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Talking about history – Clinton or Obama? And what happens next? January 23, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
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Is it just me, and my political wonkishness, or is the US election really interesting? Okay, I’ve almost never encountered an election I didn’t like, but there is something about this one which is fascinating. Perhaps it’s because it comes at the end of the Bush era and therefore represents at least some opportunity for a substantial change for the US. With that there is a certain sense of relief. Perhaps it is because while none of the main contenders on the Democratic side are recognisably leftist in my own sense of the word they do at least use progressive rhetoric and some of the policies are on the progressive side of the fence.

Perhaps too because it’s been seven or eight months since the Irish election and it’s great to be able to watch from afar with neither the necessity for input on the ground nor the sense that the outcome is (short of some terrifying paleo-Republican candidate emerging as a likely winner) existentially threatening in the way 2000 and 2004 were. And so excuse me one and all if I take some vicarious pleasure in what is going on.

Having said that, is it also just me, or am I hearing a glum chorus rising about this election. I’d propose that It is the result of entirely understandable and sincere but perhaps overly optimistic expectations.
Overly optimistic if only because any feasible US President emerging from the contemporary US polity is unlikely to be leftist in a recognisable sense. Few of us have no dreams left to be shattered on that score and therefore the essentially centrist candidates we see are par for the course.
To me this is an occasion when politically, in the aftermath of almost a decade of sheer bloody stupidity, a boring liberal centrist will be an improvement. To see the dial in US political life pushed leftwards again… as it will be by candidates who actually understand what Kyoto was about, don’t see the United Nations as something to be a perpetual whipping boy, universal or near universal healthcare and so forth is a good thing and why bother fretting that somehow somewhere the space between right social democracy (if that is even the best that is on offer) and democratic socialism can be bridged in US political culture at this time when it can’t?

I wonder is part of this that, as in Ireland before the election, people began to believe a left discourse about another more left wing world being possible and large gains being possible, and genuinely and sincerely expected that in the aftermath of the Iraq War there would be some sort of significant shift to the left? If there is one message I’ve tried to put across here over the past year on that score it is that the Iraq War was never the pivot around which a left project could be built or sustained, anymore than the anti-globalisation campaigns were previously or indeed as some think climate change will be.

If the war eventually sees a pacified Iraq [and what a quotient of misery that term ‘pacified’ conceals], human nature being what it is will most likely forget the enormous expenditure of human capital involved in the process. Bar people like us who broadly cares about the toll that was exacted upon Vietnam, or indeed Afghanistan by the Soviet invasion? And while certain things must never be forgotten it’s important to recognise the limits of human memory and the propensity to forget. And that means that neither Labour in the UK or the Republicans in the US will be vanquished as historical forces and replaced by a purer left. It’s not going to happen, or at least not over the war.
Is it also possible that the worst, most hyperbolic fears expressed over the past decade haven’t come to pass? The US, despite the most fearful prognostications, has not descended into fascism. Cheney and Bush are diminished. The Republicans are in retreat. US civil society has survived, is even perhaps more resilient than was given credit. The War has generated an unease and anger about what has happened both within and beyond US borders and this has translated into a wish to move on. That this is inchoate and that it is often rhetorical is not to say it is entirely without virtue. Which means that to some degree we are left with the statue quo ante. This could be 1994 or 2000, a proposition that is arguably more depressing than the lack of a serious leftist presence during this election because the journey to go is still so substantial and the progress made since 1994 or 2000 so minimal if at all.

I’m not in any sense criticising those who held such hopes. There were moments when it appeared that something close to structural change was possible. But… since I imagine almost all who read this blog have already lived through one genuinely revolutionary stage in European history – in a political sense – (1989, as it happens – FWIW I’d consider 68 to have been proto-revolutionary… at best – then again who am I to judge?) I’m fairly dubious about suggestions that liberal democracies are facades that only need to be pushed over. But hope is what keeps people going, isn’t it? And rightly so.

I’m not a huge fan of Hilary Clinton, but oddly there was something in her point about not wanting to see America go backward. The problem is that it has – quite a way. And away from dreams of revolution (or even the sort of strong social democracy/democratic socialism I would like to see but which is utterly implausible in the short to medium term) even a woman or a black man contesting the White House – epochal though such contests might be in historical terms – after eight years of war and frustration may well and understandably seem so much less significant than it otherwise would be.

Which leads to an important question. Away from the politics just what is the historical resonance of 2008 and the candidates?

Let me direct you all to a recent and interesting piece on KCRW’s To the Point

Host Warren Olney posed the question to Robert Dallek, Professor of History at Boston University (and author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963) “Is history being made and if so what kind of history in the aftermath of the Iowa caucuses…?’

Dallek responded:

What I find most interesting in these developments is first of all the extent to which the country has moved so dramatically from where it was as recently as 40 years ago. It was unimaginable in 1968 to have an African American and a woman seen as the prime contenders for the Presidential nomination in the Dem party and could you have imagined a Southerner as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination… this is revolutionary so to speak. Huckabee represents the return of the South to national politics…over the past forty years.

[It’s] a dramatic departure. I trace it back to John Kennedy in 1960 as the first Catholic to win the White House and breaks down the tradition of only having white Protestant males and it is you know going on fifty years of course, things move slowly but they are moving.

If they win the White House it will be seen as a dramatic event in American history.’

