Saturday, 13 September 2008

Dropping Obama: My personal story

Readers of this blog will be aware that I have [reluctantly] abandoned the Obama bandwagon.

I was involved with the Dukakis campaign in 88. We could have won that election if Dukakis had capitalised on Bentsen's skewering of Quayle, and had taken the fight to the Republicans, rather than endlessly backing away from their attacks on him.

But Dukakis was too afraid: only in the last 10 days of the campaign did he stand up proud and defiant and say, "Yes I am a liberal" -- and from that point onward his poll ratings climbed steadily, but there wasn't enough time left til election day for him to catch up with Bush.

I was more peripherally involved with the Clinton-Gore campaign in 92, and worked for a 3rd Party candidate in the Congress during that election. I saw the birth of the New Democrats -- and what a horrible sight it was. The night of the election, I removed my Clinton-Gore bumper sticker, realising that now I would be going instantly into opposition -- but I had no idea just how bad it would be, just how total the sellout would be on old growth forests and healthcare reform, just how spineless would be the policy on gays in the military or HIV/AIDS victims in Guantanamo, just how vicious would be the foreign policy (most notably, the half million Iraqis that Clinton and Albright sentenced to death), and so on.

I saw the New Democrats, and wept for the future of British politics. I told all my friends in politics etc. back in Britain not to believe in New Labour at all, not to make the same mistake -- but they were too desperate to get rid of the Tories; they didn't listen. Blair came in and all that I had said to them turned out true, and years later one after the other they confessed that voting in New Labour had been a total waste of time, just a betrayal to a new Thatcherism.

I counselled Paddy Ashdown to seize the opportunity provided by the vacation of the Left by Labour, to become the Party of the Left in Britain; he didn't have the courage or will or backing to do it. So I finally left the Libdems. There is one Party in this country and in America that, small though it is, offers a real future, a future that is not just another sellout. Supporting the Green Party allows one to keep one's integrity, to make direct real political progress, and to put strong political pressure on the 'mainstream' Parties, all at the same time. Greens can get elected (in Norwich, we have 15 Councillors now!), and even when they don't or can't, they make the 'mainstream' Parties move in the direction of environmental sustainability and social justice, to avoid losing votes.

I wish Obama luck, and, in a choice between him and McCain, I hope he wins. But an Obama adminstration promises at present to be little more than warmed-up Clintonism - look how little policy difference there was between Obama and H. Clinton in the primaries. Clinton-redux is no prescription at all for the world's utterly-vast problems at present.

The very minimum we need is a new Roosevelt. A Green New Deal. If Obama called for that, he might get some real traction; he might not disappoint entirely the vast expectations that have now been inflated around him; he might not be so floored by a vacuous ultra-right fluke like Palin.

Until he does, I say: I cannot honestly campaign for this man. It was a mistake to back Blair, it was a mistake to back Clinton: there is no point right now expending energy backing Obama
either.

7 Comments:

Blogger Jim Jay said...

I think there are a number of problems here - the biggest of all is that Obama is a break from the New Democrats, not a continuation of that trend. He won the nomination because he's a liberal - and whilst his *campaign* may not be all I'd like it to be, his *Presidency* would be a stroke of extraordinary good fortune for Americans and the world.

I wont go into the difficulties I have with the US Green Party out of politeness - but they do not come close to addressing the key fundamental issues nor tapping into public consciousness in a significant way.

The fact is Obama's democrats will be well to the left of Labour here and, even if you just look at the camapign as an attempt to reform the US in various ways, it would be a significant defeat if Obama lost.

It doesn't matter *at all* whether the Greens get 1 or 2% - it means everything whether Obama wins or not - not because he's perfect but because we are a political crossroads. If we turn one way it is war and climate change and the other we have some hope of the US addressing these issues - possibly too little too late but this is where the real battle lies.

