Sunday, March 9, 2008

Codename: "Renegade"

The most cloying thing about the Oba-maniacs is the thing many of his most vocal critics (with some justification, I admit) decry as "cult-ish." Such as it is with movements, I reckon. But then, without at least some emotion, we would never have any real social change. Emotion, vis a vis politics, arises from convictions affirmed or offended and Barack Hussein Obama, despite his rather slim progressive bona fides, is still a walking, talking affirmation of the better angels of our nature, a flesh-and-blood manifestation of racial harmony, cross-cultural understanding and colorblind meritocracy. (NOTE: He will deliver his nomination acceptance speech 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" - if Hillary doesn't fuck it all up)

Because Obama speaks to that part of all of us that longs for change, the emotional response can be overwhelming at times. For technocratic Establishment players like Hillary and good ol' boy "maverick" Sky Captain Andy Rooney, such abstract, non-commoditizable merits lack malleability; they are axiomatic and have their own inherent, non-reducible value. For minds steeped in the tit-for-tat, swap-meet atmosphere of the prevailing D.C. culture, a thing so-resembling actual principles simply does not compute. They see it as weak. Or naive. Neither can comprehend why he would appeal to so many people, which is what drives Hillary to mock it, and the GOP with their enablers in the media to dismiss Obama and the wave he is riding as mere enthusiasm, just more post-1960's naivete that will evaporate in the pressure-cooker of Washingtonian realpolitik. "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." Whenever anybody has the temerity to rile people's emotions up like this, to make them believe that things don't have to be the way they are, angry loners always materialize to dispatch them. I fear for the inspirational ones, for America has too often had a way of neutralizing them, from a schoolbook depository in Dallas, a hotel ballroom in Los Angeles, a motel balcony in Memphis.

Please, Mister Secret Service Man, keep "Renegade" safe at night. Please. Please.


For, though I have my doubts about his ultimate power (and his commitment) to really change things, he is still the best available option. And besides, people change (see "Roosevelt, Franklin D." + "class, traitor to his") and Obama is not leading a movement as much as he is riding a wave. The four-decade GOP pushback against modernity is at an end. With Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan, the ruling class was able to seduce the Dixie bigots and their like-minded fellow 'Mur-kuns that it really was a white, Christian nation afterall and it's the fault of all the dirty fucking hippies, u
ppity negroes and snooty wimmin-folk that it isn't more so. Just ask William F. Buckley. As usual, the 1960's become a Rashômon moment in the American experience. Where you stand on the 1960's is, frankly, where you stand on America in general. America in her best moments has always been about expansion and inclusion, but the Rethugli-bots have leveraged the forces of counter-revolution, not the better angels of our nature, to electoral advantage as far as reduction and exclusion can go - to the likely economic and social ruin of the United States.

With Saint McCain, I can sort of understand why he doesn't get it. He thinks the way he does since he really is just a mean old white guy who was supposed to inherit a world run on the principle of the white man's burden, but those meddling kids got in the way. He and his GOP ilk are barely part of the 20th Century, much less the 21st, so he and his fellow-travellers have simply become irrelevant to the grand stage of history. Had Chimpy McLies-A-Lot been clearing brush in Crawford, Texas that day, mentally replaying his defeat over and over again in the hot September sun, instead of reading "My Pet Goat" in Florida, he too would represent a similarly point-sized endnote in the Grand Narrative of American History, a road not-taken that faded into historical irrelevance. Instead, Dubya now gets a whole chapter, but there's little we can do to change that now.

But Hillary is different. We have to pay attention to her for two reasons:

One, the positive reason, we cannot escape the fact that it is deeply significant in American history that a woman finally has, or (until recently) had anyway, a very real shot at the White House. In world history, though, who gives a shit? If a violently misogynistic, Third World, quasi-medieval cesspool like Pakistan can elect a woman (much less the 60+ other women that have been world leaders in just the last 50 years - to say nothing of woman monarchs like Queen Elizabeth or Nefertitti), the US doesn't get credit for showing up at the address for a party that happened and dispersed long ago. No, apart from her gender, Hillary is just another candidate with no unique qualifications. She has unfortunately become the Establishment candidate, her Rovian antics over the past couple of weeks should be indicator enough of that.