Olney noted that Obama wasn’t precisely African American and that he came out of a complex family background and asked how significant was that?

I think Dallek’s response provides an interesting and important insight into the nature of US self-identity. He said:

‘It’s very significant, you see, he’s not the slave narrative. If he did come from that background it would be more difficult for him. He comes from the immigrant narrative which is much easier for millions of Americans to identify with than slave history.’

Olney asked about oratory and was told:

Obama was by himself on the podium and the focus was entirely on him. Very emotional speech, high toned than you might see first time out in a Presidential process.

What they wanted to do was put the spotlight exclusively on him. This is a man who has forged ahead and made his way to the top of the Iowa primary and he doesn’t need his wife, family and supporters in the background. You saw it with other candidates, it’s a sense that they’re propping them up. His talk was more in the Adlai Stevenson tradition… perhaps too cerebral and might kill him off. But you know this is not settled yet. All these other states. I think Huckabee is more vulnerable than Obama. It’s still a horse race.

Obama looks in pretty good shape… particularly as the field is being winnowed down.

Asked if Romney lost in New Hampshire was he out of the race and also about Huckabee trouncing a traditional Republican businessman [Romney] Dallek suggested that:

Well, if he can’t do well in the state next door to his own he’s running out of time…
Huckabee represents a change in the Republicans… a powerful Southern base once Democrat now Republican, a lot of that South is populist and evangelical. The biggest loser in this whole thing is GW Bush, he’s the one who is being repudiated.

Mind you, talking about race, and the aftermath of New Hampshire, State Senator Robert Ford of South Carolina, a former civil rights activist who had been jailed numerous times was on a subsequent To The Point. As an African American he had some intriguing points to make. His thesis is that whites in the South generally won’t vote for black candidates. He noted that of 8,000 black elected officials… 99% of the officials represent districts where there was 51% black populations… in other words they simply couldn’t get elected – due to residual racism – otherwise. And his choice for candidate – not Obama, but Hilary Clinton, or as he put it the relationship of the Clintons with the black community stretched back 35 years and simply because a candidate emerged like Obama didn’t mean they would abandon their ‘friends’. One wonders how he feels about the way in which the legacies of Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson have become a bone of contention between the Clinton and Obama camps in the past fortnight.

On the same programme Tony Fabrizio a Republican pollster from Fabrizio, McLaughlin, & Associates considered that McCain might be better positioned than Huckabee, but noted that the enthusiasm on the Democratic side and the turnout boded ill for the November election. The disfavour of Bush and the War was driving the vote…

And in contrast Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist, thought that Dems were broadly happy with any of the top three candidates.

People are disenchanted with the President, as indeed are the Republicans. Barely half of the Republicans polled at the exit polls said they were happy with Bush.

Larry Sabato, Professor of Government at the University of Virginia, thought it hard to see how Edwards could emerge with the nomination, but he was determined to go on. He wondered what would happen if Edwards dropped out and endorsed Obama.. could he move 15 – 18% to Obama? He thought it unlikely that he’d support Clinton.

Meanwhile a comfortable win for Hilary Clinton in Michigan, in the absence of her rivals. Whether they will rue not keeping their names on the ballot is an interesting point if only because this essentially empty win solidifies her campaigns sense of inevitability as it reaches towards the nomination (still, she is already retreating from the race row with Obama – both of them were particularly generous to each other during a debate the night before last – and no wonder when polling data indicates that she won just 26% of black votes in the Michigan). And what of Mitt Romney, a man who makes Pinocchio look overly expressive, who finally wins something. But, wow, his victory speech was leaden. This is the best the Republican party can put up? And note how he has begun to drape himself in the mantle of an insurgent… he actually said: “Guess what they’re doing in Washington?” Mr Romney told supporters at his victory rally in Michigan. “They’re worrying, because they realise – the lobbyists and the politicians realise – that America now understands that Washington is broken, and we’re going to do something about it.”

Well, call me a cynic… but…

Meanwhile McCain is becoming a somewhat unreliable front-runner, which is a fair turn around since the Autumn. Bill Clinton is falling asleep on the job, and everyone is talking about race by…er…not talking about it directly.

What’s so remarkable is that it is all happening so relatively swiftly. Will we know for sure on February 5th? Probably not the way this one is running. But… at least we’ll have a better idea of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidates – on both sides. Sure, as someone on Socialist Unity noted they have no ‘programmes’ (in the Marxist sense)… but who really expected them to…and for the moment looking at the Democrat front-runners in the photograph at the top of the page, a woman and a black man, I’m not complaining. There’ll be plenty of time for that if either (or indeed both on a ticket) are elected.

Comments»

1. ejh - January 23, 2008

I have to say that as far as I’m concerned, if the Democrats adopt Clinton they can get stuffed (in my supremely unimportant view). It is indeed one thing having a candidate who’s a broadly liberal centrist and as I’ve said before on here, an Obama-Edwards ticket wouldn’t be something to sniff at. But Clinton is a thoroughly unpleasant and cynical individual with nothing to say to the left. Lesser evils are one thing, the actively evil another thing entirely.