13 September 2008 at 23:40  
Blogger Rupert said...

One thing I am saying here is: if Obama really is a 'liberal', then why isn't he sounding like one? Why is he running to the 'centre ground' at every opportunity, now? You mention climate change, Jim: why is Obama backing more oil drilling? (He is btw very close to large fossil fuel interests in Illinois.)
What I am saying is: if Obama started _leading_ again, as he did before, on race, on tax, then that would change everything for me. But at present he isn't.
If he started _leading_, by for instance endorsing something like a Green New Deal, which is the very minimum that is needed in the current crisis, then one could ignore the excellent policies and realistic appraisal of our human predicament of Cynthia McKinney. I am waiting for Obama to start leading again. If he doesn't, then I will continue to conclude that he IS too little. (And, btw, he will lose, as Kerry lost, unless he leads boldly. The U.S. people will pick the substance, not the shadow, if they are asked to choose between people who sound like they believe in something (Palin) and people who sound like they just want to utter vague vacuities and not offend anyone (Obama, over the last few months).)

14 September 2008 at 09:30  
Blogger scott redding said...

Actually, come January, Biden might be the President.

I'd be more worried about Obama's links to ethanol (Illinois being a corn state).

In terms of a "Green New Deal", Obama already supports things like the "Apollo Alliance" -- you gotta love American project names.

Obama's current woes are not down to policy.

Americans vote for President based on values and character. If you stop 100 people on Main Street, USA, they won't riff on McCain's policy points, or Obama's plan. They'll talk about how the candidates make them feel. It's why US Presidents use emotional metaphors ("the only thing to fear, is fear itself", "ask not what your country can do for you", "it's morning in America", "building a bridge to the 21st century").

This is how Obama beat Clinton. His life story, his argument that he can bring people together, his argument for a more ethical politics, "shared sacrifice for shared prosperity." If they voted for policy wonks, either Gore or Kerry would have won.

14 September 2008 at 13:33  
Blogger weggis said...

The people you back don't seem to last long.
Should Caroline and Adrian watch out?

14 September 2008 at 13:45  
Blogger sunny said...

if Obama really is a 'liberal', then why isn't he sounding like one? Why is he running to the 'centre ground' at every opportunity, now?

Rupert, this is one bad example. He's not running to the centre ground at every opportunity -only in certain cases.

This is the issue I highlighted earlier on LC - lefties want ideological purity instead of the messy business of compromise. The fact of the matter is, no candidate however left-wing or right-wing can win a majority in the US unless they are in the centre on some issues.

Obama hasn't run away from his planned action on tackling global warming, or on dealing with America's oil addiction. He's just recognised that without some short-term boost, people will suffer from high oil prices and therefore be hurt financially.

If you want to be a mass-membership party, you also have to recognise that sometimes people want cuts in expenditure. Lower oil prices will proportionally help poorer people more. That is a left-wing position to take, if not entirely environmentally friendly.

On the basis of you one example, you're just throwing away any support for a candidate who is vastly different to McCain on a whole load of issues.

That 1-2% going to the Greens, at most, could mean the difference between McCain and Obama. Right now, thats the only choice you have. Its time to face reality.

14 September 2008 at 19:14  
Blogger Rupert said...

Scott: of course you are basically right on this, and I am very far from wanting Obama to be a policy-wonk; BUT, he needs to be something other than an almost-policy-free-zone, in the way he presents himself. If he had had a couple of really strong, radical, signature policies tightly-associated with him by now, like a Green New Deal, then the coming of Palin couldn't have hurt him so much. As it was, backing for him was only skin-deep (sic.), because just calling for 'change' starts to sound a bit thin, as one gets close to the election...
Sunny: it isn't just one example. I have named several important potentially-signature areas where Obama has really disappointed, over the last few months.
He needs to stop disappointing people like me; or else he will in any case disappoint at the ballot box... I mean that. You cannot generally win elections by running to the centre. Obama should come out fighting and fighting for real radical changes, changes that we can really believe in... Anything less, and the U.S. electorate will be unimpressed...
This man has a chance to be a Roosevelt. If he doesn't take it, then forget it: I'd rather support someone who actually is rising to the challenges of the times...

