Friday, January 04, 2008
The Warrior or The Priest?
My good friend TJ is still very skeptical of Obama.
Now, it is important to understand that TJ is a good man with a good political mind. TJ has good progressive Democrat credentials extending back through his parents who participated in the civil rights movement in Evanston, Illinois. TJ is very active in local school politics in Madison, Wisconsin. He is one righteous dude...
But TJ is perplexed and even a bit disappointed in my support for Obama. It is not that I might have made a rational political calculation to support Obama over the other candidates in the Dem field, according to TJ; he can handle that. Rather, it is the fact that I am "excited" about Obama that weirds him out the most, that I buy into the Obama-mystique to a certain degree... I'm really freakin' him out.
To briefly paraphrase TJ's argument against Obama:
• TJ states that after 7 years of Republican disaster (and really three decades now of a rightward march in American politics), 2008 offered a real opportunity for the Democrats to nominate a true progressive who would level a very direct attack on the Republican Party and on conservative ideology, in general, restoring a kind of liberalism/progressivism to American politics. He does not see Obama as fulfilling this opportunity/possibility. TJ sees Obama as a centerist Democrat, tacking rightward, and not progressive in much of any respect. In fact, TJ argues that Obama's entry into the race and his move to the center - running a "non-ideological" campaign, as Axelrod says - hindered the chance for the true progressive voice in the campaign, John Edwards, to be heard and thus be successful. He thinks that without Obama in the race, Edwards would have had a real shot at beating Hillary for the nomination... and, according to TJ, that would have been much better than a "centerist" Obama nomination/administration.
• Like many of us, TJ is pissed by what has happened to the country, the Constitution, and our global standing under the Bush Republicans and sees the chance to finally change the tide dramatically in the other direction after three decades of Republican/conservative/rightward rule. He clearly doesn't think it is possible to compromise with conservatives, or "bring them to the table." He thinks you "draw a line" and then fight for your side. TJ wants a progressive "warrior" who will do battle with the injustices of the system. So, he "resents" Barack Obama's appeal to Independent and Republican voters greatly and sees this as fundamentally flawed analysis/strategy. As TJ says (I'm paraphrasing), "Obama fundamentally misdiagnoses the problem. The problem hasn't been 'partisanship,' as he claims. The problem has been conservative policies and the lunacy of George Bush's foreign policy. So, the solution isn't unity and hand-holding. The solution is to stand up, point to Republicans and their policies and call them out forcefully, to repudiate them." Given this view, perhaps not surprisingly, TJ is "offended" by Obama's suggestions that he might bring some select Republicans into his administration.
• TJ is cynical about the rhetoric of "unity" and "hope" that Obama employs. He buys the pundits' line that this is so much hot air and not backed up by substance... and what substance there is reeks of the centerist-conservative Democratic Leadership Council, he claims.
• TJ is further cyncical about the huge turn-out by the under-30 crowd. He thinks these people are attracted to the feeling of Obama - the rock star quality of his charisma and youth and overall hipness - rather than any core set of ideas or principles. As such, they are a fleeting constituency and not to be counted on or trusted... and not, in present mindless form, the basis of any progressive movement for change.
** So, TJ would ask, what really lies at the core of Barack Obama? How does he fulfill the opportunity to make a direct, progressive appeal to voters who are weary of 7 years of disastrous Bush policies and ready for real change? How does he seize the opportunity to seize not merely power back for the Democrats, but the soul of the Democratic Party back from three decades of rightward drift??!! How, in short, is Obama better than John Edwards who makes the direct populist assault on corporate interests?
Since I've gone pretty hard for Obama and against Clinton all these weeks, I thought I'd post TJ's critique with the hope of stirring the pot to see if any readers have a response, a comment, an agreement, a challenge, a rebuttal, or an amen...
If you are an Obama-person, will you share a bit about what it is that captures you about him and his candidacy? Can you explain to TJ why he should give Obama consideration...?
NOTE: TJ, please feel free to chime in and clarify your view if you don't think I captured it accurately here...