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2. Eamonn - January 23, 2008

I agree with ejh and if you need anymore convincing about the horror of HIllary

http://slate.com/id/2182065/

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3. Jim Monaghan - January 23, 2008

No time for any of them. But interesting remark by Romney about no extra rights for the Irish who wnat to go to the USA. While I sympathise with migrants everywhere I fail to see how we can ask to be priviledged in terms of the USA.I think those who ask for it should be asked what their position is here about access?
It is a pity that Nader or or Cynthia McKinney cannot pull together a credible third force. Money talks. For all its faults PR allows some room here.
Jim Monaghan

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4. Eagle - January 23, 2008

Perhaps too because it’s been seven or eight months since the Irish election and it’s great to be able to watch from afar with neither the necessity for input on the ground nor the sense that the outcome is (short of some terrifying paleo-Republican candidate emerging as a likely winner) existentially threatening in the way 2000 and 2004 were. And so excuse me one and all if I take some vicarious pleasure in what is going on.

I would have thought that a “paleo-Republican” would appeal more than a neo-(con)Republican, no? At least that isolationist instinct would mean a less active foreign policy, no? Unless you’re worried that a Pat Buchanan type will abandon the Middle East to confront the ‘reds’ in China & Venezuela.

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5. CL - January 23, 2008

McCain, the candidate that seems to be the front-runner on the Republican side, is the one closest to Bush on the war and on immigration. The neo-cons like him on foreign policy. But he’s disliked by much of the Republican establishment and their media. McCain,having experienced torture, is against it and for propagandists such as Limbaugh and Hannity, to be against torture is viewed as un-American. But McCain has benefited from the independent vote, something he can’t do in Florida as the primary is closed. In any case the Republican coalition which has held together since Reagan is fractured. No matter who wins the nomination, certain groups will be unhappy. Florida will reduce the field. If Giuliani doesn’t win he’s gone, and he’s just have to go back to making millions from 911.
Hillary looked very confident the other night, and when Obama attacked, pointing out that she was on the board of Wallmart, she struck back immediately accusing him of being the lawyer for a slumlord in Chicago.
South Carolina? They still won’t admit to losing the civil war.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/22/opinion/22herbert.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Obama does not have the burden of trying to awaken from the enslavement nightmare but he’s still a black man in America. He has yet to match Jesse Jackson’s primary record of 1988. But having a woman and a black as the main contenders is progress of a sort. CAnd now an image of Margaret Thatcher just came to mind), But before its all over it could very well be ‘Its the economy, stupid’.
Jim Monaghan you are right on the immigration issue: asking for special treatment for the Irish is a Buchananite appeal to bigotry. Politicians calling for amnesty for Irish undocumented in the U.S while deporting from Ireland people in the same position is rank hypocrisy.

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6. Wednesday - January 23, 2008

It’s very significant, you see, he’s not the slave narrative. If he did come from that background it would be more difficult for him. He comes from the immigrant narrative which is much easier for millions of Americans to identify with than slave history.’

That’s just a nice way of saying he’s not one of THOSE black people. Which is the real issue for Americans who care about such things.

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7. eamonnmcdonagh - January 23, 2008

McCain is indeed close to Bush on immigration in the sense that they are both to the left of the Republican mainstream. He, McCain, supported the Comprenhensive Immigration Reform bill which would have opened the path tocitizenship for millions.

McCain is a US nationalist and wouldn’t retreat from anywhere anytime soon, but he doesn’t have Bush’s religious/ideological drive.

he is, by some considerable margin, the least horrendous republic candidate

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8. PamDirac - January 23, 2008

McCain is in his seventies, and he doesn’t look in the pink of health. It’s very noticeable on television and in shots of him on the campaign trail. I feel bad for him, but it will matter. He’s also more of a doctrinaire conservative than you’d think. His voting record is extremely right wing and the Democrats should be able to make hay with that in the general election. His policy tergiversations don’t always seem to be the result of consistent principle as much as a general unreliability, which is part of the reason some of his Republican colleagues regard him as a loose cannon. He has some less attractive personal qualities, such as a bad temper easily provoked. I think he’s very beatable by any of the leading Democrats.

If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose a Republican, I’d actually go for Romney. If I were a Republican looking for a decent general election candidate, I’d do the same. His liabilities are many and obvious, but he’s not a reactionary fruit bat and unlikely to do anything extreme, despite his pledge to double the size of Guantanamo. Given the number of his former positions from which he’s had to beat a retreat to please the Republican right, his instincts seem to be moderate and cautious, at least by his party’s current standards. Many on the right don’t trust him for just these reasons, but if he wins the election he’ll need their help and will owe them a major debt once in office.

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9. WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2008

In fairness to the person who made the comment about the ‘slave narrative’ I think that was his point… that it would be enormously more difficult for a traditional African American to make that journey. He certainly wasn’t supporting the idea that it shouldn’t be made.

As regards McCain, PamDirac, there’s much in what you say. McCain is an interesting character, but he is a conservative, look at his record on social issues. Not great.

As regards Hilary being evil, Hitchens appears to me to be making a bunch of fairly glib points strung together by innuendo. And trust me, I’m no partisan for Bilary.

Consider the obvious. Clinton actually acknowledged a one night stand with Flowers. It was she who claimed a twelve year long affair. I find the latter a less likely proposition than the former. That he was profligate with his attentions is unquestionable. But worse than that? It’s a big supposition and would require considerable proof and much much more than Hitchens coat trailing. That he politically denied some of these things is unquestionable. It’s one of my reasons, but not exclusively, for not having an enormous amount of time for him. But that was him and I think that was his direct personal and political responsibility, not hers.

