this account.

Why, then, was it urgent that Clinton lose? I never had much faith in the reasons Obomamaniacs have. They have at last two: that Obama is better than he seems, and that, after he’s President, this will become clear; and that the mere fact that he is half of African descent is a good thing. As to the first, insofar as there’s an argument, it’s just that Obama plainly knows better than he lets on. This is doubtless true. But, after you peel away the layers of rank opportunism that the Clintons have piled up over decades, it’s probably true that Hillary knows better too. In neither case, does it make any difference. Obama’s “real” view of, say, Israel/Palestine is probably better than AIPAC’s. But when it comes down to it, because he and his advisors think it necessary for winning the general election and then for governing, he’ll pander to AIPAC just as much as Hillary would. QED. As for his African descent, yes, that would be a good thing for Americans and the rest of the world to see – for the few minutes before reality intrudes and people come to their senses. There is no evidence at all that Obama would govern in a way that would address African American concerns better than any of his former Democratic rivals, Hillary included. In fact, there is now good reason to think otherwise -- after his “denunciation” of Jeremiah Wright and then his scolding black fathers. Neither is there any reason to think that Obama’s African descent would make his foreign policy better, or even affect it at all.

Obamaniacs still have a reed to cling to, however: the JFK argument. Kennedy too had center-right politics and his brief tenure in office was awful, at least for anyone inclined to worry about the prospect of nuclear annihilation. But, thanks to his charm and wit and overall charisma, he did help set more progressive forces in motion; he was especially “inspiring” to the young. That Obama might unleash similar forces is a hope that’s not yet discredited. But, of course, it’s not up to Obama; it’s up to those of us who know better than he does or who, at least, have different agendas. Given the state of the “peace and justice” and environmental movements in this country, I’ve never been very hopeful about this prospect. But it is still a reason for not entirely regretting how the nomination process turned out.

Anyway, my reasons for opposing Clinton were different, and never had much of anything to do with hopes or rather illusions about Obama’s merits. I had two reasons. One has already melted into the ether of our decrepit political culture. The other is rapidly following suit.

We have a Democratic Party, a POP -- a Party of Pusillanimity or, what comes to the same thing, of Pelosiites – that can’t even bring itself to impeach Cheney and Bush et. al., let alone bring them to justice. Because they think it politically expedient and/or because they are cut from the same cloth, they’d as soon let the crime family that has led us to the brink of ruin for the past eight years get away with much worse than murder; this in the case of perps whose criminality is transparent and of historical dimensions. The (Bill) Clinton administration committed many of the same crimes, though in a less obviously offensive way. It was responsible for the deaths of some million Iraqis through sanctions, and for a host of other actionable offenses – many, though by no means all, committed in the name of “humanitarian interventions.” These included an illegal war to dismember Yugoslavia, to cite just the most transparently proto-neocon example. It will be for historians in the distant future, not Democrats today or tomorrow, to mete out to them the judgment they deserve. But a Hillary defeat, I reasoned, would, in its own way, serve the cause of justice here and now; especially if it took the form of an outright repudiation.

Of course, as a rule, wives are not responsible for their husband’s crimes. And, having carpet-bagged her way into the Senate, this wife never did anything in the way of Bush aiding and abetting (her specialty!) that rises to the level of an actionable crime in its own right. Neither is it a crime (in the literal sense) to have permanently marginalized the idea of single-payer health insurance or to have set back the cause of universal coverage for a generation. These were, after all, her signal contributions to American politics before the 2000 election. So it might look like there’s no reason of “retributive justice” to deny her the office she thought her due. But, remember, that she ran against Obama and the others on the grounds that she had more “experience.” Even her diehard backers should realize that this vaunted experience came her way by being Bill Clinton’s official wife. If she wants to take credit for that, then she too should do the time. But since no time will be done, she – and her better half – can at least suffer a political judgment. This was why I hoped not for Obama’s victory, but for her abject defeat.

But, of course,, she didn’t go down abjectly – just gracelessly. Meanwhile, the Democrats, with Obama in the lead, can’t do enough to make nice to her and to pander to her diehards (of whom, evidently, many decades ago, there was one born every minute). Since finally bowing out, the cult of Hillary, dormant since the early 90s, is now again on the rise. It’s a sickening spectacle; not worthy even of Democrats. But it’s happening. Thus the first – retributive justice – reason for defeating her candidacy is now a lost cause. In this respect, from today’s (and probably tomorrow’s) vantage point, it might even have been better had Hillary won.

The more important reason for defeating her, though, was to prevent a Clinton Restoration. There was never any doubt that an Obama presidency would include old Clinton hands. But there was a hope that the more culpable miscreants of the old regime – the Albrights and Holbrooks and their ilk – would be replaced by others slightly less noxious. After all, Obama did surround himself with advisors, like Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, though no less imperialist than the mainstream Clinton folk, at least had the good sense to oppose the Iraq War (if not the others) from the beginning.

But this reason too is rapidly melting away. As I’ve explained in recent postings, to the delight of the corporate media and their sponsors, the Clinton campaign, advisors and all, is folding into Obama’s with astonishing – indeed, unseemly -- rapidity. Meanwhile, as the two former rivals make public lovey dovey, even the appearance of differences in style and temperament are fading. We may be witnessing the birth of a super-individual, hermaphroditic entity – a Barack-Hillary. The charismatic, personable side comes from the male member, as it were; but the politics is pure Clintonian.

The conventional wisdom mongers on NPR and in the so-called quality press may like what they see. But, for anyone with eyes, it’s not a pretty sight. And neither is it a salutary one for those of us who still think there’s a chance to turn “the ship of state” around from the disastrous course set by Ronald Reagan, Bush the Father, Hillary’s husband, and, last and worst, the criminals who now rule along with and in the name of the dimwitted Bush boy.

Democrats squandered an opportunity for real change, not plus ça change…, when they nominated Obama over John Edwards or even Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd (not to mention the unmentionable Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel). Thanks to Cheney/Bush/Rumsfeld incompetence, and the disasters they brought on, the prospects for a change of course, leading to a softer landing for the American empire, were more propitious than they had been for decades. But the opportunity is fading. The POP, for its part, is doing everything it can to assure that nothing good, only something a little less bad, will come of the November election – with Obama or rather Barack-Hillary leading the way.

1 comment:

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