Saturday, January 12, 2008
It turns out that Mitt Romney is the last real"business candidate" left among the major contenders for either party's nomination. In relation to the corporate sector, McCain is a good government reformer and Huckabee is a populist who wants to stop the redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle to the top 1/2 percent. It could be argued that both of them would be less friendly to the corporate sector than either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.
Although the corporate sector is the most powerful element in American society, big business could find themselves largely excluded from access to presidential power after the 2008 election.
Friday, January 11, 2008
In other words, I'm glad to see the issue of race start to become more prominent in the nomination fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Before I comment further, I should state my biases. I'm supporting Hillary Clinton and am becoming more of a Hillary partisan over time. But I'm also very impressed by Obama, attended his rally in Lexington, KY and have contributed $150 to his campaign. Contrary to the dominant ethic of "color-blindness" which seeks to stifle racial awareness in American society, I believe that it is extremely important for all Americans to be aware of the legacy of white supremacy and the mostly African-American efforts to overcome white supremacy. Contrary to the traditional national ethic of assimilating other groups into an Anglicized white tradition, I believe that all Americans should orient themselves toward the largely African-American traditions of fighting brutal forms of domination in our own country. I'm not saying that whites haven't been the most prominent actors in resistance movements like the American Revolution, the labor movement, and feminism. But African-American struggles against white supremacy have been the most pervasive and persistent fights against oppression in this country. All Americans need to identify with traditions of African-American resistance if we are to pursue social justice in this country and act with any sense of decency abroad.
Having said that, I'll move forward.
Here's Hillary's controversial comment about Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King:
I would point to the fact that Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when he was able to get through Congress something that President Kennedy was hopeful to do, the president before had not even tried, but it took a president to get it done,” she said, in response to a question about how her dismissive attitude toward Obama’s “false hopes” would have applied to the civil rights movement. “That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president who said we are going to do it and actually got it accomplished.This is one of the most inept comments I've ever seen attributed to Hillary Clinton. I suppose she meant that it took someone of Lyndon Johnson's enormous experience and legislative skill to get civil rights legislation passed. But saying that "it took a president to get it done" is a vague and inapt way to make the point. Barack Obama's already acknowledged the importance of the presidency by spending the last year campaigning to be president himself. Besides that, Hillary Clinton doesn't have Lyndon Johnson's long pre-presidential experience or legislative skill any more than Obama does. Even then, Johnson was only able to push through fundamental change because of the wave of grieve and sympathy for the civil rights movement brought about by President Kennedy's assassination. Hillary doesn't really want to say that fundamental change is so hard that a president has to be in extremely fortuitous circumstances to get it accomplished. But what is she saying?
Some African-American observers believe that Hillary is insinuating that it took a white leader like Lyndon Johnson to get civil rights legislation passed. I don't necessarily agree with this. Hillary's comment does not sound at all like the right-wing race warriors Abilgail and Stephen Thernstrom who do argue this point in America in Black and White. But, it's certainly not a wholly unreasonable interpretation, and Hillary should have known better than to make a comment that could be interpreted in this light. She exercises that much caution in relation to the economy, the military, and the war in Iraq. The only reason Hillary didn't do so in relation to race is that she's a white Democratic politician who is not used to running against an African-American candidate, not used to talking about issues that are connected to race, and not used to being held accountable by African-American voters who have a real alternative. She better get used to that accountability quickly or she won't deserve the support of African-Americans during the primaries or the general election if she wins the nomination.
I don't want to attempt to appear even-handed, but I believe there's a lesson for African-American observers here as well. Some of the African-American blogs are referring to Bill Clinton's criticism of Barack Obama's rhetoric of hope as a "fantasy" as a racist, condescending, or at least an unwise or "racially risky" statement. I don't buy that at all. As the first serious African-American contender for the presidency, Barack Obama is an obvious target for the criticism of his opponents. In fact, Obama should, and does, consider Bill Clinton's criticism as evidence of his progress as a candidate. Now that African-American Democrats have become contenders, they should expect the same searching criticism that white contenders like Hillary Clinton get.