That Hilary is now somewhat massaging her own pretty awful record on Iraq is hardly a surprise. She’s running for President in a different political context. that is her responsibility. Not his.

As regards the healthcare issue. Sure, she screwed it up. But she tried and did it openly which is more than can be said for anyone since, or really before from the time Medicare/Medicaid were introduced. Her current stance is arguably better than Obama’s.

And I say this of someone I’m not particularly in favour of… The things we have to do…

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10. CL - January 24, 2008

Back in the 1990’s, when Bill was president, Hillary fashioned her health plan in secret which was one of the main reasons it failed. She and Bill are now playing the race card-Obama is coming to be seen as the ‘black’ candidate, no longer transcending the politically-constructed category of ‘race’.

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11. Wednesday - January 24, 2008

As I recall, Hillary’s health plan failed because it was so unbelievably complex that nobody understood it – which meant it was impossible to adequately defend against the inevitable onslaught by right-wingers and business interests.

WBS my point about the so-called ‘immigrant narrative’ is that it’s a load of euphemistic bull. If recent controversies have shown us anything it’s how many Americans after the first couple generations fail to identify present-day immigration with their own ancestral past. It’s relevant to Obama only insofar as it has shaped his own thinking about race. Because he’s not an Angry Black Man, because he says things like ‘race doesn’t matter’ and that blacks are ‘90% of the way to equality’. Because he speaks Standard American English and not AAVE (‘Ebonics’). He makes white Americans feel good about themselves, so of course it’s easier for them to like him. I’m entirely convinced that a fifth-generation African American from the deep south would have the same impact if he took the same positions on racial issues. Curiously most of them don’t.

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12. WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2008

That’s not entirely correct, the working on the health plan were fairly open, which was one of the problems as the various corporate vested interests were able to annihilate it piece by piece with their good friends in politics… Certainly there is an unpleasant subtext but it’s difficult to discern is this deliberate or not. I think Obama played some of his public performances post Iowa very poorly indeed… Still, I have no horse in this race… I merely find the race itself exciting…

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13. Ed Hayes - January 24, 2008

I have found The Nation to be an excellent source of updates for this election, with plenty on the recent Clinton/Obama rows. I still see what Edwards has been saying and the issues he has raised as vitally important for any form of American politics that seeks to put class and economic disadvantage centre stage.
As for Obama and race, there will be no getting away from it; it cuts across everything in America, everything.
Btw I always found Maya Angelou’s description of Clinton as the ‘first black president’ to be amazingly ill-judged and patronising…
http://www.thenation.com/

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14. Craig - January 24, 2008

Well, John Edwards is pretty left-wing, WBS, certainly more so than Clinton or Obama. I would’ve thought he would be popular in the Cedar Lounge!

As for America not bcoming ‘fascist’, it was never going to; the tendency of some to associate the Republicans with that ideology is as disingenuous as saying that Hillary Clinton wants communism in the US (and some do argue that, in fact).

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15. eamonnmcdonagh - January 24, 2008

“If you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose a Republican, I’d actually go for Romney. If I were a Republican looking for a decent general election candidate, I’d do the same. His liabilities are many and obvious, but he’s not a reactionary fruit bat”

being a Mormon makes you a reactionary fruit bat by definition. They didn´t allow blacks to join their religion till 1975 when Romney was well into his adulthood.

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16. Ed Hayes - January 24, 2008

On the Clinton.Ombama debates…

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080204/howl2

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17. Craig - January 24, 2008

“being a Mormon makes you a reactionary fruit bat by definition. ”

That sounds like discrimination to me. Imagine if you said the same thing about a Muslim.

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18. Ed Hayes - January 24, 2008

Apparently the right in the US are speading the story that Obama is a Muslim…

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19. CL - January 24, 2008

On Clinton and health reform I think A. Cockburn got it right:

-Health reform was Mrs. Clinton’s assignment in her husband’s first term. The debacle is well known. In early 1993, 64 per cent of all Americans favored a system of national health care. By the time Mrs. Clinton’s 1342-page bill, generated in secret, landed in Congress, she had managed to offend the very Democratic leadership essential to making health reform a reality. The proposal itself, under the mystic mantra “Managed Competition”, embodied all the distinctive tropisms of neoliberalism: a naïve complicity with the darker corporate forces, accompanied by adamant refusal to even consider building the popular political coalition that alone could have faced and routed the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies – two of the most powerful forces on the American political scene. Mrs. Clinton’s rout on health reform remains one of the great avoidable disasters of the last century in American politics, and one with appalling human and social consequences

This disaster was compounded by the fact that after the collapse of health reform, on the advice of Dickie Morris (summoned by Mrs. Clinton), the Clintons swerved right, toward all the ensuing ghastly legislative ventures of their regime – the onslaughts on welfare, the crime bill, NAFTA. With Morris came the birth of “triangulation” – the tactic of the Clinton White House working with Republicans and conservative Democrats and actively undermining liberal and progressive initiatives in Congress. Money that could have given the House back to the Democrats in 1996 was snatched by the White House purely for the self-preservation of the Clintons.- (Counterpunch, Nov 16, 2007)

And Bill is in S.Carolina framing the contest in racial and gender terms And this is for national consumption. The basis of Obama’s appeal-that he transcends the racial categories-has been expertly undermined by the Clintons.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-01-24-sc-bill-clinton_N.htm

Will enough be bamboozled to put the man from Hot Springs back in the White House?

