Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Obama for President

Republicans like to fight. Moreover, they need to fight. That's how they do their thing. Not just in Washington, where they use gridlock and partisanship the way pornstars use condoms. Individual Republicans do the same thing. They like to think they're open-minded. They insist that they're only interested in learning the unvarnished truth and that they're perfectly willing to listen to it, just as long as you're not an ass about it.

And that's why they have to insult you and play childish games and other ruses, in order to allow them to continue to act as if they're open-minded, but without actually having to open their minds to the truth. If you weren't insulting them at the beginning of the discussion, you will be by the end. That's what they're counting on, as a defense mechanism against facing reality. They'll do anything to find an excuse to not listen to you.

And that's their main gimmick in elections and all the rest of the time. They will attack and attack and attack and never stop attacking, in order to throw you off your game and put you on the defensive. And in their best case scenario, your defense will be paltry and you'll waste all your time futilely defending yourself against relentless attacks that completely swamp you. But, they'll keep doing it anyway, even if you effectively defend yourself and even if you put them on the defensive.

Because the truth of the matter is: They just want to fight. And while they prefer to win the fight, they win when they lose too. Because all they really wanted to do was to throw you off your game. And if you're spending your time putting them on the defensive, then you're diverting energy from governing or implementing effective policies. So even if they lose elections and aren't able to impeach you, you still weren't able to accomplish what you wanted to accomplish. And that's good enough for them.

Sure, they'd rather run the government, so they can milk it for all it's worth. But all they were looking for was a good fight to distract you. Plus, it helps them distract their base. Why ban abortion when you can denounce Democrats for allowing them?

Why I Don't Support Hillary

And that's why I would prefer that Hillary Clinton not win the Democratic nomination. Because, while she's an excellent fighter, that's all she really does. That's mostly what the Clinton presidency was about. After they pulled their head out of their asses in the middle of their first term and realized they were getting reamed in the public arena, survival became the name of the game. To take the fight to their opponents, and make them fight for every inch.

And that was necessary. The media didn't like them. The D.C. "Village" despised them. Talk Radio had them on the BBQ grill every day. And even Democratic politicians were really getting antsy with them. And so they found themselves on the ropes and had to keep throwing punches at every turn. Even now, many people get the impression that Clinton was unpopular because he always seemed like he was on the verge of getting knocked-out, and that shouldn't happen to popular presidents. Not in democracies, anyway.

But all the same, the Clintons didn't win. They didn't achieve what they had set out to achieve. As much as America approved of Clinton, he was never able to turn that approval into outright victory. We considered it enough that he could institute conservative policies on his terms. Welfare Reform that wasn't too stingy. Tax cuts that also helped middle class and poor people. Spending increases which were below the inflation rate. And he was constantly forced to play games with Saddam, in order to knock the legs out from under the war mongers who would only be satisfied with invasion, but eventually used his words to justify their war. Was any of this why he was elected in '92?

And for as much as we can now look back at the Clinton Presidency as a success, it sure didn't feel that way at the time. I was constantly embarrassed to defend him. I was a Republican when Clinton took office, and while I quickly saw the light, there were only two times I was truly a proud Democrat in the nineties. The first was the day we learned Clinton won the 1996 election (which was the first election I ever voted in), and the other was the day the Senate didn't remove Clinton from office. And even still, the only reason I felt proud of his victories was because I really wanted to stick-it to all the conservative creeps I was debating with at the time. Those were firewall events, protecting the rear; not game changing events that you tell your grandkids about.

Looking back, I realize that the best thing Clinton was good at was winning battles. But most of those battles were little more than putting himself in a position to stop Republicans from raping the country, and not actually much pushing of any liberal agenda. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. He did well with what he had to work with, but he didn't really do that well. If the best we have to show eight years from now is that our Democratic President doesn't get impeached, I'll be a very sad man.

Because as I said at the beginning, that's exactly what the Republicans want. They might lose most of the battles, but you still didn't get to fix what you wanted to fix. And that's all they were really interested in. Again, this isn't to desparage Clinton too much. I supported him in the nineties and like him now better than I ever did. But his success was limited to little more than saving his own skin and preventing Republicans from doing what Bush eventually did.

Partying Like It's 1999

And now here we are in 2008, and I'm seriously worried that a Hillary nomination will be a repeat of the last Clinton presidential win. It'll be just like 1996, where a Clinton victory only enraged their attackers; except this time, we'll be starting up where we left off in 1999; with the Villagers storming the castle and the media chomping at the bit to do their bidding. Sure, any Democrat may have trouble with them and the Republicans will surely attack; but at least we're not starting off against the ropes. It always felt like third and long during the Clinton presidency, and I'm tired of waiting for the Hail Mary on every play to pull us through.

And the problem is that I think the Clintons actually like it this way. They prefer being behind the eight ball and have grown so accustomed to the battle that they think the battle is what they're there for and have lost sight of everything else. And we've all seen that kind of thing happen before. Two people get into a stupid debate over a stupid thing, and before you know it, they're arguing against their own points and can't even remember where they got started or what they were trying to prove. It's no longer about trying to convince their opponent of anything; they just want to win, yet no longer remember what the victory might be. And so you get "victories" that involve taxcuts and spending "increases" which give less money to Medicare.

And that's the exact vibe I get from Hillary. I'm not saying she's a bad person. I'm not saying that she'd be a bad president. What I'm saying is that she's been in the fight too long and now all she's seeing is the fight. Everything is about finding the best position to wage battle from while finding her opponent's every weakness. And she's quite good at it. I'm not suggesting that she's blind with rage or anything. She's good at winning these battles, and as president, is likely to win more battles than she loses. And that's not a bad thing.

