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Tony Blankley on KCRW makes an interesting point about the Democratic race… May 31, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.

I often disagree with Tony Blankley, the house conservative on KCRW’s Left, Right and Centre podcast, and not least when he described Scott McLellan as an ‘inconsequential cipher’ (yeah, right, spokesperson for an US President… an inconsequential job, no doubt at all there). But – for there is a ‘but’. He’s bang on the money when he suggests that:

The impending denouement of the (Democratic) primary shows all the worst aspects that derive from identity politics. Hillary supporters who don’t have any policy disputes to speak of with Obama are furious because he’s not a woman. Many of his supporters are furious at the thought that he should have the nomination taken away from him because he’s an African American. These are the wrong reasons to be for or against candidates. You should be for them because you admire them or you agree with their principles. You can also negotiate policy disputes, you can’t negotiate identity disputes. This is the wrong way to go about democracy.

True indeed, as far as it goes. But he is being too kind. The core problem is that identity politics has been used as a proxy for power politics, not for itself – which would of course be bad enough. It’s not so much that Obama is a black, but that he is in the way and therefore a certain rhetorical tilt has been added to the discourse that seeks to use his colour as a means of undermining his candidacy by pointing at his electability. That he had remarkably high levels earlier in the campaign demonstrates that at the very least the process of attrition caused by the relentless conflict has not been without results.

And what is astounding is the almost implacable insularity of a Clinton campaign which has appeared almost oblivious, or worse indifferent, as regards the damage this conflict has done to their previously quite good reputation (all things considered). I don’t think that the Clintons harbour any of the negative viewpoints they tangentially summon up. Not for one minute. And any ire they hold for Obama is that of any original front-runner overtaken by another contender.

It’s just politics. Nothing personal.

And that is the problem.


1. Sarah Spitz - June 1, 2008

Delighted to know our show is heard in Ireland. Keep on writing. These were the very two points I thought that were outstanding in this week’s show. Thanks for posting!
–Sarah Spitz, LR&C Producer http://www.KCRW.com


2. CL - June 1, 2008

The DNC rules committee meeting in Wasington on Sat.31 has resolved the Fl and Mi problem.
For Fl in a unanimous vote it was agreed to seat all the Fl delegation, with each delegate being allowed one half vote. The allocation of delegates was 52.5 for Clinton, 33.5 for Obama and Edwards 6.5.
For Mi the vote was 19 in favour, 8 against to seat the complete delegate with each delegate having one half vote. The allocation was 34.5 delegate votes for Clinton, 29.5 for Obama.
In St.Paul, Minnesota next Tuesday Barack Obama begins his campaign for the presidency of the U.S.


3. chekov - June 1, 2008

Obama’s got it in the bag. Murdoch doesn’t back losers: http://www.24.com/news/?p=ra&i=928569

This, from Rupert, I like:

“”Politicians and Washington are at an all time low, they are despised by 80% of the public … And you’ve got a candidate who is … trying to put himself above it all … and he’s become a rock star. It’s fantastic.””

He understands political power, that man.


4. WorldbyStorm - June 1, 2008

Sarah, many thanks, the show is great – a genuine education. And a nice range of opinions across the spectrum from people who sincerely hold them but are willing to do so without rancour which is also refreshing.

Podcasting is the way I came to it and I presume this must be a means of extending the reach of shows like LR&C across a broader audience.

Saw that CL. And I see that Clinton’s supporters weren’t happy. I really don’t understand the logic of the argument that she should take all the Mi votes…

Still, quite an interesting tilt on the pro and anti side if that’s any indication of the way the superdelegates will break.

Chekov, dead right. I also seem to recall that one of the Murdoch offspring (Elizabeth?) hosted a party for Obama in London recently… I think it was.


5. ejh - June 1, 2008

I think it is reasonable to say that all things considered, it would do the US no harm at all to have a woman or a black person in the White House for a change – to that extent, it is reasonable to think in terms of identities. And I also think that if race or gender became the issue it would be quite OK to vote on that basis, to wit if a very large slice of people had made it clear that they really didn’t want (see above) in the White House on the basis on their gender or skin colour, then it would be a very good idea if they didn’t get what they wanted.


6. WorldbyStorm - June 1, 2008

Absolutely, but, to see it as *the* issue is not so great. And in this proxy like fashion… Not good at all…


7. chekov - June 2, 2008

ejh: I think you need to separate out a few issues that are normally intertwined in electoral debates.

Firstly, if Obama wins, it would tell us something about identity. Specifically, it would tell us that ordinary US voters are less racist than we often fear they are. That would be a good thing in my eyes. Therefore, I more or less hope that he will win the vote. It would give us something to be optimistic about at least.

However, anything beyond this really depends on what he does when he is president. In this, it doesn’t matter what his identity is, it matters what laws he passes and what executive decisions he makes. If, for example, he passes laws that tend to increase institutional and societal racism, then his presidency would not be good for those who don’t like racism. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests (Thatcher, Condoleeza) that there is no correlation between the individual identity of the leader and the the stuff that they do with their power.

It is also worth taking Rupert’s view into account. He appears to believe that Obama will not be injurious to his business interests. He further appears to believe that Obama’s “rock star” alternative persona will be beneficial to him. This is because of the identity thing. Many people will see Obama as a progressive candidate by virtue of his identity, as you do. This is a bonus to those, such as Rupert, who care about what he does rather than what his identity represents. The support that he receives from progressives by virtue of his identity will inevitably lessen the opposition that he faces when doing stuff that is anti-progressive.

Maybe Rupert’s wrong, but he’s got access to a hell of a lot better quality information than the rest of us. I have also seen nothing at all that would suggest that he isn’t right.


8. WorldbyStorm - June 2, 2008

Interesting, as a side issue I wonder if the ‘rock star’ identity element is one that isn’t necessary an element of his colour, but of his apparent youth (he’s mid to later 40s), his seeming openness, etc. Which doesn’t contradict any of your points as regards his policy positions.


9. PamDirac - June 3, 2008

***The allocation was 34.5 delegate votes for Clinton, 29.5 for Obama.***

Yes, Obama received delegates in a state where he took his name off the ballot voluntarily and nobody actually voted for him. Pretty neat. No question, Obama controls the party machinery now.


10. WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2008

It’s a tricky one. His counter argument is presumably (from what I heard on To The Point (again on KCRW)) that he was – by removing his name – acting within the rules agreed by Clintons people on a committee dominated by Clinton supporters. So why should he be penalised for same when she would on the other hand be rewarded by being given delegates.

That said I think you’re correct insofar as we see a generational shift inside the Democrats. So, perhaps not so much control, as the ground beneath the Clinton’s feet is no longer as stable as it once was…


11. CL - June 3, 2008

The Clintons set out after McGovern’s defeat in 1972 to take over the Democratic Party. They succeeded. They have now been defeated by Obama who two years ago was almost unknown. Obama’s victory is a remarkable political achievement. Adjustments,-painful for some-to this new reality are now underway. Hillary must adjust to Obama’s victory, but Obama must recognize Hillary’s substantial support and the closeness of the contest.


12. WorldbyStorm - June 3, 2008

Very true.


13. Ed Hayes - June 4, 2008

A bit ott, but sometimes we do need reminding of how the contest is seen over there



14. WorldbyStorm - June 4, 2008

Pretty good analysis. Even-handed.


15. CL - June 4, 2008

Obama has appointed Caroline Kennedy to head up his search for a VP. A clear message that Hillary won’t be on the ticket.


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