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20. WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2008

Craig, I like Edwards message best of all three candidates, I’m not so sure about him.

Re the Health Care package, yes the Task Force proceedings were in secret, not unheard of in such instances, and also conducted in part precisely to prevent lobbying by industry interests, but that said it was presented openly to be voted upon. That it was a flawed plan is unquestionable, but that it was uniquely flawed because it was too neoliberal seems unlikely to me. The argument ever since – and it’s one Clinton herself makes is that she now looks for bipartisanship. I can’t see how that would wind up pushing any future plan in a more rightward direction. Indeed in Cockburn’s analysis it’s notable that he puts the rightward shift post-the health debacle.

CL, I hope you’re not right in the analysis that Obama has been undermined as a person of broad appeal (whatever his specific failings on political positions) because that simply pushes future black candidates back from the political frontline.

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21. CL - January 24, 2008

My above statement re the undermining of Obama’s trans-racial appeal is too conclusive. So I’ll re-phrase: The Clintons are trying to undermine Obama’s trans-racial appeal. Let’s hope they fail.

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22. WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2008

Completely agree.

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23. eamonnmcdonagh - January 24, 2008

There about a billion Muslims and all sorts of Islams spread out over most of the world so I´d be careful what sort of generalisation I made about their politics

Mormomism is quite different: it’s based in one US state, is basically a mad cult founded a nutjob fraudster, and didn´t let blacks join as full members till 1978 (I´ve just checked the date). Absent evidence to the contrary I´ll stick to what I said above

On a more general level, I am dead against the notion that we have to respect people´s religious views. We must respect their right to hold them, something quite different, and nobody, especially not those running for public office, can expect to have their membership of a religion, any religion, excepted from debate and scrutiny

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24. WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2008

I’m no cheerleader for Mormonism. Distant relatives were/are Mormons. Eccentric is a kind word for them. But in fairness to people now alive I’d bet that if one were socialised into any religion even one as recent as a hundred and fifty odd years old the functional distinction between them as belief systems wouldn’t be that great. Having said that IIRC you’re right about the 1978 figure, something that should make people take a long hard look at them. I also agree that respect for the views as distinct the persons right to hold them is a crucial distinction.

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25. PamDirac - January 24, 2008

Yes. It’s the Mormons’ misfortune that their cult was founded quite recently and so a lot of their sillier assertions can be disproved in a way that’s not true for established religions. But all faiths have aspects that look as nutty to outsiders as the Mormons’ Magic Underwear, Jesus returning home to Missouri, etc.

Joseph Smith was a con man, a rather endearing one, but he wasn’t crazy by any means. And although Utah is home it’s a fact that Mormonism is now worldwide.

Please note also that the about-face in 1978 was not the result of the Church leadership thoughtfully confronting their racism. The church never got around to repudiating the teachings behind the prohibition. I also remember reading that there were throat-clearing noises from officialdom about revoking the LDS’ tax exemption if they didn’t get with the program.

**The Clintons are trying to undermine Obama’s trans-racial appeal.**

Well…the Clintons are trying to win a hard-fought primary contest. I like many things about Obama, but he seems to regard it as a personal affront whenever anyone says anything bad about him. He needs to fight back with specifics (as I believe he’s now beginning to do), not spend his time complaining about how Bill and Hill are just being really mean to him. I hope that both campaigns cool off, but they tried that before and it didn’t seem to work. It’s getting really interesting.

**being a Mormon makes you a reactionary fruit bat by definition.**

Mitt’s father, George Romney, was a Mormon and a liberal Republican of a type that has pretty much vanished, like the passenger pigeon. His own bid for his party’s nomination was not derailed by his religion, but mainly by the fact that, as Robert McNamara observed at the time, he had “no brains.” Nice fellow, though.

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26. CL - January 25, 2008

George Romney had enough brains and moral sense to oppose the Vietnam war. He did so publicly and this derailed his bid for the nomination. And his awareness of racial prejudice and the class system would eventually get him fired from the Nixon admin.
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,905893,00.html?promoid=googlep

Mitt is not a chip off this old block.

A Mormon was also the only crowned King in America, King Strang of Beaver island, a pleasant place and when you approach on the ferry the first thing you see is the huge Irish tricolour and the sign which says ‘Cead mile failte’-and thereby hangs a tale..of armed struggle and the deposing of a monarch.

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27. Wednesday - January 25, 2008

Apparently the right in the US are speading the story that Obama is a Muslim…

When I was there last month my cousin’s husband – who isn’t even particularly right-wing – was referring to him as “Barack Osama”.

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28. WorldbyStorm - January 25, 2008

To follow on from your point PamDirac, reading coverage of the election it strikes me that at least the debates are rooted in knocking chunks out of each other over their records (such as they are), particularly in their relation to corporations/business people and not over their gender/race. It’s a small step, but it is a step. The issues of race etc seem to be in a halo beyond the protagonists, albeit there was an effort to pull it away from Obama, something that reflects or feeds into a broader culture. Does anyone know is gender playing any part in the unofficial conversation.

CL, what is that tale?