Why I Support Obama

Now if Hillary was the only good candidate to choose from, I'd support her the way I supported Bill. But I happen to think there were several better candidates for us to choose from (particularly Dodd), and am now more than happy to support Obama. In fact, while I preferred Dodd's policies, I now loooove Obama's entire schtick. I was always a bit skittish that he might be a little lightweight, but have now seen enough to believe that he can seal the deal.

He has a positive optimism that I find refreshing (almost as positive as myself), and he seems quite good at analyzing the political scene well enough to know which notes of his opponent's to steal without selling himself out. Like with the whole "Reagan - Party of Ideas" thing that Hillary wrongly tried to nail him with. She let her fighter instincts get the best of her and she thought she had a knock-out punch which really only reinforced his good side.

And the only reason why she imagined that Barack had said anything wrong was because she's too accustomed to hearing the phony language of centrism and didn't understand that he was using the standard meaning of these words. If anything, the centrists were always pulling a sham anyway, which Barack is now doing correctly. They pretended they were liberals using conservative rhetoric as a gimmick to trick liberals into supporting conservative policies. And so here we have Barack using conservative language to sell liberal policies, and centrist Hillary is throwing a shit fit.

This was supposed to be her schtick, yet he's selling it far more successfully because he actually means what he's saying. And I know exactly what he's talking about. I was a Republican for YEARS because I liked Reagan so much. I was a kid and knew nothing about politics, but I liked him, even though I shouldn't have. And even now I have admiration for him. He was a very positive guy, who I believe was seriously led astray by wily people (I wouldn't rule out brainwashing), and that if his policies matched his optimistic rhetoric, he'd have been the greatest president in history, and very liberal.

And the 80's were a HUGE change in direction for America and Reagan was the right guy to pull it off. He didn't make it happen, but he was the perfect orchestra leader for it. But like Obama, that's not to say that I agree with his policies. Only to point out what Reagan meant to people and how the right leader at the right time can have a huge impact. And that's a perfect match-up for what Obama's trying to do for us, except the tides have changed and for the first time in decades, we're poised to see a huge burst in liberal energy, with Obama positioned to help lead the way.

And that's just not something I see with Hillary, who seems poised for a long, hard slog in which she "wins" by adopting a watered down version of what conservatives wanted, just like we saw in the nineties. And so she's doing victory laps while Republicans laugh all the way to the bank. I know we can do better.

Mr. Optimism

And overall, I just get a big Can Do attitude from the Obama. While Hillary comes off as the rough and tumble street fighter who learned how to handle herself the hard way and is always ready to attack, Obama has the wise, but immaculate confidence of someone who knows what it's like to fight, but hasn't been damaged by it. He'll fight if he has to, and fight well; but only if he has to.

And that's what I'd prefer in a president. Someone who can stand-up for himself, but understands that the fight isn't the prize. That politics are just the tactics we use to get what we want. And realizes that while people will support him in his battles, that they'd prefer something a little stronger to tide them over. I don't want to go back to being a loyal foot soldier defending my president. I want to be a part of a political movement that changes how America works and shows people that politics can be more than partisan squabbling and name calling. Like all people, I want to be a part of something bigger than myself and I firmly believe that Obama is the man who can give us that.

And who knows, maybe Obama can't produce. Maybe he'll fold under the constant attacks (though I'm convinced that the toughest hits he'll take are the ones his fellow Democrats are laying on him, and that general election smears will only work on the more rabid Republicans who already hate him). But he looks like the real deal and I think he can be the start of something new. Something better. This isn't the nineties. Democrats are no longer on the defensive, and we need a president who acts like that. Again, I will fully support another Clinton presidency, but am firmly convinced that an Obama presidency can be something much better.

This isn't about playing offense or defense. This is about going beyond politics. And only in the past few weeks have I become convinced that Obama has the fighting skills to not only handle himself in a battle, but to be able to pull himself back out again. I only hope that he's given the chance.


Doctor Biobrain said...

I just wanted to give three disclaimers on this post:

First, the “pornstars use condoms” line was not really the analogy I was going for, but it was the best one I could think of and seemed somehow appropriate.

Secondly, I didn’t really mean to say that Obama was “immaculate,” but Mrs. Biobrain already went to bed so I couldn’t ask her which word I was really looking for. After ten minutes of searching a lousy online thesaurus, that’s the best I came up with. I hope you get the point. I was just trying to say he wasn't damaged goods.

And as a final comment: Dispite the criticism, I really do think Hillary is a decent person and none of this should be construed as a personal attack on her.

A said...

To be honest, the longer this goes on, the more I think that Obama is just way better at this game than Hillary is. He constantly gets little jabs in during the debates ("I look forward to you advising me as well") and seems to know exactly what buttons to push to make her and Bill overreach. (I think he really pissed Bill off by classing him with Nixon, combined with the 10 or 15 years thing.)

The thing that's struck me the most over the last two months is how he's managed to keep his poise while she hasn't, even though everyone's aware of how much of a political liability that is for her.

Part of this, I'm sure, is that it's just part of his style and he knows how to use it, but at the same time, I think he's making it look a lot more effortless than it really is. I mean, the Clintons have been doing this for a while and have a lot of structural advantages, but they've yet to land a really solid blow and make it stick. The outcome notwithstanding, I feel like Obama's been pretty much schooling the Hillary campaign pretty consistently.