Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Obama in the Middle

OK, this is definitely one I want feedback on. If you're reading this, then please comment on it - and then send your comments to the Obama campaign. Comments, everyone, please; this is a blog, not a monologue (or will be if you add your comments). The Man may not hear you, but I certainly will, so let's hear what you have to say.

In November, my choice at the polls will be between Obama, writing in a candidate, or not voting; so unless something very wrong goes on in the Obama campaign I will be voting for Mr. O. This is because the Right is just plain Wrong, and is destroying our country and everything that is (or used to be) great about it. McCain is OK with turning Iraq into the new Hundred Years War, when every day we spend money we don't have to keep our forces and mercenaries there, and to kill Iraqis and suffer casualties for no good reason at all. McCain has no education policy to speak of, when our schools are increasingly destitute and we are rapidly losing our place in the global race to the future. McCain has no health care policy to speak of, in the only modern, industrialized nation in the world with no public health system worth mentioning. McCain has no energy policy to speak of beyond increasing oil production, which is another way of saying that we should hit the accelerator as we approach the brick wall of global ecological (and national economic) disaster so we can slam into it that much more quickly and effectively. I suppose the only positive thing to say about his "policies" is, that he is so old he'll be dead before his administration is, so he won't have to live to see our nation collapse as the incredibly likely result. Thanks, John.

The Republicans are irresponsible, immoral, and ineffective at leading our nation towards any goal other than that of widening the income gap by increasing the wealth of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. They are also happy to ally themselves with the far right forces which are fighting for a regime of authoritarianism, theocracy, and imperialist ambitions both at home and abroad. Every day under Republican rule puts this nation ever more solidly in the grip of Big Brother, and the future safety and security of our nation, our people, and our freedom depends on a fight for survival against these forces. We must fight against the Right with every weapon at our disposal, and Obama is one such weapon. I therefore urge every free-thinking and patriotic American to vote for Obama in the general election in November, and against McCain.

Nonetheless, I firmly believe that an Obama administration would represent at best a holding action, and really something more akin to an orderly retreat to more defensible lines. Despite the attempt by the Right to paint Obama as a "radical," it is clear to anyone actually bothering to look into Obama's actions, statements, and history, that Obama is a definitive Centrist, and not a Leftist by any means. In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama speaks again and again on the need for the Left and the Democratic Party to compromise with the Right to reach a consensus. Obama argues against socialized medicine, against any radical increase or restructuring of social welfare programs, and against any "precipitous" withdrawal from Iraq.

The American political system is keyed to a process of negotiation and compromise between the two parties. Both parties hold close to even numbers of supporters, forces, and resources. In Congress, laws are worked out through deals and compromises, bargains are made in committee and subcommittee. Neither party has the clout to push through a program against the other's express will; it should be remembered that many of Bush's most unpopular initiatives involved a degree of participation by the Democrats. In any such situation, it should be obvious that to get anything done, each party must be willing and able to give up some of its demands in order to get others fulfilled. The ultimate positions reached in Congress are usually somewhere in between the starting positions of both sides. In theory, this should, or at least can, result in American politics being predominantly Centrist, providing that we have a strong Left fighting against the Right for influence and support.

But the problem is that we don't have a Left and a Right; we have a Center and a Right. The Democrats are ever apologetic about being "liberal" (and they are becoming less "liberal" every day), and rather than start out by arguing for Leftist goals, they start out by arguing for Centrist goals. At the same time, they negotiate and compromise with a Republican party happy to exploit far-right forces and always struggling unabashedly for conservative goals. The result is a compromise that lies solidly in the middle between the Center and the far Right, a definitively right-of-Center result. This brings us further to the Right with every political battle fought; and makes "liberal" ideals every day seem more "radical", "dangerous", and "unachievable."

