When ambivalent_maybe told me the other day that the blogger site is not letting him post here anymore without getting a google account, I was confused. Because I was still able to post freely. But now it appears that I will soon be forced into the same dilemma (I've been warned this may be my "last time" to log on through the old blogger system). I'm not sure what we're going to do...maybe we'll find another way to host the blog, or maybe we'll just give in and create google accounts. We'll see.
In any event, I do want to post just a few of my latest thoughts about the '08 presidential election, since there's a lot of buzz these days about who to support. I've mentioned before that I enthusiastically volunteered for Kucinich in '04 and still admire him greatly. I still think he takes the most authentic and visionary stands on just about every issue out there. He is, in a sense, the "prophet" of the Democratic Party. He's not afraid to sound crazy, while he is actually the one who isn't afraid to challenge the ridiculous assumptions on which so much of our political rhetoric is based. For example, on the issue of high military spending, which I raised in my last post, he is calling us to seek a world of peace and interdependence instead of global military domination. And he just simply says we need to extend Medicare to everyone. He is, indeed, a wise, if misunderstood, prophet of our times, reminiscent of the great prophets of the Bible. But I just don't see his campaign taking hold the second time around. Given the extreme difficulty we had getting his message out last time, it is hard to believe people will take it more seriously on a repeat run--even though he was right on so many issues, such as the war. As long as there are other more viable candidates out there, I am hesitant to go with Kucinich again.
As I've said before, Edwards is my top choice right now, and I really admire how he has come around on so many issues (Iraq, health care, etc.)--and continued honing his message on economic issues that were his strength in '04. He is not afraid to take on the elites and powers-that-be in order to fight for ordinary working Americans. In Edwards, I see a real chance for a likeable, electable progressive to truly transform America in a good direction.
There are other candidates I could be persuaded to support...Clark or Richardson, perhaps, if Edwards doesn't catch fire. But the most likely alternative would be Obama. I like Obama in many ways, and he does have many pluses. My greatest concern with Obama is exactly the theme he has made so central to his campaign: "unity".
Why does all the talk about "unity" and "governing from the center" rise to such a fever pitch whenever progressives look poised to make significant gains? The conservatives didn't remake America by advocating centrism and "uniting" left and right.
Obama may be a progressive at heart, but this rhetoric about "unity" is, I fear, playing into the hands of conservative and corporate interests that might wish to slow down progressive reforms. This is how David Sirota put it recently: "I’ve written a lot about Obama, including a major piece for The Nation magazine last year. In my time studying his career, it became obvious that this is a person who wants to do the right thing and has genuinely strong convictions. But he also seems to believe that the reason our country has such challenges is because all sides of every issue have not come together in unity ... The problem with this outlook is that it fundamentally misunderstands why we are at this moment in history. Forty-five million Americans are uninsured, and millions more underinsured not because low-income health advocates and the insurance industry haven’t sat down together and sung Kumbaya. It’s because, unlike every other industrialized country in the world, we have a government that has been bribed into allowing the insurance industry to profiteer off sick people. Our global warming problem did not happen because environmentalists and the auto industry refused to hug each other. It happened because the auto industry has bought off enough politicians to make sure we don’t increase fuel efficiency standards."
I suppose that joining together in solidarity to oppose corporate power is a kind of "unity," but I worry that making unity the central theme for its own sake threatens to dilute and neutralize all that we are working for. It's kind of like "circling the square," as Christopher Hayes puts it in THE NATION, pointing out that Obama's model hero, Abraham Lincoln, was not afraid of polarizing on the crucial issues of his day. Obama may be inspiring, but he is trying to be both a progressive movement candidate and use centrist talk about "unity" that blurs the stark differences between ideologies and parties.
I do have to admit there is one big reason to support Obama: to keep Hilary Clinton from getting the nomination. If it comes down to Barack vs. Hilary, I'll go with the inspiring candidate trying to have it both ways over the known triangulator and big money/elite insider candidate.
But until then, I think we need less posturing rhetoric about a "new politics of unity" and more bold talk about taking on elite power in the interests of hard working people everywhere. THAT'S progressivism. I want to know, as the old union solidarity standard asks, "Which Side Are You On?"