15 September 2008 at 15:22  
Blogger Jim Jay said...

I don't think Obama is an "almost-policy-free-zone" in substance - which is why I support him, although his campaign is having a wobble and sometimes leaves something to be desired.

However I don't supoprt candidates based on whether thier campaign is upto scratch (although I might withhold support if it actively persuades me that a candidate is wrong for the job).

Do I want Palin or Biden on foreign policy? Do I want Obama or McCain on health care?

I think an Obama Presidency will lead to a new deal of sorts and a massive energisation of progressive grassroots that either feel beaten down or have turned inward and paranoid.

But possibly more importantly a McCain Presidency will also lead to a very different kind of new deal - and one that will not just leave America a more unjust place, the world a more dangerous one.

15 September 2008 at 17:02  

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29.
Readers of this blog will be aware that I have [reluctantly] abandoned the Obama bandwagon.

I was involved with the Dukakis campaign in 88. We could have won that election if Dukakis had capitalised on Bentsen's skewering of Quayle, and had taken the fight to the Republicans, rather than endlessly backing away from their attacks on him.

But Dukakis was too afraid: only in the last 10 days of the campaign did he stand up proud and defiant and say, "Yes I am a liberal" -- and from that point onward his poll ratings climbed steadily, but there wasn't enough time left til election day for him to catch up with Bush.

I was more peripherally involved with the Clinton-Gore campaign in 92, and worked for a 3rd Party candidate in the Congress during that election. I saw the birth of the New Democrats -- and what a horrible sight it was. The night of the election, I removed my Clinton-Gore bumper sticker, realising that now I would be going instantly into opposition -- but I had no idea just how bad it would be, just how total the sellout would be on old growth forests and healthcare reform, just how spineless would be the policy on gays in the military or HIV/AIDS victims in Guantanamo, just how vicious would be the foreign policy (most notably, the half million Iraqis that Clinton and Albright sentenced to death), and so on.

I saw the New Democrats, and wept for the future of British politics. I told all my friends in politics etc. back in Britain not to believe in New Labour at all, not to make the same mistake -- but they were too desperate to get rid of the Tories; they didn't listen. Blair came in and all that I had said to them turned out true, and years later one after the other they confessed that voting in New Labour had been a total waste of time, just a betrayal to a new Thatcherism.

I counselled Paddy Ashdown to seize the opportunity provided by the vacation of the Left by Labour, to become the Party of the Left in Britain; he didn't have the courage or will or backing to do it. So I finally left the Libdems. There is one Party in this country and in America that, small though it is, offers a real future, a future that is not just another sellout. Supporting the Green Party allows one to keep one's integrity, to make direct real political progress, and to put strong political pressure on the 'mainstream' Parties, all at the same time. Greens can get elected (in Norwich, we have 15 Councillors now!), and even when they don't or can't, they make the 'mainstream' Parties move in the direction of environmental sustainability and social justice, to avoid losing votes.

I wish Obama luck, and, in a choice between him and McCain, I hope he wins. But an Obama adminstration promises at present to be little more than warmed-up Clintonism - look how little policy difference there was between Obama and H. Clinton in the primaries. Clinton-redux is no prescription at all for the world's utterly-vast problems at present.

The very minimum we need is a new Roosevelt. A Green New Deal. If Obama called for that, he might get some real traction; he might not disappoint entirely the vast expectations that have now been inflated around him; he might not be so floored by a vacuous ultra-right fluke like Palin.

Until he does, I say: I cannot honestly campaign for this man. It was a mistake to back Blair, it was a mistake to back Clinton: there is no point right now expending energy backing Obama
either.
30. 31. 32.