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29. eamonnmcdonagh - January 25, 2008

good piece on mccain

http://tinyurl.com/2j79ug

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30. CL - January 25, 2008

Beaver island is on Lake Michigan about 30 miles from Charlevoix, Emmet county, Michigan. The story of King Strang has many interesting features. Having lost out to Brigham Young to succeed Joseph Smith he split and formed his own group. He was an elected member of Michigan legislature, but a theocrat on the island. His assassination led to the Irish and the Indians taking over.
http://www.discoverbeaverisland.com/history.htm

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31. Craig - January 25, 2008

“On a more general level, I am dead against the notion that we have to respect people´s religious views. We must respect their right to hold them, something quite different, and nobody, especially not those running for public office, can expect to have their membership of a religion, any religion, excepted from debate and scrutiny”

People should be challenged and questioned just because they hold religious views? What about atheists and agnosts? I think if someone brings their views on religion (or ideology) into their discourse, then yes, we can look at it. But if a political candidate is simply a believer/adherent and doesn’t bring their views into debate, I don’t see the problem.

Mormons are people too, many born into it without choice and therefore should not be subject to ridicule or contempt just for that. I think the Muslim point is relevant, by the way; Islam is by most measures far more strict than ‘mainstream’ Christianity. I would have thought that someone who regards Mormons as strange would have similar views of Muslims.

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32. WorldbyStorm - January 25, 2008

That’s a fair point Craig about the distinction between holding a belief and acting upon it in a fashion which is arguably anti-democratic. It’s a tricky one because I can appreciate how someone of faith can find that having to implement policy that counteracts or contradicts that is difficult, but that’s the way it is.

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33. CL - January 25, 2008

WBS-re the ‘unofficial conversation’.
Grace Lee Boggs has been there-at the revolution..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Lee_Boggs

Now in her tenth decade she has some important things to say on the U.S. election campaign, on race and class, and gender, and on the energies being unleashed. Its interesting that her current position is similar to that of Bernadette Devlin McAliskey-grassroots transformative involvement.

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/1/22/ive_never_had_this_much_hope

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34. PamDirac - January 26, 2008

Thank you for the Boggs interview, CL. I enjoyed reading it.

Regarding the ways in which issues of gender and race are playing out, it seems to me that, while quite blatant displays of misogyny continue to be acceptable — no need to spend time parsing ‘coded language,’ it’s right out there in plain view — in a way that open racism is not, the latter is still at least as noxious in its effects if not more. Neither is going away but I don’t think they’ll be front and center as they were unless somebody really says something stupid. Another thing to be considered, again, is that there is really not much between the leading Democratic candidates in terms of actual policy positions and so very quickly the campaign became about personalities, who was more ‘electable’ and ‘likable,’ etc. (Yes, Edwards’ rhetoric is plainly more traditionally liberal than that of the other candidates, while Obama is positioning himself to Clinton’s right on domestic issues, something I didn’t think was possible in Democratic terms. But Edwards has pushed his rivals to the ‘left’ in so far as you can call it ‘left’ and so good for him. On the right, of course, many still regard the very moderate Clintons as Lenin and Krupskaya…..)

***People should be challenged and questioned just because they hold religious views? What about atheists and agnostics? I think if someone brings their views on religion (or ideology) into their discourse, then yes, we can look at it. But if a political candidate is simply a believer/adherent and doesn’t bring their views into debate, I don’t see the problem.****

In the U.S. at the present time, religion is an unavoidable part of the political discourse. There was a Democratic event early in the campaign involving the usual suspects and while the candidates competed with each other as to who could offer up the most syrupy tribute to the Power of Faith, audience members could have been forgiven for wondering if they’d wandered into a revival meeting. The Republicans are worse. Seems to me that if we have to have this sort of thing, it’s legitimate to talk about what the candidates believe, which parts of their religion’s dogma they do and don’t accept, and exactly how their faith will inform their actions in office. (Mitt Romney’s position, for example, is that his faith in general is Good, but it’s bigotry to ask too much about exactly what he has faith in.)

***I’m entirely convinced that a fifth-generation African American from the deep south would have the same impact if he took the same positions on racial issues. Curiously most of them don’t.***

I’m not so sure – I think that Obama’s background may be making a difference for him. The example of Harold Ford may be instructive here. Ford is a conservative ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat, chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, and his family, although it’s had its problems recently, has been a political force in Tennessee for generations. He ran for the Senate in 2006 and lost in a close election. My recollection is that racism was a more prominent factor in that race than it has been (so far) for Obama:

http://www.observer.com/node/30592

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35. CL - January 26, 2008

The intermingling of ‘race’, class and gender–difficult, maybe impossible to untangle. But if we discuss any one without the others our analysis is probably mistaken. But Ms.Boggs has spent a long life of political activism on these fault lines and I think she has much of importance to say. Her contributions in the Michigan Citizen are incisive and instructive.
http://www.michigancitizen.com/

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36. eamonnmcdonagh - January 26, 2008

craig, the vacuity of your comments absolves of any duty to reply to them

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37. Wednesday - January 26, 2008

My recollection is that racism was a more prominent factor in that race than it has been (so far) for Obama

You’re comparing a general election race with a primary election (Democratic) race. Of course the dynamic will be different.

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38. Ed Hayes - January 28, 2008

A bit of euphoria (and Clinton bashing) from The Nation.

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/campaignmatters?pid=275994

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39. Ed Hayes - January 28, 2008
40. WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2008

Ah well, that’s no surprise… good links though…

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41. Eamonn - January 28, 2008

Who ever imagined McCain was a liberal?

