Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama and race

I must say, I like Obama's latest speech. James F. Elliott likes it too, as does The Rude Pundit. [Update: Badtux also likes it (and has additional comments), as does The Political Cat.] It's very much non-bullshit; Obama talks about race in a straightforward, honest and direct manner. His heart seems like it's in the right place.

I'm also encouraged by A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq promulgated by Darcy Burner and other Democratic Congressional candidates. [h/t to Orcinus]

The question is: can they fight?

To some extent, yes, we have to work together in a nontrivial way. I suspect that there will be some criticism from the left for Obama's emphasis on racism, especially anti-black racism, giving only a passing nod to misogyny, classism, nationalist bigotry, hatred of immigrants, and economic exploitation and slavery. The persistent howl from the left is that one's own pet problems are being insufficiently addressed. I'm not that worried: racism is at least not the worst place to start.

There's a bigger, more pressing issue than mere racism, misogyny, etc. It's an issue that, to my knowledge, no "serious" Democratic politician has yet addressed.

In order for any society, however imperfect, to survive, it must curb and punish the excesses of those whose amoral greed and selfishness is unadulterated by empathy, compassion and any care about the future. Every society always fails when such amoral people seize the reins of power and embezzle the wealth and productivity of the society for their own immediate gratification.

And there is no better example of the purely amoral seizing the reins of power than the Bush administration — not even the Nixon or Reagan administrations come even close — with the collusion of the commercial media.

We closed our eyes and just wished Nixon and his ilk would go away. And we got Reagan. We closed our eyes and wished Reagan would go away and we got Bush fils. We can close our eyes and wish Bush would go away, elect Obama (or Clinton)... and who will we get after him? The tactics of the amoral always escalate, and after the war in Iraq, where else can we go but nuclear war with China or world war with Islam? After the coming depression (which will be as brutal as the Great Depression, if not worse) where will we go but totalitarian fascism?

I'm vastly less concerned with improving our society — a project that will take generations — than I am with avoiding the immediate catastrophic collapse of global civilization. And, unless we deal decisively right now with the amoral neocon bastards who have gutted our economy and our political foundations for nothing more than a third SUV and another house in the Hamptons, they will find a way to get back behind the wheel. And with depression, Islam, Iraq, Iran, Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Thomas, global warming, shitty health care, no unions, and theocratic Christianity, we are far too close to the edge of the cliff to risk giving these assholes another turn at the wheel.

Perhaps it's just because we're still in the primaries, but I've heard nothing from Obama or Clinton about curbing these bastards sufficiently that they don't take over again in 2012 or 2016. Much will depend on what the nominee (probably Obama) says in the general election. If he "reaches out" to these bastards, if he wants to "work together" with the Republican party, we're doomed. Doomed regardless of how sensible and intelligent Obama is about race or anything else.

7 comments:

  1. Bum, read the speech again. He decidedly came out against what he called "real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many."

    Yes, he didn't go into detail there. It wasn't a speech about that. But I think that answers your question.

    - Badtux the Obamabot Pengion
    (heh! As if).

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  2. I read that. I wasn't impressed. I don't think it answers my question.

    It's one thing to throw a rhetorical bone. It's another thing to actually make the hangings happen, especially if some of your notable campaign donors would be among the hanged.

    The nominee will have a tough row to hoe. On the one hand, people are still scared of "extremism" (even though the extremism of the neocon right has been blatant and egregious), and the commercial media will not be kind to any criticism of their own privilege, even indirectly.

    On the other hand, he would — if we are not to be doomed — have to build some sort of political mandate for punitive action and massive reconstruction of our civilized institutions. A absolute commitment to "working together" would undermine that endeavor.

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  3. I've been wary of Obama's centrism from the start, exactly because his centrism was allowing and giving legitimacy to virulently hateful antigay rhetoric like that of Donnie McClurkin. I saw Obama as willing to sell out his gay fellow citizens in order to pander to the rampant homophobia in segments of the church-going black community. I hold no illusions that Clinton will sell out the gay community if it becomes convenient for her to do so, just as her husband did. I also felt that following Obama's election to the Senate, after having campaigned as an anti-war candidate, he hadn't done enough to end the war, but had sold out and was playing ball in order to preserve his power.