At the same time, African-American bloggers make an invaluable contribution to the Democratic primary by treating Hillary Clinton as a "white woman." In fact, she is a white woman. Actually, I'm a white guy myself. People in the United States and whites in particular are tempted to treat race strictly as an issue of black people. That's B.S. Neither contemporary American society nor American history can be understood realistically without thoroughly analyzing the ways in which the "whiteness" of white people is important. In this regard, "thefreeslave" performs a valuable public service when he caricatures Hillary's "tearing up" episode in this way.
The Tears of a White Woman are the greatest weapon this side of a knitted rope. Ask Emmit Till and a thousand other black men rotting on the vine, how strong them beige tears can be.
Heading into political oblivion, my white sister went to the well, literally bathing her face in water from her political makeup kit.
And one mo’ thang (said in my most Obamanesque lingua negra): Polling appears to be used to keep fools on that psychofragilistic-rollercoaster - what’s gonna happen, fuckin’ wit dem expectations and high hopes and then dashing them on the rocks like dem Spanish Conquistadores. They tell you Obama was up by double digits. You believe it, of course; then you are shocked, shocked when it doesn’t come out the way they told you it was ’sposed to. Did they play you, so you’d be surprised/ disappointed? Hmm. They play ya any other night of the year - why would this be different?!
Hell, this is the Oscars of manipulative, missionary mind control: another state, another dog fight, South Carolina here we come, Round 3, a fucking choreographed puppet’s dance - only you are the puppet. Dance muthafucka, dance!
Follow the bouncing ball while they rifle through your cranium, stealing your lint, coin, brain cells, vote.
William Gray, a former Congressman and head of the NAACP from Philadelphia, argues that everybody connected with the presidential campaigns should stay quiet about race and gender.
“Some of the Obama people are clearly trying to use Hillary’s comments about Martin Luther King and distort them into something she did not say, which is
outrageous . . . It’s a hot issue in South Carolina, and they’re spreading the word all over. I hope that the good senator will make sure that none of his people are doing that. We don’t need to have a debate about race or gender.”
To the contrary, one of the biggest benefits of Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's candidacies is that it gives American society an opportunity to talk about race and gender in more fruitful ways. Both candidates should be playing our cards and developing better skills at doing so.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The question for Goldberg and other right-wingers as they think about how to demagogue Obama is which racial insinuation or combination of racial insinuations is going to work to push undecided voters to vote against Obama because he's black. There are some voters (my mom for instance) who would absolutely refuse to vote for Obama because he's black. But there are millions of white voters who might hold Obama's blackness against him but would have concerns about the war, the economy, religion, Bush administration incompetence, and other issues. One of the things that makes undecided voters undecided is that they haven't figured out which of these concerns would have priority when they make their voting decisions in November. In their efforts to "help" undecided independents and weak Republicans come to a Republican vote, conservatives are trying to make Obama's blackness more visible as a factor in voting against Obama.
As a conservative commentator, Karl Rove works at much greater cultural depth than Goldberg's straight-forward appeal to stereotypes of African-Americans as a violent group. Of course, Rove wouldn't mind if his own employment of stereotypes stimulated his readers to think poorly of Obama in a straight-forward way. But it's even more important for Rove to get black activists and white liberals to respond by complaining about his racism, being "outraged," and demanding "apologies." Rove's right-wing and conservative-leaning readers may have a "general" sense of racial hostility toward blacks, but nothing kicks in their identification as conservatives more than watching Al Sharpton or Chuck Shumer criticize racism on television. White liberals generally don't understand the extent to which Karl Rove and Ann Coulter manipulate liberals into helping them lock in their political identification of conservatives. Even if everyday conservatives only have a vague unease about Obama because he's African-American, they'll start being contemptuous if conservative propogandists can effectively associate Obama with the civil rights activists and liberals they really hate.
This is why Rove placed his Obama "trash-talking" in Harvard Yard and why Rove emphasizes that Obama won the college towns and "white wine drinkers" of New Hampshire. Rove wants to associate Obama with the "liberal elites" which the right-wing associates with Harvard, white wine, lattes, and bri. In racial terms, Rove is stereotyping Obama as the kind of ambitious, upwardly mobile, black person who social conservatives have particularly distrusted ever since the end of slavery. But once again, Rove isn't stopping there. He's also associating Obama with his stereotypes of white liberals as a way to reinforce and lock in conservative antipathy to Obama's candidacy.