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42. CL - January 28, 2008

” But, especially because of the way the Clintons have racialized this campaign, a vote for Obama has now come to mean something else: a repudiation of at least some of the worst instincts that politicians have so long depended on us to manifest.” -the Nation (link above)
Well said.

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43. WorldbyStorm - January 28, 2008

Hard not to agree. Watching C4 News this evening the only thought was… put Clinton (Mr.) well out of the way for the next while. What’s interesting is that Clinton (Mrs.?) is actually on a national level still quite a way ahead of Obama. But I guess the old ‘crush any and all opposition’ mode has kicked into effect in their minds… It’s ugly and stupid.

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44. PamDirac - January 29, 2008

***What’s interesting is that Clinton (Mrs.?) is actually on a national level still quite a way ahead of Obama***

She has considerably more name recognition. Also, there are quite a few Democratic voters who like her for some reasonably solid reasons. I remain a skeptic, but the self-righteousness of some of the Obama folks and the ongoing and heedless Clinton-bashing in the media are bothersome, to say the least.

I am informed by an Obama supporter that his candidate doesn’t really mean all the kumbaya stuff and he’s pulling the wool over Republicans’ eyes in a clever reversal of the Bush ‘compassionate conservative’ shtick. I hope so. We’ll have to take it on faith, like so much else about this candidate.

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45. sonofstan - January 29, 2008

Could Eagle, or anyone else with recent experience of living in the US, tell me if the Kennedy endorsement is as significant as RTE seem to think? Would not have thought Ted Kennedy – who after all, never got within a sniff of a presidential nomination – has quite the influence they think

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46. CL - January 29, 2008

Obama is offering a vision, Clinton a laundry list. (The Isaiah Berlin distinctiion of two basic types, hedgehog and fox, comes to mind) There’s another debate I think on Thursday and Obama may have to get specific-and he’s not too comfortable doing so.
Its interesting that the Congressional Black Caucus is mostly for Clinton. The Kennedys were strong backers of Cesar Chavez and the endorsement should help among Hispanics. The Kennedy machine will certainly help Obama in Massachusetts. And the endorsement may help with older voters where Obama is weakest. It bolsters Obama with the social democratic wing of the Democrats-especially after his ill-advised remark about Reagan. The Kennedy name does have resonance-the last of the martyred brothers, the unfulfilled promise of Camelot, etc. Whether all this can match the Clinton machine on the ground…who knows.

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47. Ed Hayes - January 29, 2008

Teddy’s endorsement is a mixed blessing; as noted above he never won anything big himself. His chance in 1970 was messed up by his erratic driving. Will it bring Obama votes that he wasn’t already going to get? I doubt it.

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48. WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2008

So do I, but then again amongst Democratic elite thinking it may be useful, particularly in funding, etc. Feb5 is where the action is… Any predictions anyone?

CL, that’s very true about Obama. Specifics is not his thing. I still think the Clintons have this to lose, rather than Obama to win. I think he’ll do well, but I wonder should Hilary make it through would there be any appetite (on either side) for VP for Obama?

sonofstan, Channel4 also had it last night as well.

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49. CL - January 29, 2008

If it goes all the way to the convention, a very close race, and if Clinton won, the only way to unite the party might be to have Obama as VP. And if he wanted it, could not be denied since to do so would cause too much rancor. But its still early days…

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50. WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2008

Yep, it certainly is. Interesting to see how the Republicans shake out too over the immediate future.

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51. sonofstan - January 29, 2008

A Clinton/ Obama ticket wouldn’t have a southerner (or at least someone representing a southern state) on it; bit like an FF cabinet without a minister from Cork……

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52. WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2008

That’s true and that would be a problem…

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53. sonofstan - January 30, 2008

It is.
The last elected president to have previously represented a northern state is JFK; Ford was from Michigan but was never elected president, Bush 1 was born in Mass. but was never elected to anything before becoming VP. The long list of failed democrats since Humphrey in ’68 have all been northerners; Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry; only Al Gore was a southerner – and he ‘won’.

A ticket with senators from NY and Illinois would be a massive turn off in ‘the heartland’ I think- a woman from NY and a Black man from Chicago at that. If nothing else, John Edwards has to be hoping to be drafted in by either for his accent…..

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54. CL - January 30, 2008

The Democrats can win without the South:

-Thomas Schaller’s counsel to Democrats is to stop trying to regain Southern votes. In his view, more is lost than gained by such a strategy. Even choosing presidential candidates from the region won’t help. A more fruitful formula, he says, is to edge the Republicans into becoming “a regional party that owns most of the South, but little else.” In a word, turn this part of the Republicans’ base into an albatross. “Whistling Past Dixie” is studded with statistics intended to prove that casting the South as the home of “profits plus pulpits” can rally the rest of the country.-
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/01/books/review/Hacker.t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

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55. PamDirac - January 30, 2008

It’s theoretically possible for Democrats to win without a Southerner on the ticket. It’s just not likely and as sonofstan points out it would be flying in the face of not-so-recent history, even though things are looking uncommonly good for the Democrats this season no matter which of the leading candidates is on the ticket. Ceding the South to the Republicans without even a token fight is a huge concession and risk, even if you exclude Florida and Virginia. Whistle past Dixie at your peril.

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56. sonofstan - January 30, 2008

It’s not just the South though, it’s the South and West; seems most Americans – black and white, though not Hispanic – west of the Mississippi identify with the South rather than the North East.