Two, the negative reason, she is the wife of a former president, a very popular former president, no matter how many GOP-enablers may acquiesce to Rethugli-bot revisionism. And this number two is the negative reason we have to pay attention to her because we have to ask ourselves if we want Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton. 24 years (at least - maybe 28) of the same two families. Really? When did we surrender to the notion of a ruling class? I know we've always had one in reality, but never have we so formally embraced it. Should we not fight that trend? Is that not why we had a revolution? Isn't that one of our ideals?

Hillary doesn't think so. I boil down my problem with her down to two things:

  1. She and Bill have come to think of themselves as inseparable from the identity of the whole of the Democratic Party. "L'Democrats, c'est moi." Her arm-twisting of the superdelegates is a function of this self-serving delusion. She presented herself as the inevitable candidate. She thought she could get away with basking in Bill's reflected glory because her husband is a rockstar in the Democratic pantheon. She and her husband took notes when the conventional wisdom about Gore became that he should have embraced The Big Dog, the most popular living Democratic president. My problem with that is the one I have always had with Bill, that he and his whole DLC project burned the Democratic left wing and did long-term damage to the party to say nothing of the republic. He certainly helped himself politically, but he came to power by triangulating against the larger membership and traditional power base of his party at a time when that seemed like the only option for a national Democrat. As we sit amid the wreckage of the GOP's forty-year scorched-earth campaign against the modern world, the time for that kind of "third way" self-serving capitulation has clearly passed. Bill & Hillary's historical moment was fleeting and has gone.

  2. She was so traumatized by the astro-turf witch hunt against her and her husband in the 1990s that it seems to me she now thinks of herself as finally having earned membership in "The Club" or "The Establishment" and godammit no fucking upstart from the hinterlands is going to derail her inevitable candidacy. Her praise of McCain and denegration of Obama in recent days shows that she is more loyal to fellow members of Sally Quinn's "Village" than to the unwashed masses and other assorted riff-raff in her own party. Her arm-twisting of the superdelegates is also a function of this delusion. But this is not a recent phenomenon. Her votes for the AUMF and the UN Resolution, for the bankruptcy bill, for Kyl-Lieberman all reveal either a striving politician befuddled by the fog of Rethugli-bot lies, or a cynical operator building street cred for a future tri-angulating presidential run. Of course, we knew what she and Big Dog were up to when they settled on New York for their post-Washington life, but we here in the Empire State elected (and re-elected) her anyway.

So this seems like Obama's moment. The tide began to turn in 2006, but last night's defeat of a heavily-funded Rethugli-bot in Denny "the Manatee" Hastert's old district show's that the GOP "brand" is degrading everywhere its power isn't tied to overt racism, which bodes well for such a transformative candidate as Obama. No, he isn't as progressive as I would like. I was a Kucinich supporter before I switched to Edwards. Obama as a politician isn't far enough left for me, but no one else is even close. Frankly, he doesn't have to be because a ship this big underway doesn't stop or turn easily; he only has to begin the process. If change is truly afoot, forty years of corrosion to the body politic won't mend in a few election cycles. This fight will take generations. I recognize that Obama is only human - not some kind of vessel - but symbols do have power nevertheless. Somebody not-white with one, two, three atypical American names in the most powerful office in the world is a very potent symbol indeed, both here and abroad.

When William F. Buckley stood athwart history and yelled Stop! some half-century ago, he only succeeded insofar as he inspired a movement that enabled the luddite forces of bigotry and hatred to build a dam in the path of progress. That dam has been showing cracks for a very long time and I hope and believe that Obama could be the historical wedge to finally split one of those cracks wide open, carrying the GOP and the DLC-wing of the Democrats with it while "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

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