Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Chase for Change 2008: Many Democrats Losing Sight of Larger Picture Re: Offensive Supporters and Michigan/Florida

I know many Democrats and progressives have gotten very involved and committed to one side or another in this campaign, but when you are up against someone who will...

1) Set women's rights back 30 years through his promise to appoint a prolife judge to replace Justice Stevens - the most Liberal judge on the Supreme Court who WILL retire in the next term (he is 88 years old). Roe V. Wade would likely be overturned (it is 5-4 right now) and as many as 30 states would then criminalize abortion.

2) Wage a Mike Harris style war against the poor through his promise to balance the budget by "cutting spending dramatically" - remember he is NOT a moderate he has been rated as one of the most CONSERVATIVE Senators of all time by Conservative groups (see here and here - with a score over 70 points higher than Obama and Clinton and even 40 points higher than Republican Arlen Spector)

3) Undermine and slowly destroy the UN through his "League of Nations" (yes he did call it that) proposal to create a parallel organization that would exclude China and the entire Muslim world and also get to overrule the UN on every important world matter. Apparently McCain doesn't know how the first League of Nations turned out, repeating the same mistakes is a recipe for disaster.

4) Spending another trillion or more dollars on Iraq rather than putting that money into health care and education. Universal health care and quality public education once again denied to continue endlessly (because McCain has said they will NEVER withdraw without victory) a war that should have never been waged.

And a host of other problems it’s extremely important to focus on the bigger picture and ensure the Democratic nominee wins.

All of the above is in McCain's platform and public statements and it means we would see a President more dangerous on foreign policy (I'm disappointed no one in the media has really examined his League of Nations idea) and worse for the poor on domestic policy than even George Bush. If anyone can show me why I'm wrong on any of the points above please come forward. The media has done a real disservice by portraying McCain as a moderate.

The U.S. and the world desperately needs wholesale change after 8 years of George Bush not someone who would be even worse. Not to mention Obama’s and Clinton’s policy proposals 90% overlap with each other and hardly at all with McCain. So it troubles me when I see bloggers (yes this one has said she is a dual citizen so she can vote) and Democratic party activists musing about not being able to support the Democratic nominee.

The campaign has been brutally negative at some points with absolutely stupid and sometimes extremely offensive things were said by members of both sides. Geraldine Ferraro’s comments that Obama would be nowhere if it wasn’t black were extremely wrong and offensive. Samantha Power calling Clinton a monster had no place in the campaign, but neither did Hillary Clinton talking about how she is the choice of “white voters” (Clinton herself later agreed with a statement that it was “the stupidest thing she could ever say”) or talking about assassinations (I chalk that up solely to extremely poor judgment in choice of words but the example actually made no sense since the nomination was won in 1968 by someone who didn’t even compete in the primaries who a lot of historians think would have won no matter what, but any mention of assassination within the current election context is unacceptable) . The latest terrible insult was with Reverend Pfleger who basically inferred that Clinton and her supporters were racist and that her supporters were angry particularly that a black man might take the nomination from her (if that wasn’t what he was implying why did he keep invoking Hillary and Obama’s race in his sermon?). He has no place on any campaign and so Obama has denounced him, won’t have him involved with his campaign any longer and Obama is no longer part of the same church that invited this man and once had the even more offensive and bigoted Reverend Wright as pastor.

So while people on both campaigns have been hugely in the wrong on different occasions, the important thing is that these comments were later denounced and (when it wasn’t Clinton or Obama him/herself making the comments) the people involved were kicked off the campaign entirely. Sometimes you think you know someone well when you put them on the campaign, but if in the end you find out they hold bigoted or other unacceptable views there is no choice but to condemn their remarks and throw them off the campaign because these people don't belong in politics let alone a Presidential campaign. But its wrong to claim that Clinton or Obama must agree with the comments of their surrogates or that they must have known they held these views.

Now there is the issue of Michigan and Florida’s delegates.

I would say first of all the Democratic Party dropped the ball on this entirely. They should have done what the Republicans did and just say in advance the delegates would each only get half a vote and leave it at that. You don’t see any outrage on the Republican side on this so it’s clear that would have been best. But you can’t change the past so the Rules Committee had to do their best to repair this situation before more damage was done.