It’s weird of course; as the article CL cites points out, rural ‘heartland’ voters make up a fifth of the electorate – which means 4/5ths aren’t rural; the difficulty is not just getting the vote out in the cities, though – running explicitly against the supposed ‘heartland’ would be running against some things many voters (pretend?) to be devoted to. Winning a popular vote in such a huge place involves not just winning ward by ward – it involves winning the America of the imagination, giving people a sense they are voting with history, with a sense of the place as it could – and should – be; which is why any explicit cutting out of the part of the population Dan Quayle considered to be more ‘real’ than other Americans would be a dangerous strategy.

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57. ejh - January 30, 2008

Hurrah (as usual) for Matt Taibbi

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58. WorldbyStorm - January 30, 2008

Interesting piece.

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59. Wednesday - January 31, 2008

seems most Americans – black and white, though not Hispanic – west of the Mississippi identify with the South rather than the North East.

That’s definitely not true about California or the northwest, and at least some urban centres between the midwest and west.

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60. Ed Hayes - January 31, 2008

Edwards is gone but speech worth a read…

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/campaignmatters?pid=277755

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61. CL - January 31, 2008

No need to cede the South to the Republicans. But if it can be won without the South it can be won without having a southerner on the ticket. And of course Hillary, wife of a governor of Arkansas can do that southern drawl when needed. And if Hillary is the nominee..Billary is certainly a southern candidate..so … all just speculation now. And at tonights debate the body language between Hillary and Barack will probably be uncomfortable, not to mention just ordinary language.

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62. Ed Hayes - February 4, 2008

As we shape up for ‘Super Tuesday.’

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080218/hayes

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63. WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2008

Any bets?

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64. Garibaldy - February 4, 2008

Someone not very nice and not much different in policy terms to Bush will win both nominations.

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65. WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2008

Yes, but which one?

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66. Garibaldy - February 4, 2008

McCain and Obama.

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67. PamDirac - February 4, 2008

I have no idea. Some recent polls are showing Obama pulling ahead, but nobody seems to know any better than I do. Tuesday may not resolve anything.

I note in passing that Obama recently got the endorsement of Murdoch’s New York Post and the Drudge Report continues to link to every vaguely anti-Hillary news item Drudge can find. Seems to me either Republicans are holding their fire against Obama until he actually wins the nomination or they’re confident they can handle him even if he gets into the White House. Lefty Democrats seem remarkably unworried about this sort of thing. I hope they are right.

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68. WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2008

Ann Coulter endorsed Hilary… sort of…

Mick Hall from Organized Rage told me about the NYP endorsement, PamDirac. It’s not great, is it?

To be honest I’d be shading very slightly for Hilary due to her healthcare plan which is universal. But, I’ll repeat, at least there are two intelligent people on the Dems side (and McCain is a bright guy too), which is nice.

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69. sonofstan - February 4, 2008

To be honest I’d be shading very slightly for Hillary

Same here; there’s just a little too much of Tony Blair about Obama; risen without a trace as someone said about someone else, neither of whom I can remember …..plus the fact that the poor, older voters, and a surprising number of black voters are going for Clinton; as I said before, people who actually need politics are much more careful with their vote than the young and affluent who see it as a consumer decision.

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70. WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2008

Great phrase sonofstan. “people who actually need politics are much more careful with their vote than the young and affluent who see it as a consumer decision.” In a way the debates where Obama came across as a lot more snippy than his image made me less and less impressed. I guess it’s a bit like saying, ‘well at least we know HC isn’t a pleasant person on a political level, but… she doesn’t do much to hide it’…. whereas he does.

And it’s not as if we like Clinton either… but… least worst of, bad bunch… although political dynasties stick in my craw.

Also, I just don’t get it about the ‘internet’ left supporting Obama. I really think the war has created an enormous blindspot amongst some as to other equally if not more fundamental political issues and stances…

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71. PamDirac - February 4, 2008

***Also, I just don’t get it about the ‘internet’ left supporting Obama. I really think the war has created an enormous blindspot amongst some as to other equally if not more fundamental political issues and stances…***

HillaryHate from left and right tends to have an ineradicable element of irrationality about it no matter how sound the reasons offered (and some of them are good reasons). It does seem like a double standard. If Clinton had received the NY Post’s endorsement many of the bloggers would have been shouting it from the rooftops. As it was, nary a peep.

That said — Clinton has done an awful lot to alienate the left on the war. (It’s not just a question of her original ‘yes’ vote, although she still tends to stumble whenever the subject comes up. I think she made a serious error, for example, in voting for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.. The vote was bad politics and bad on the merits. Although you could argue she had more guts that either Obama and McCain, both of whom didn’t manage to get there in time for the vote.)

The Post endorsement could mean something on another level, as well. Although the paper attacked Hillary viciously during her first Senate run, Murdoch had recently been making nice, presumably on the principle of if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. He may have decided to jump on what he believes to be the winner’s bandwagon.

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72. WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2008

Yeah, that was a pointless vote, wasn’t it about the Rev Guard… It’s confusing in some respects looking in.

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73. Garibaldy - February 4, 2008

I’d prefer Hilary myself. But I think the Obama bandwagon may well be too strong at this point. I think McCain would have a very good chance of beating either of them.

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74. PamDirac - February 5, 2008

Speak of the devil, the NYTimes published an article today on Rupert and Hillary. Can’t link to it because poltergeists are interfering with my keyboard.

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