Sunday, January 06, 2008

Could it really be Obama?

By J. Kingston Pierce

I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but I just don’t see the reason for a
post-Iowa caucus surge of confidence in Barack Obama’s ability to capture the 2008 Democratic nomination and thereafter beat a Republican’t challenger on his way to the White House. Sure, the 46-year-old junior U.S senator from Illinois can be charismatic and funny, and among the four remaining top-tier Dems in this contest, he’s the freshest face--which inevitably gives him some cachet with cynical political journalists and among younger voters, who think that new blood at the top will automatically energize a sagging U.S. body politic. And sure, it would be great to break the color barrier and elect the first black U.S. chief executive in history. But Obama’s performance in last night’s Democratic debate was ... well, competent at best. And I’m not convinced that he’s the sharp-elbowed street fighter Dems will need to make it past the GOP’s “ugly machine.”

I’m disappointed by Obama’s simplistic and frequently voiced endorsement of “bipartisanship” as the panacea for our national ills. Democrats have been seeking bipartisanship on Capitol Hill for the last year, ever since Republican’ts lost control of both houses of Congress. And look where it’s got them: almost nowhere, because George W. Bush and his short-sighted water carriers among the GOP leadership continue to peevishly defy progressive legislative advancements and won’t even entertain the idea of withdrawing troops from the Iraq debacle--and they know that Democrats don’t have the numbers necessary to make those changes on their own.

If Democrats maintain their control of Congress, or manage to increase their numbers in either or both houses after January 1, 2009, they ought to enforce less bipartisanship, not more. America got into the life- and money-wasting mess it’s in now under Bush, because the Dems fought fair, while the GOP fought hateful and arrogant. While it’s nice to say that everyone ought to get along--and indeed, in a perfect world, they ought to--that’s not the way that Republican’ts think. And Democrats shouldn’t allow themselves to be suckered into making compromises, when their opponents would not do the same in their position. I hate that U.S. politics works this way nowadays, but it does, and Obama’s nostrums about leading a bipartisan parade will not guarantee him success. They may, instead, set him up for failure.

Hillary Clinton is not an ideal alternative; she helped give Bush cover for war-making in the Middle East and can come across as prickly at times. But she doesn’t deserve the media’s contempt, nor does she deserve to be dismissed by Obama or John Edwards as an endorser of the status quo. She’s right in casting herself, instead, as a change agent; she’s pushed for dramatic improvements, for instance, in U.S. health care policy far longer than either Edwards or Obama has. And what’s more, she has already faced the GOP ugly machine ... and survived. No matter who the Republican’t contender is in November--war candidate John McCain, flip-flopping android Mitt Romney, one-note contestant “9/11” Rudy “9/11” Giuliani “9/11,” or Mike “God’s Own Candidate” Huckabee--the right-wing attack apparatus is going to be turned on the Democratic nominee with a vengeance. I, for one, am not convinced that Barack Obama can weather that storm. Without a doubt, Clinton could--and she’d return every elbow jab thrown her way. As satisfying as it would be to see an African American in the White House, it would be no less satisfying to see a woman in charge. If nothing else, that would probably eliminate the sort of dick-swinging, unilateral “diplomacy” that Dubya has practiced for the last six years. Women aren’t generally stupid like that.

Polls show this should be a good year for Democrats, and the caucus turnout in Iowa proved that the enthusiasm is there to rid the country of Bush and any Republican’ts (like McCain) who cast themselves as “Bush Lite.” However, the opportunity Democrats have to take back the Oval Office could be undone by their nominating someone who’s polished but unprepared to fight in the trenches, and too anxious to work with Republican’ts, rather than work for the American people. Hillary Clinton is a proven trench warrior. Is Obama?

As New Hampshire Democrats go to the polls on Tuesday, they should ask themselves that question.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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  • Excellent post, JKP. I share your concerns regarding Obama. The excitement is, I think, quite legitimate, but I'm not so convinced that there's much to it. As with so many other presidential candidates, and politicians generally, Obama is more image than substance.

    This does not lead me to Clinton, however. Although I would support her as the nominee, I'm still backing Edwards. A long-shot, yes, but, in my view, a more credible progressive than either Clinton or Obama.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 8:11 PM  

  • My number one candidate, rhymes with "odd" and “cod,” just dropped out so I am stuck with left-overs again. I will vote for any plain vanilla, chocolate, or cheesecake Democrat who can give Republicans a just dessert.

    I would not downplay, however, the appeal of bipartisan messages. The downtrodden and diatribe-weary voter wants a “uniter [sic], not a divider” just like last time. Why disappoint?

    By Blogger Swampcracker, at 9:02 PM  

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