In the end the decision for Florida is EXACTLY the same as what the Republicans have done. Not to mention Terry McCauliffe is chair of Clinton’s campaign and said as DNC chair in 2004 that the appropriate penalty for moving up one’s primary is cutting the delegates from the state in half. So I find it puzzling to see a Democratic candidate say "If this is not resolved so that there is 100 per cent representation of every vote cast, I will never again vote for a Democratic candidate." So then he will vote for a party that did the same thing or stay home and allow that much worse party to win? Again losing sight of the bigger picture.

Michigan was the harder choice, but both Obama and Clinton’s camps were proposing completely unreasonable proposals. It would be ludicrous to split the delegates in half as Obama proposed since there is little evidence he would have gotten half the votes if he was on the ballot. At the same time it was ridiculous to give Clinton her share of delegates and leave the others as Uncommitted to be fought for at the convention when Obama wasn’t on the ballot and all the others campaigns have endorsed Obama now. So the Michigan Democratic Party proposed a compromise. Carl Levin, a Clinton supporter, backed the proposal. This WASN’T some 30 party hacks who came up with this idea it was the Michigan Democratic Party and the members of the Rules Committee endorsed the proposal.

I tend to think things would have been a lot easier if Obama was just given the 55 uncommitted delegates but you could certainly argue that more of his supporters would have turned out if he was on the ballot and some people who voted for Clinton wouldn't have if there were other candidates on the ballot. You can’t just pretend it’s no big deal that Obama wasn’t on the ballot, it’s hardly even a Democratic election when there is only one major candidate on the ballot so again the Michigan Democratic party tried to forge a compromise and I don’t think it’s worth dividing the party further to fight over 4 half-delegates (so 2 votes on the convention floor). I think Harold Ickes would have been better to just say “we respectfully disagree with this decision but it is more important for the party to be united” rather than going on a large tirade about how this doesn’t help to unify the party and it was unprecedented and so on. I do hope they can see the larger picture and realize that this wasn’t such an outrageous proposal and it is more important to unify the party. This kind of fiasco should never be allowed to happen again though.

So Democrats or other Clinton supporters can get all bitter and support McCain or stay home and see the country and the U.S. reputation destruct for another four years so you can say “I told you Obama couldn’t win!” but small comfort that will be to the millions more thrown into poverty and losing their health insurance and the women who would then have to travel across the country or to Canada to exercise their choice over whether to have an abortion.

People who would continue to wage old battles that would lead others to suffer just because they are angry that their preferred candidate didn’t win or angry at some things the opposing candidate’s supporters did is the height of narrow-mindedness and selfishness. If you supported Clinton’s ideas then why in the world would you help someone who has NOTHING in common with Clinton against someone who would do as President 90% of the same thing Hillary Clinton would?

So there are just a few primary contests left, it will all be over June 3rd and officially then or very soon thereafter. I really hope the Democrats can put these divisions and grievances behind and focus on the larger picture. Americans and the world can’t afford to wait another 4 years for change. Just like with the environment the longer you wait to change the more it will cost to fix and the more irreversible damage will have been done. So I think goal number one for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the next month and beyond HAS to be unifying the party.

With the party united John McCain can be defeated, but if they can’t unite, millions will suffer and it will have been a real opportunity blown simply because people couldn’t put their minute differences aside.

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Yappa said...

Hi Danielle,

I enjoy your blog. Thanks.

As the blogger you mention who is uncertain about whether to support Obama, I thought I'd try to explain myself. I have some lingering resentment about the primary, for sure, and I've written extensively about the sexism that I saw coming from the Obama camp as well as everywhere else.

But that's behind us now. What I'm still struggling with is Obama's qualifications to meet the challenges ahead. I agree with a recent article by Andrew Stephens in the New Statesman, which said in part, "the punditocracy may have landed the Democrats with perhaps the least qualified presidential nominee ever."