    He wasn't so much a liberal as he was a centrist. Because the "center" has moved so far to the right, his adoption of centrist positions was seen by me as a betrayal. But I'm beginning to change my mind...

    I haven't fully articulated this, so bear with me... Following Obama's speech yesterday, and having read Hilzoy's research about his legislative efforts at Obsidian Wings, I think Obama's centrism is of a wholly different quality than what I've come to expect from "centrist" politicians. And I think I'm confusing two conceptualizations of centrist, or perhaps have been employing one of them incorrectly.

    A typical centrist tends to compromise on legislative and policy issues based on pragmatism and political expediency. In doing so, they cast the concerns of progressives as somehow illegitimate. They don't even seem to offer up any debate or strong argument in favor of a liberal position before they capitulate to the right in order to achieve compromise. This notion of compromise for the sake of the center requires that everybody lose or give up something. But because the center has moved so far right, we perceive it as a loss for us and a gain for them. This describes (at best) our current Congress. These types of centrists would immediately capitulate on enforcing any kind of punishment on the robber barons responsible for our current state of affairs.

    Obama's centrism, as I'm coming to understand it, is different. It may be pragmatic in a sense, but not in the sense of compromising core values and principles. Rather than immediate capitulation, he strives to create an understanding of the core values and principles that each side holds. He then challenges us to create a mutually satisfactory compromise that doesn't sacrifice either's core principles and values (or at least a prioritized few of them). It is carving out of a new center that didn't exist before (and may not exist in relation to either side of the debate), based on mutual understanding and respect. I think this is a centrism of a different kind--one not based in political expediency or High Broderism.

    I might be wrong. I haven't seen what Obama is capable of doing in the face of extremist neocons who refuse to validate anyone's concerns but their own. His Illinois State Senate experience suggests he continues to hammer the opposition politicians publicly and privately to achieve what he wants without sacrificing his own core principles. But when I heard Obama speak, I heard a statesman, not a politician. Someone who stands on principle rather than political expediency. He wasn't pandering like I thought he was doing previously. A statesman is able to tap into the concerns of the vast majority of citizens in an open and honest fashion, which gives the impressions of centrism because (statistically, at least) most of the people we share this country with live at the center. We haven't had a statesman in this country in a long time. And we desperately need one if we are to extricate ourselves from the disaster that the neocons and Bush have wrought. Obama might very well be that statesman.

    All that being said, I still have my reservations about Obama. I will need to see more of him and understand his policy proposals better for me to be completely convinced. I didn't like the way he adopted the "Social Security Crisis" meme, but maybe I was not recognizing the way in which he was trying to give legitimacy to voices on the other side in order to dislodge them from their entrenched stance as a way of building trust with them. I'll be looking more closely at Obama's rhetoric with my theory of centrism-of-a-different-type.

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  4. Well said, djsaab. Obama's campaign has always been deeply torn between conservative and liberal impulse. In that sense, he seems to embody more classical American liberalism -- in its truest form, not as bastardized by libertarians -- than any other modern politician.

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  5. The Republican Party needs to turn away from those Neocons in order to save itself. There are some Republicans of the old school, like my rep. Wayne Gilchrest, although ironically, he lost in the primary to a Neocon clown this year, after serving 9 terms in the House.

    Obama or Clinton, will need to look for some cooperation from the last Republican centrists standing, in order to turn this country around. Another iron, President Obama or President H. Clinton will need the help of Senator John McCain.

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    ReplyDelete
  7. The centrist Republicans have been protecting their neocon cousins from day 1.

    If they want to help put some of the neocons in the slammer, good for them, but that would represent a change.

    If there are going to be hands across the aisle, the Republicans will have to do most of the walking.

    ReplyDelete

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