Work on the Candidate

Many of you know I’ve lived outside the United States since late 2001.  If I were trying to seem poetic or sentimental I would mention that it was 2 months after 9/11.  Or I would bring up the extreme difficulty and hostility I experienced trying to do research as a freelance journalist into the disappearing immigrants of Arab descent.  But thats not really it either, the reasons I left are more complex and less dramatic.

Still throughout the last 7 years I’ve often wondered if a change of president would make it more appealing to live once again in the US.  But I can also tell you that one thing I’ve figured out for myself is that the president is not what is wrong with the United States.  No the problems go beyond the white house and beyond politics.  So a change of president does not equal a change in culture… things don’t happen that quickly or easily.

Speaking with one of my most valued friends back in NJ today, he said to me “Obama mania is sweeping the nation man… its going to be great.”  To which I responded “Just because there is Obama mania does not mean things will be great.” Which is the response I feel I need to give more and more these days.

Like his profile? Sure why not. Plenty to like about that life and family history.  Like his speaking style? Most of the time, although if we’re honest with ourselves we know that 75% of the time he’s not really saying anything, just using the talking points and the slogans like advisors tell him to.  Like his politics? Im not sure about that anymore either. From Free Trade, to Middle East policies, to Criminal Justice, Barak Obama says less and less that I can actually agree with or that differs with the same old populist politics of the last decades.

Obama mania is sweeping the nation.  It starts to sound like any one progressively minded should lay down their arms and embrace the man in the name of getting him elected.  Yet I propose.. hell.. I demand something else.  I demand that you hammer this candidate with questions. That you scrutinize his proposed policies, his staff choices, his voting record, and the details of the lofty promises or the shady relationships with questionable forces. Don’t jump on the bandwagon, stand up and ask your candidate to explain himself.  Run him through the ringer, before its too late, and we end up with a man that owes favors to the same old powerful interests and politics we never actually wanted.

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18 thoughts on “Work on the Candidate

  • July 1, 2008 at 4:11 pm
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    “Obama mania is sweeping the nation. It starts to sound like any one progressively minded should lay down their arms and embrace the man in the name of getting him elected.”

    WOW you miss the mark big time. It was the millions of progressive minded that worked their asses off (raised $, knocked on doors, drove the little old ladies to the primaries, made phone calls, wrote op-eds, put together events) to get Obama to where he is now. The numbers of new voters, black voters, young voters, online organizing, and money raised from small donations were historic and if anyone can’t at least recognize that then they’re probably far too jaded or an ideologue to offer any relevant or meaningful criticisms.

    Damn man give the millions of progressive people that got Obama to where he is the benefit of the doubt, we’re not a bunch of saps clinging to the newest pop song or marketing nick-nack here we’re working to get our candidate elected here.

    Yes oh wise European observer of American politics please give us your unsolicited advice and help our provincial citizens of a young democracy properly choose and vet our candidates….Baaaarf!!!

    • July 2, 2008 at 12:01 am
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      Sarcastic bitch.

    • July 2, 2008 at 12:08 am
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      And another thing… since you’re so right about Obama… Ill very overtly praise you and admit how wrong I was when he pushes through a truely good and progressive set of policies during his 4 years. Ill eat my hat and bow my head because you’ll be right.

      OR.. Ill be disappointed and Ill take the liberty of reminding you how this candidate represented business as usual for the rich and powerful and all things military industrial complex and the world of free trade and increasing income gap.

      I do hope you’re right, even if your sarcastic comment annoys me.

  • July 1, 2008 at 5:53 pm
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    Thank you for saying this. While I certainly prefer Obama to McCain, he was never my first choice and I still have many problems with him.

    He has his good points of course, but he doesn’t go nearly far enough in terms of LGBT rights, the war, and a number of other issues that I and many of my friends care about. Then again, I feel like no candidate for elected office (especially on the national level) will ever have the guts to come out and say something like “Their right to marry doesn’t affect yours. Move on,” because they think they’ll never get elected that way. If you allow people to remain ignorant and intolerant, then they will remain so.

    • July 2, 2008 at 12:04 am
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      I think progressives should be able to hold a candidate, especially one that claims to be so different, to some basic principals that include full LGBT rights, moving from free trade to fair trade, and putting an end to corporate welfare and pandering to big corporate lobbies. As long as we cant do that, I will never be remotely satisfied and I do think we will continue to be disappointed and I would love to be wrong.

  • July 1, 2008 at 7:51 pm
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    You make a good point: the problem, to retread Bill Shakespeare, lies in ourselves; it is the nation as a whole that needs to be reconstructed. A little less than 300 million people have been sitting on their asses narcotized by their own passivity while poor people are being kidnapped, tortured, maimed and killed. Across the board, Americans of all party affiliations and politics– granted with some glorious exceptions– have been waiting out the Bush years like a bad acid trip.