What we need now is a manager who can lead on a number of difficult issues: extricating the US from Iraq in a way that won't create unbearable hardship for Iraqis, creating a replacement for Bretton Woods II, reforming the Federal Reserve Board, creating more effective security regulations, replacing No Child Left Behind, and on and on and on. Not sexy, and not easy.

I like Obama and I think he would make a good president in 8 years, but I don't think he's qualified now. In fact, he is way less qualified than George Bush was when he took office. I fear that Obama might be the candidate who would represent a continuation of Bush's failed policies.

McCain is a very qualified candidate and he represents change more convincingly than Obama. He has a long history of bipartisan cooperation and fair dealing. He's a moderate who has been pretending to be more right wing to get the nomination, but given his age it's unlikely that he'd seek re-election, so I imagine he would be himself in office. The one concrete thing he has promised the right, and the thing that may be a deal-breaker for me, is that he will appoint judges who support far right viewpoints, including anti-abortionism. I may decide that I have to hold my nose and vote Obama just because of that.

I guess my decision comes down to this: Is McCain bad enough that I have to support Obama? That's what I will grapple with over the campaign. I don't think I could actually vote Republican, but I might stay home on election day.

I'm grappling with all this now and hope my thoughts on the subject will evolve over the next few months. I'm trying to keep an open mind and may change my mind about Obama.

Danielle Takacs said...

Thanks for the comments. The reality is Obama has a similar amount of experience as Lincoln did. The world is extremely different now of course, but I can’t imagine a tougher job for a President to deal with than a civil war. Kennedy also didn’t have a tremendous amount of experience (in fact Nixon criticized him for that) and dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis. As well, Presidents don’t ever make decisions solely by themselves they have a cabinet and advisors as well – Obama’s VP and his cabinet will all be tremendously experienced I’m sure. In the end the final decision does rest with Obama but he has shown better judgment than most on central issues of foreign policy like Iraq.
When Obama's proposed policies are so similar to Hillary Clinton's surprises me that her supporters wouldn't still want to see 90% of her platform get implemented (no doubt it would be with Hillary's help in some strong capacity) in the next four years.

I still say the experience concerns is overstated (see above), but experience isn’t the most important thing when you care about results and actually want to see progressive policies passed. McCain stands very opposed to that happening.

I think it’s really unfortunate that McCain is perceived as a moderate just because he had independent/bi-partisan stances on a few issues.

He REAL record is that of being one of the most Conservative Senators in the Senate - see here and here. His scores by Conservative groups are similar to Fred Thompson (who was seen as the Conservative candidate in the race), 40 points higher than Arlen Spector (a real moderate) and over 70 points higher than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Not to mention his ideology is one that will balance the budget on the backs of the poor with no regard at all for lowering the numbers of Americans without health insurance. He’d be worse than Bush for the poor because he’s more committed to balanced budgets than Bush is.

Not to mention his foreign policy is one that will antagonize Russia, China and the Middle East. Not to mention he wants to overrule the UN on everything with a parallel organization (that excludes Russia and China and the entire Middle East except Israel). To move forward on the big issues of our time (climate change, nuclear disarmament, etc…) Russia and China will be needed to be onside McCain’s foreign policy will prevent that ever being possible.

I’d recommend viewing this CNN video clip on McCain’s foreign policy particularly the part at the end by Fareed Zakaria.

I do think it would be a shame for anyone to stay home and let someone like that win just because he deceived a country into thinking he was a moderate or would be more progressive than Bush.

Yappa said...


Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

Re Obama's qualifications and JFK, an interesting argument broke out in one of my comments sections:

I don't think that bringing up JFK's inexperience is really a good argument.

Campaign policies are not, historically, a very good way to judge how a person will govern. I think you have to treat an election decision like hiring someone for a job: qualifications are extremely important. Especially now, to clean up the incredible mess GWB has made.

As to having advisors, one of the biggest problems with Bush's govermnet, in my opinion, is that he was weak but had a strong VP. There was no one power point, and that led to all sorts of infighting and dysfunction. (To see what I mean, read Bob Woodward's third book on the Bush presidency.)

I will definitely check out your links on McCain and, of course, continue to scrutinize him through the campaign. The thing is, I have watched McCain for years and years and always liked him. It may take a while for that to fade.