A perfect example of this is the health care policy debate. Obama doesn't call for socialized medicine, which our nation has more than enough resources and knowledge with which to provide. He simply calls for the insurance of the uninsured - and will have to fight against Republicans with roughly even strength of forces in Congress doing all they can to inhibit this result, and trying to get all the Democratic support they can for their own conservative goals in return for what little they give back. The result of a "successful" Obama "fight for health care reform" will not be universal health care; but simply a reduction in the proportion of uninsured. It will be better than what we would get from a Republican administration interested only in corporate profits and increasing the centralized authority of the government and the church, but not much better; and it will be far less, inexcusably less than what our nation is capable of achieving. We are the country that introduced large-scale mass production and put people on the Moon. Is it really too much to ask to suggest that we might just be capable of doing what virtually every other country in the world does, including many that are so much poorer than ours is?

It is time for the Left to be what it is, to not feel sorry for it, to shout to the world that our nation has the money, the materials, the manpower, and the staggering ingenuity needed to achieve whatever we set our sights on achieving. It is time for Obama to be what the Right say he is, but which his own actions and statements say that he is not - a Leftist, the president that America needs to make our nation once again a great nation, and a true nation of compromise and consensus. It is time for the Left to be proud of itself again, and for us to make the conservatives feel a little guilty for their faults instead, such as promoting ignorance, centralized authoritarianism, theocracy, and a widening income gap. We will still, and probably always, have the Right to contend with and negotiate with (and, let's face it - to remind us of what we stand for and need to fight for, but also to remind us not to take ourselves so seriously that we forget we're not the only ones living here). We will probably never get a "radical" Leftist regime into office or achieve really "radical" Leftist goals; but we can, and will, still achieve our share of victories if we push for them, rather than start by offering to give up our rapidly diminishing ground to the enemy. The Right have declared, and have been winning, a war on everything that we value about our nation. It is time for the Left to stand up and fight back.

4 comments:

Credit said...

Some posed the question today on a Michigan sports message board I frequent today, "For all the Obama supporters(the board is fairly evenly split left and right), does the fact that Obama will have a clear democratic majority in both houses to work with give you pause, or give you wood?"
My response was that an Obama victory would bring the federal government more in line with my political viewpoint than it has ever been in my lifetime. I had come to accept the fact that I am outside the political mainstream in this country, and always will be. At least an Obama administration will not embarass us on the world stage. At least Obama will not act like health care or gun control are dangerous ideas designed to destroy middle america. An Obama administration will protect a woman's right to choose, and not put conservative judges on the court who look to re-write the second amendment while at the same time complaining about "activist" judges.
And apart from all the policy points that Obama is right on, you can't discount the enormous historical signifigance of the election of a black man to the highest office in the land. Considering that only a little over 200 years ago black men and women were counted as 3/5 a person, that is a remarkable signal to the rest of the world, that maybe, just maybe, America might finally be coming close to living up the lofty ideals that saturate the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Obama's election will be something that my grandkids will learn about in school, and his speeches will be memorized by their grandkids.
Given all that, the wrongness of the Republicans, the policy positions of Obama, and the full weight of history, to even consider not voting for him would be anthema to everything I believe in as a citizen. Simply put, if I didn't vote for him, I've never get another candidate I could really support.

teammarty said...

Those of you who know me know that I am an active athiest (hi Paul and Eric)and became active after the reaction to the pledge case. Not just having Kerry tell me that a court that upholds the Constitution (and my rights as a citizen (for now...)) is a case of asinine justice, but that of people who were my friends for 20 years. I know, I know, if I really gave a damn about being an American, I'd pretend I believe in god and become an Unitarian (even though time shows that would not have been good enough).

I actually watched some of the convention. The best part was Sheryl Crow. The next best part was Ted Kennedy, who was also the only guy who didn't end with a prayer (at least that I saw). I actually saw Obama's speech. I liked a lot of it. I even liked his definition of the role of government. I liked most of it except for the last two minutes where it turned into old timey tent revival.