This is a point where it is interesting to ask whether people like Goldberg, Reynolds, Malkin, and Rove are racist or not. Focusing on Rove for a second, I personally would have more respect for Rove if he were a racist. If Rove were a racist, he would be operating at some level of repugnant honesty in his insinuations concerning Obama and black people in general. In this sense, Rove's comments about Obama's "laziness" and "trash-talking" would be ways to convince conservatives of racial views that Rove himself holds. People like Trent Lott, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh would be "honest racists" in this way.
But, say Rove is not a racist. Then, his target of his contempt would be conservatives rather than black people. Like any swindler or con artist, Rove would be viewing conservatives as "marks"--as stupid, naive people who can be easily manipulated into doing Rove's will if he plays with their cultural stereotypes. If Rove is not a racist, he would be a con artist in racial stereotypes instead, someone working to serve big money interests by manipulating his targets into voting Republican on racial grounds. It's worth repeating that Rove doesn't have to be a racist to practice the politics of racism any more than he has to be homophobic to engage in the politics of homophobia. Instead, he might view "race" as a set of cultural symbols that he can use to manipulate large sets of voters into voting for conservative Republicans. Of course, Rove would be even more of an enemy of racial equality and reconciliation if he treats "race" as a business rather than a belief. But the primary target of Rove's disgust and contempt would not be black people, it would be the conservatives he's manipulating. Obviously, Rove also has a low opinion of the white liberals and civil rights leadership he wants to "enrage." He finds them, or us, easy to manipulate. But he would have a special contempt for the conservatives he's jerking around. He must really hate them and get some sort of sick pleasure out of moving their emotions around like they are pawns on a chess board.
Obviously, I don't have a window into the soul of Karl Rove. Who would really want that? But my sense from his op-ed writing is that Rove is much more of an entrepreneur in the politics of racism than a racist himself. I think this would also be the same with Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Reynolds as well. In this way they would be honest when they say they're not racists. To the contrary, the people who really disgust Rove and the right-wing demagogues are the conservatives they're in the business of manipulating.
Obama got 38 percent of the vote in Iowa. Not only is Iowa only one small state, but 38 percent of the vote is way less than half. Nevertheless, based on that plurality he was about to march to the nomination. As a result, while Obama continued to hold his own in terms of his baseline level of support, all the uncommitted people -- supporters of minor candidates, undecideds, some soft Edwards people -- voted for Clinton to keep the race going. In Iowa, a similar dynamic probably helped Obama. People knew that a Clinton win might end the competition, so Obama can, so to speak, the benefit of the doubt. Unlike most political bloggers, most voters haven't been following this thing since the first quarter of 2007. A lot of them want to see how the competition plays out.
Actually, I think most of the prominent liberal bloggers are also interested in seeing how the Obama/Hillary contest plays out. Bloggers like Kos (for Obama) and Matt Stoller (Edwards) have stated preferences, but they've largely refrained from openly campaigning for "their" candidates in their blogs. Contrast that to right-wing blogger Hugh Hewitt who has been openly shilling for Mitt Romney or any number of conservative blogs that have been campaigning against Huckabee.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
One angle that interests me is the possibility that caucus voters in Iowa and primary voters in New Hampshire have been voting to make sure the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama moves forward and that no one wins easily. The anti-Hillary wave in Iowa kept her from being inevitable but the apparent pro-Hillary wave in New Hampshire ensures that she won't be crushed and might ensure that she'll move forward on equal footing.
If that's the case, I think people are right. The best thing that can happen to either Hillary or Obama is a strong, testing primary battle. That will make them both better candidates and is the best way to prepare the winner for the general election.
Update: The Associated Press called the primary for Hillary, but CNN is holding back.
I also walked four miles yesterday.
As a result, the weight is coming off fast as it often does at the beginning of a diet. I've more than eight pounds. It's like traveling back through time. I've gotten rid of my Christmas weight that got me up to 243 is gone. So is the end of the semester binging to get papers graded weight that brought me up to 240 in the first place. I'm almost back down to my "normal" weight of the last three years--234.
But that brings me to my first temptation. I feel a little bit better. So there's a big temptation is to stop and reward myself, indulge myself, and go back to something like normality. That means ice cream, candy bars, cookies, sweet potato chips, crackers and cheddar cheese, and home-made biscuits--all of which are readily available around the Caric household. That's most of what happened last summer after I got down to 228. I was happy, rewarded myself and gained the weight back.
