I rarely use my own voice on this blog because I prefer it to be a vehicle for those far more interesting and informative than myself. But on the eve of "Super Tuesday," the primary that will help decide the next president of the most powerful nation on earth, and possibly the course of major world events over the next decade or more, I can't help from issuing my own verdict on how certain things stand.
Like many committed progressives, I never know what to do with the paucity of choices come election time. Like many, I consistently find even the most "moderate" Republican candidates so philosophically reprehensible that even the most corrupt and venial Democrat will get my vote.
With so much at stake, and tensions running high, I have been reading the most disgusting nonsense about both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They are both fine candidates, and whomever wins the Democratic nomination will likely win the presidency and be a thousand times better than even the most progressive Republican. The two parties are, as ever, miles apart - even if, as Ralph Nader would put it, they are miles to the right of where they could be if this nation had a real progressive movement.
Nevertheless, it is tedious and simply inaccurate to suggest that Obama supporters would not support Clinton, or vice versa, when it comes to election day, or that Clinton represents the "status quo" or any other such facile sophistry. Anyone interested in politics clearly knows what's at stake, and will vote appropriately when the time comes.
But this brings me to my main point, and the reason for this endorsement: most people aren't interested in politics. Let me say that again, since it's an important point, and bound to get lost as you're quickly skimming this over:
MOST PEOPLE AREN'T INTERESTED IN POLITICS.
this is a basic truth that many people who are excited about politics tend to neglect.
A political affiliation is, for most people, like an ugly hat that they are forced to wear at a stupid office party when you're forced to play some team-spirit-building game. No one wants to wear the hat - it musses your hear, it looks idiotic, and you'll take it off the second the opportunity presents itself. Now I'm not saying this is a great thing - honestly, I can see two sides to this, given the essential mendacity politicians must possess if they are to gain even a modicum of success in the present world. But it's how things are. People don't walk around saying to everyone they meet, "I'm a Democrat" or "I'm a Republican" unless they're a political organizer or a particularly lonely and troubled individual. Maybe they say "I'm a progressive," but that's not quite the same thing.
So every four years, they walk over to the stupid table, pick up the stupid hat, put it on their head for a little bit, and are thankful when they get to take it off. And mainly, they pick up the same hat they wore last time around, because that way they can tune out all the idiotic advertisements and the people yelling about things on Crossfire, and everything else, and get on with the real, meaningful things in their daily lives that make a difference.
I'm getting to the endorsement, I promise.
So the following relies on hunches and guesswork, but that's all anyone is relying on at this point, and I'm not a total idiot, so here goes:
The Republicans will choose McCain. This is both good and bad for them. Good, because it makes them look more sane to the average voter. They will certainly pick up more from the "middle" than they would with any of the other fools they have running. The problem is that McCain is 100 years old and wants to stay in Iraq for another 100 years, so the only people that are going to really go to bat for him are the hard line conservatives, and they all hate him. Really, the far right is apoplectic about his getting the nomination, which is really a wonderful boon for the progressive community. Talk radio, if it doesn't quickly reverse course and start falling in line behind him, is going to guarantee that Republican turnout for the next election is way down, handing the election to any Democrat still alive.
Hillary Clinton is not THAT polarizing a figure. It's not like the hordes of committed Obama supporters are not going to vote, or are going to vote for McCain in protest. Gimme a break. They'll suck it up and vote for her.
But remember the hats. Lots of people - MOST people - don't wear a hat all the time. They don't care. So the election comes up, and you've got Hillary vs McCain, and it's going to be a total zoo on the news channels and on talk radio, and with all this bile, a lot of people are just going to be fed up and not vote at all. They're going to say, well, I don't like either of them, and I like her positions more, but really this is all just beneath me. And it's going to be a nail biter, and the Democrats may honestly lose. Because it's going to be very close, and some, just some, of those people who had gotten really excited about Obama are going to be bummed out that he lost to Hillary and think the whole thing is exactly what they thought originally - a venial, corrupt, lousy game that they'd rather not have anything to do with.
But say Obama gets the nod. Lots of people get inspired by his story, by his elocution. He builds excitement, momentum. Excitement about the Democratic vision, about the progressive movement, in America? No, really - it could happen. He's a good speaker, and people seem to take to him for whatever reason. Sure, it's all rhetoric, say the haters. And a good part of it is. But people like to be inspired. They like to look on the sunny side, especially when politics is so dreary and sordid all the time. The Republicans know very well they're in big trouble on this one against Obama, because they always win with the smile on their face. Ronald Reagan. GW Bush, with all his BS about compassionate conservatism, conservatism with a happy face. People bought it. Gore's "two americas" speech that Edwards took up - gimme a break, that will NEVER work in America. Read your history books. The Democrats love to nominate people who are long on policy details but short on the ability to sell them effectively. And people like me- intellectuals who tend to believe the world revolves around policy and minor details- always vote for these people and can never figure out why Michael Dukakis didn't win. Look, Ronald Reagan was a hack - but his movie star charisma helped him to make everybody believe that black was white and up was down, or that "Star Wars" was a good idea. Jelly Beans. He was a goof - but a goof with charisma. Remember Al Gore - what an incredibly smart guy! He'd have made a great president. But people hated him. The democrats always do this. Now Hillary is saying something like, "remember the last time we picked a president you wanted to have a beer with?" Does her staff really think that's going to work? What's the argument? - Hey, the last nice looking, charismatic, likeable fellow who won you over turned out to be a scumbag, so from now on, you should only go out with disagreeable, ugly, unlikeable people? Can you spot the flaw in that reasoning?
So Barack Obama comes along. He's young, he doesn't have all this baggage. He gets people excited about politics who don't usually give a hoot about it (ie., most people.) Obama vs. McCain in the general election - I don't care what polls say now, they're completely unreliable. Here's what will happen: Obama and McCain both run positive warm fuzzy campaigns, because if McCain goes severely negative, he's lost. But Obama is totally on the side of youth, hope, blah blah blah, and McCain is a hundred years old and doesn't have a new idea in his body. It's impossible to sell "change" when you're in his body, he's rock solid status-quo, nothing more, nothing less. But not only are the hard core conservatives not going to come out for him, but they're not going to have Hillary to go after. The far right will be totally dispirited. And Obama's going to come in with the message of hope at the very same time, and yes, it's vague and his policy details have some serious problems, but whatever, he can hire people are work on that when he gets into office. The point is, at the very point that McCain is low, Obama is able to bring in all the comitted progressives, obviously, but also a good number of uncommitted people, young and old, who haven't voted before.
I'm not saying Sean Hannity is going to fall for Obama. I'm saying that out of the huge number of people who don't give a damn about politics in this country, a TINY bit of them will go to the polls for the first time in a while. That's not going to happen with Hillary. And THAT, combined with the general problems McCain is going to create for the far-right shock troops, could create a massive boost that would not only give Obama the presidency, but deliver a whole lot more seats in the Senate and the House to Democrats, which would make passing difficult legislation that much easier. He passes legislation, Republicans turn on themselves, declare that they lost because they nominated a "moderate" in McCain, and nominate a super right wing wacko, and lose again in four years, suring up a democratic, progressive majority governing block for a generation.
So depite my qualms, I've fallen for the Obama camp. Here's hoping the Democratic establishment, and the primary voters, figure this out in time.
(ps, yes I know this is all just my 2 cents. But for what it's worth, I am IN PRINT days after 9/11 predicting that GW Bush will invade Iraq on some minor pretext, and that he will vast underestimate the difficulty of quelling the regional problems he creates. so there ;)