I know, they're trying to out religion the Republicans because they think that will win them the election. But in doing so, they've made it crystal clear that I am not ( not that I ever was a party member) not welcome in the big tent. The whoe thing was gawd, gawd, gawd. I watched some on C-span, which showed a lot of the inbetween bits that the mainstream news shows used to argue over everything. Many of these were an invocation by one of the many groups in the big tent.

They even had interfaith caucuses throughout the week. Lori Lipmann Brown, lobbyist from the Secular Coalition of America (whose really cool, I've met her at a couple American Atheist conventions) tried to even adress concerns with DNC CEO Leah Daugherty and never recieved a responce. Bob Tiernan, a Denver lawyer, former president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation AND Freethinker of the year for 2001 (thank you google) actually tried to attend. Well, he did for a while, until "I stood up and said "I'm a Democrat but I'm not a person of faith. This looks like a church service to me and I never thought I would see the Democrats doing something like this." At that point, the police came escorted from the hall."* Don't pray when we tell you to and we'll put the police on you. Some big tent. Some unity.

The Democrats have been telling me for years that I wasn't of them. "If you want to vote left of center, go somewhere else. We're trying to win elections." (Not very hard, obviously) So I did. Nader in 96. They didn't mind that but by 2000, I was "stealing their votes" (Isn't it MY vote??). Again in 04. Now they're back to not wanting my vote. Well, they want my vote, but I have to promise to shut up, pray when told and not even mention my 1st Amendment Rights. And hope when it comes time to make the next Supreme Court nominee, that it's not someone from Reverend Wright's church.

So, once again, it's a choice of which wing of the Republicrat Party should I vote for. The Nazi Party of the Not-So-Nazi-Party. And I'll admit, that things will be better for America if Obama wins and I have a better chance of being part of America. And that a McBush, er, McCain victory would mean 10 years of a Palin Presidency (Do you think he'll make it through a full term? He doesn't really look like it.)and an eventual long train ride to one of those camps they used to keep the Japanese in. If I'm lucky. I've been being told to swim to Cuba for years. Maybe they'll give me a boatride.

I still have the choice of voting out of fear (and having it not make any difference except for a softer pillow and maybe a chocolate under it)or voting, as Thomas Jefferson said, weighing the evidence in my own conscience and voting for somebody who at least views me as an American. SO that probably means Ralph again. Or I can write in someone else. Noam Chomsky. Ernie Chambers (Atheist rep from Nebraska.) Alton Lemon (you might recognize the name from the Lemon test that Scalia hates so much), Dave Silverman (Communications Director of American Atheists and another fun one to party with as part of what call the Wandering HOrde). SOmeone (while I am still allowed) but not for any Republicrat. I won't vote myself off the Island.

Credit said...

Great comment Marty, you are spot on in a lot of your points.
I guess, where i differ from you is that I don't see Obama's religious views as a threat to my atheism (is that the correct spelling). Now if he starts to oppose a woman's right to choose, or advocates teaching "intelligent" design, or suddenly decides the defense of marriage act is a good thing, then I might change my mind.
As far as I can tell, while he is a christian and will profess his faith when asked, he is not in favor of policies that explicitly target "non-believers" as the right wingers do.

Kolyan said...

I'm going to say pretty much what Eric said which is that the really left wing proposals/ideas are going to come from a Democratically controlled (and I mean REALLY controlled, not the bare majority they have now) congress and presented to Obama to sign. If you think of the most liberal people in politics they are generally house members in very safe districts. The Republican brainwashing has been so bad over the years that Obama has to run in the middle for fear of being "too extreme". For years we've been hearing that the "market knows best" and "government needs to get out of our lives". Then we get the financial mess of the past week and taxpayers need to bail out various large companies.

You are probably right that Obama is a middle step to getting some left wing platforms through at a later date. Public opinion moves at a glacial pace though so unfortunately it will still take a while to get people to accept something like true universal health care.