This time, I can face up to this first temptation pretty well. But the next temptation will be bigger. That will be the impulse to resume eating for comfort and tension release when I get back to the stress of teaching and writing. I'll have to overcome that temptation if I want to travel back to my summer low of 229.
Eventually though, I'll have to recross the Lake of Comfort Food. At some point about three years ago, I went quickly from 190 to 220 and it was mostly because I ate a lakeful of comfort food to give myself some form of release from the stress of fatherhood, teaching, writing, and university politics. Crossing that lake is what originally got me in the 200's. If I want to get back to 180, I have to give up all that food-born reassurance and lose the weight that came from it.
That's my goal--to get back across the Lake of Comfort Food.
Monday, January 07, 2008
But it's different now that I'm 53. Instead of food just being "there," I find that I use it as a form of comfort to relieve stress and as a kind of trigger to help me focus on my work. The more I eat, the better I'm focused and the more I get done. As a result, losing weight is frustrating because a lot of reasons besides hunger. I'm unfocused and unproductive as well. Exercise makes the situation worse. I have two disks in my back that have ruptured but didn't need surgery. Thank you, high school football, for those disc problems. As soon as I start even the most minor workouts, the discs become unstable and painful.
None of this means that I won't move forward with dieting and exercise, but it makes the whole enterprise more difficult and problematic.
The Obama Dieting Analogy. In certain ways, Barack Obama is campaigning as though issues could be handled in the thoughtless way I lost weight as a 20 year old. He seems to think that enacting health care reform, bringing the federal budget back into balance, and making judicial appointments is not going to involve a lot of painful conflict. Here's Obama responding to Hillary Clinton's criticism of him raising "false hopes" by saying that she was "depressing."
"Sen. Clinton saying, 'don’t feed the American people false hopes. Get a reality check.' You know? I mean, you can picture JFK saying, 'We can’t go to the moon."Going to the moon" was relatively easy because there was a national consensus behind getting it accomplished. But going to the moon was one of the few consensus projects of the sixties and right now there's little consensus about anything. Most Americans support universal health insurance, better schools, withdrawal from Iraq, abortion rights, and general government competence. However, this country also has a powerful right-wing that is dedicated to taking the country back to the Victorian era. That's why accomplishing what people want is going to be as painful and frustrating as dieting is for a fifty-something guy like me.
It’s a false hope. Let’s get a reality check.' It’s not, sort of, I think what our tradition has been," he said.
Building a Better Hillary. Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for the hard slog of getting through the post-Bush era. She's smart, determined, has a comprehensive knowledge of American government, and knows how to play hardball with the right. However, she's falling behind Obama and she had a particularly bad today, tearing up at one question and answer session and trying to scare people about terrorism at another. In many ways, Hillary is beginning to drift into the "tunnel of unlove" (a line from either Joe Biden or Bob Kerrey) that losing presidential candidates have to endure. Perhaps she's already toast. I don't know. But if Hillary is going to recover between now and Feb. 5, she needs to do a better job of engaging America's culture of compulsory optimism and talking critically about Barack Obama.
Here's some suggestions:
1. Be the Happy Warrior. Hillary has the "warrior" part down. Voters view her as competent, tough, and willing to fight the right-wing. But Hillary does not project enough joy to ward off the accusations that she's "joyless." Not that projecting joy in public settings or through a tv camera is that easy. It takes an underappreciated talent for politicians to project optimism and energy in public. But Hillary needs to keep working on projecting love for the battle, an eagerness to reach out to people, and faith in herself as a leader. People will appreciate these qualities more when she's working from behind than when she was the presumed nominee.
2. An Embodiment of Progress and Opportunity. Obviously, Hillary talks about being the first woman contender for the presidency. But I think she could do more to emphasize that her story is one of rising from modest middle-class roots to political prominence as an indication of how far people can come in America. It's hokie and it opens her up to charges of riding on Bill's coattails, but it's also a way to frame herself as a candidate who can continue America's progress during a difficult period. This is the kind of statement that I would like to see Hillary avoid.
