Monday, February 11, 2008

Putting in my political oar on the Obama/Clinton race


I suppose it's about time I got political and stated exactly why I'm for Obama over Clinton, seeing as others have been having their say openly.

I'm usually not that open about what I'm in favour of so much as what I'm against, but in this case I can explain both -- to my mind, Barack Obama shows a deep-seated drive of public service, while Hillary Clinton shows a deep-seated drive of ambition, pure and simple. Her main selling point is that she is a woman (rather than making the detail as little of an issue as possible, considering that the voting population is kinda split fifty-fifty there and one needs to deal with both halves fairly) -- and as for being a Democrat, I barely even see how she qualifies to be on the left of the aisle. Forcing people to buy health insurance is not the same thing as "achieving universal health insurance", for example, especially when one talks of garnishing wages as penalty (and when one has close corporate backing in the pharmaceutical industry)....and if, as Lurkitty excellently pointed out, Hillary shares in the presidency of Bill in professional experience as well as in political reputation, then why would I vote for the life partner of a man who advised John Kerry that if he wanted to be successful in running for the White House he ought to set his campaign platform against gay rights?

The fact is, Hillary shows herself as willing to do anything to win, and thinks that voters ought to see that as a victory for them -- but her principles are so malleable in that pursuit that she counts in my book as Republican-lite, moderate-ly prejudiced, and willing to abandon any/every core constituency of the left (thinking them in the pocket or over a barrel anyhow) just to court the swing voters and independents who are just a little bit dissatisfied with the range of GOP and rightwing options available. People who want a Democrat-by-name but not a 'leftist' who might actually shake the boat and deliver change.

So they gravitate to Hillary's stability and her more-experienced political polish -- her use of prepared talking points and pointed humour, her political connections and inside edge not for changing the way business is done but just putting a different nominal colour over it. And that is, I'm afraid, a rather top-down vision of vision and implementation (especially where the counted-upon elite superdelegates are concerned), whereas what we see with Obama is really a far more 'grassroots' and 'popular' direction, where it is not the political insiders who are assumed to have control of the process but the 'civilian' voting population -- the people who want and need real change in this country and are putting their weight where it is most likely to be delivered to them and not undermined for the sake of maintaining the status quo.

Of course, there's the international side of the struggle, too. With all the talk of "Islamofascism", has anyone considered that Barack Obama is a far better 'sleeper' for combatting Al Qaeda and other jihadists, because he has had experience abroad and knows about Islamic cultures from the inside? He has the potential to give a far greater appearance of diplomacy than Hillary Clinton, who as a 'privileged' American white woman represents an immediate provocation to radical Islamic values. This is not me being "sexist" -- this is reality right now at the present time. Yes, Benazir Bhutto was a female leader and presents a logical parallel, but she was Pakistani and Muslim herself, not Western -- she was part of her culture and not assumedly set against it. If one is considering how best to "rehabilitate" and strengthen the United States' image with the rest of the world, the racial and gender issues take on a decidedly different weight, insofar as any President who wants to salvage America's political repute has to be able to communicate cross-culturally and not assume anything of the stereotypical American insularity that has made us politically resented even by those that don't hate us. Our current lame-but-still-[kicking]-duck is a culturally-inept and inarticulate buffoon who's never bothered to understand anything outside of his own privileged sphere, sheltered as much as possible from having to suffer the consequences of his own actions and ignorance. The last thing that we need at this point is a national leader who projects American insularity and overconfidence in our self-proclaimed status as "The Greatest Nation on Earth." (I think that whoever coined that expression ought to be boiled in oil...:-)

I have to say it flat-out -- I do not trust Hillary Clinton. Dave Barry's comment re her planning her run for President while still in the womb doesn't seem too exaggerated, imho -- it seems that she has set her sights on making history and the first female president for a long time now, without thinking whether that's what this country really needs right now -- or what it needs. I don't think that she's really been listening....rather like someone who doesn't hear what you're saying because they're planning what they're going to say next. Hillary is calculating. She is ruthless. She has no humility in the face of her goal and what it entails in the way of serving the American people -- this is, one might easily conclude, simply the highest notch she aims to carve on her proverbial gun.

In some ways, I think that Obama has more 'feminine' virtues than she does -- feminine graces, even. I mean, not to rehash the entire character-contrast subtext of The Crying Game, but does it really take a genetic female to bring the traits of gender balance and equal respect to national politics? What does "the first woman President" really mean, if the only main thing setting her apart from the other candidates -- on either side of the political fence, seeing as she tends to vote like a Republican -- is that she wears skirts and nylons in public? Is that a revolution worth fighting for as a primary cause? Is it enough of a revolution? Hell, if we were able to get the full version of ENDA passed, that'd do a lot more across the nation than just this aiming for a token dose of executive estrogen at the top of the heap.

People keep talking about the gender issue and the race issue swaying people predictably and irrationally -- but really, how predictable is it? Obama isn't just black, afterall, and the way that people respond to both candidates is not just reducible to which traits define them most strongly. Some people do think that simplistically -- some don't. And if I, by this time in my life, didn't think long and hard about why I was inclined to support people and make sure that it wasn't just based on kneejerk identity politics, I'd be a pretty irresponsible voting citizen.


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