"You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice breaking a bit . . . "This is very personal for me, it's not just political, it's [that] I see what's happening, we have to reverse it," she said emotionally, adding that some "just put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds.To be honest, I view the next administration as being primarily a struggle to keep from falling even farther behind than we've already fallen after eight years of Bush. Therefore, there's a way in which I agree with Hillary here. But Hillary should still be framing what she does in terms of progress. Nobody in the U. S. or anyplace else likes to hear fear or pessimism from a politician running for office. Instead, Hillary should be posing her candidacy in terms of an opportunity to resume progress. Certainly, that's what she'd be trying to do anyway.
3. Put Meat on Her Critique of Obama's Naive Optimism. One thing I've never liked about Hillary's campaign is that she poses her "experience" and Obama's "inexperience" in such an abstract manner. She needs to be able to say what her experience is. For example, she could talk about health care. Her "experience" is that she set forward a good (if flawed) plan but that it was defeated by $100 million in attack ads, scorched earth tactics by the Republicans, and weak and uncertain Congressional Democrats. Since then, she's worked on health care issues with people like Newt Gingrich and is much better prepared for the $500 million plus that that the health insurance industry is going to spend opposing the next legislation.
Another issue she could bring up is race. Obama's rhetoric gestures toward transcending race (so loved by the right) are hopelessly naive. In fact, the right wing is circling him with racial innuendo about being a "secret Muslim," his "black nationalist minister," his "aggressive wife," and the like. Hillary might point out that she is much more realistic about the dangers posed by right-wing smear tactics and that she and her team are far better prepared to deal with those tactics as president.
4. Push the Obama-Bush Analogy. Slate has a mention of Hillary making a comparison between Obama and George Bush today.
"I think it's good to have a likable president and if I remember a lot of people said they voted for George Bush because they wanted to have a beer with him. Maybe they should have left it at that."
She should go further with this. Much of what has been so disastrous about the Bush administration is that the right-wing got to live out it's "dreams" of invading and occupying Iraq with a ridiculously small force and projected themselves as being out in six months. Obama's "hope" is just as unlikely to be realized because he's no more prepared to deal with determined opposition to his proposals than George Bush was prepared to deal with a determined insurgency in Iraq.
The core of Hillary Clinton's argument against Barack Obama is that she is better prepared to deal with the realities that the next president will confront. But she needs to figure out a better way to formulate her mix of realism and optimism.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
But Matthew Yglesias raises a good point when he states that "getting good press is part of being an effective candidate and part of being an effective president." One of the reasons why the press likes people like John McCain, George Bush, and Karl Rove is that they all put a lot of effort into schmoozing with reporters. It's been clear for a long time that Hillary Clinton doesn't like the press any more than they like her. That was a big mistake. Being hostile or dismissive to the press is almost always a bad idea for a politician because political reporters have long memories and countless opportunities to hit back.
And now she's paying the price for that particular mistake.
My own opinion is that Hillary should retool her campaign around being "positive."
Instead of focusing on attacking Obama, Hillary should emphasize her plans for getting out of Iraq, health care, education, and other issues. She should emphasize the extent to which her proposals are different from the status quo. She should stress the ways in which those plans will move the country forward, and she should also keep a positive "happy warrior" air about her. Instead of going negative on Obama, she should go postive on herself and politics.
Hillary might look at John McCain's campaign as an example of how an emphasis on the joy of campaigning, talking about issues, and reaching out to people allowed him to recover from a steep deficit in the polls. Obama's peaking now, but he's slumped before and he may slump again. Hillary wants to be in position to take advantage of that. She also might turn out to be good at being the fighting underdog.
Hillary might also think about reducing the role of her husband in the campaign. People like Bill Clinton but it looks like they don't particularly want to see him on the campaign trail.
She might also cultivate better relations with the media.
The racism in my family has already cost the Democrats one vote if Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination for the presidency. My mother told me last night that she wouldn't vote for Obama because she didn't want to see "a black" become president. I'm writing this because I imagine that there are going to be a fair number of these painful conversations around the country as Obama's campaign develops further momentum. But the pain is particularly sharp when the racism comes from someone you know and care about as much as I care about my mother.
My reaction. I think I told her that she was being prejudiced and then kind of let it go when she got fired up to affirm that she is a racist. I was too sad and depressed to do anything else. I'm supporting Hillary at this point for reasons I've explained many times in this blog. But if Obama wins the nomination, I'll do more for his campaign than I'd do otherwise. It's important that people like my mom actually see a black person in the White House just like it was important for her to see black people on television.