    • July 2, 2008 at 12:10 am
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      Yes. And the same public that brought us George Bush will now bring us Barak Obama… and maybe i shouldnt be concerned… but the fact that some people who voted for that man then will now vote for this man now… makes me wonder. My point — the problems and backwards ass worldviews are still there… its going to take more than an inspiring candidate to fix that.

  • July 2, 2008 at 2:03 pm
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    Greetings from Germany.
    As long as the Republican candidate doesn’t get elected, the rest of the world will have a pause to breath a little easier.
    For how long who knows, but any small mercies in this day and age are duly welcome.
    The facts are, by the sheer will of wanting to be elected makes the candiate unsuitable; so it is more the growing fact of who is most likely to F*#k you in the ass the least!.
    It really does not matter whether Obama gets elected or not, very few Presidents actually do something meaningfull.
    So in the end it is a case of how would he make the rest of the world breath a little easier, and not feel so nervous about all that so called american power.
    I am living in Germany because of the way my own land is (the United Kindom), and that since the end of the last Century.
    In the US there is only one ,erciful bit of relief, that which ever Idiot gets elected, he or she is only able to REIN for eight years, and not for how ever long he she manages to keep the Public soft and plyable to their own needs.
    Aye
    A Scotman Abroad.

    • July 2, 2008 at 8:27 pm
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      Not much to add as what youve stated is clear and a good point. But thanks for the comment, and I do indeed understand what you’re saying. Ill keep it in mind for those moments when I lose hope. see you in germany somewhere.

  • July 2, 2008 at 8:54 pm
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    No where in my comments did I say I was “so right” about Obama, matter of fact I didn’t even comment on his politics.

    I simply raised the idea that what you see is some teenage Brittney Spears love affair bandwagon are actually people that have generally been disinterested in politics becoming involved and active at a rate never seen before. Isn’t that the shit you talk about all the time? The people this , the people that…well people are doing and all you’ve done is question their competency and judgement.

    “I demand…That you scrutinize his proposed policies, his staff choices, his voting record, and the details of the lofty promises or the shady relationships with questionable forces”

    That was called the primaries and we had like 5 non-stop months of them and 20 something debates – we’ve been there and done that.

    “And the same public that brought us George Bush will now bring us Barak Obama”

    First off not really, if everyone that voted for Kerry votes for Obama and then add new voters (as seen in the primaries) Obama wins big. Second, that’s just a lame argument you can say the same people that brought you Franco in Spain will now bring you… or the same people in France that brought you Mitterand will now bring you. – What’s your point?

    • July 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm
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      The point is just that… just because there is a change in leadership doesnt mean theres a change in culture or values. Indeed had Franco been elected.. you could definitely bring up the fact that those same people who were with him when he was popular later elected some other guy.. but well.. its a bad example cause he wasnt elected.. but the point remains.. leadership change doesnt mean people are now more tolerant or more progressive than they were 8 years ago… anyway you didnt suggest that so nevermind.

      What im always calling for is collective action that is thought out.. not based on emotion but on rationality.. on reflection. Supporting a candidate just because its the popular thing to do isnt what Ive been waiting for.. supporting a candidate because his/her policies match your values or what youd like to see from a leader.. I like that, yes.

      Were they scutinizing policies and voting records of candidates during the primary? I didnt see much, if any, of that. It was more about whos priest is crazy and who wears a flag pin and who do white working class voters like more. Maybe I did have CNN on a little too often during that time… that is possibly where I went wrong.

  • July 3, 2008 at 6:40 pm
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    He’s not perfect, no one is. BUT, he’s a sight lot better than we’ve ever had.

    It’s true, people are actually talking politics now. Sure, I work in crazy-town Newark, but it’s nice to hear people talking about changing things. Everyone is jazzed up, and that can’t be bad.

    And for the record, many, many Americans DID NOT bring forth Bush. I voted otherwise, as well as most of the people I know.

  • July 3, 2008 at 8:44 pm
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    As another exile from America I have to say I agree. I guarantee that Obama is going to put the blame of Bush’s failed policies squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats. Just follow the news and you will see that the press is going to hit him with everything it’s got once he is elected. The US is a shadow of it’s former corrupt self and with the help of the Democrats, I believe it will sink even lower. It could be a blessing if McCain wins because at least the most corrupt political party will get blamed for the bottoming out of the US. In my opinion the decline is already evident from outside the box, but the awakening of the US public is going to bring down whatever party has the reigns when the sleepers awake. Good luck to Obama.

  • July 4, 2008 at 7:26 pm
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    “What im always calling for is collective action that is thought out.. not based on emotion but on rationality.. on reflection”

    Why is it one or the other, why not both? And at that why do you think this is some emotional frenzy with no substance? Haha what’s funny is you sound like a Mark Penn or some other Clinton campaign strategist; “the please don’t be fooled by his nice speeches, we need a leader on day one!”

    Dude but here this is serious, while politics might be an intellectual exercise for us (educated, healthy, white, males, with income) politics can be much different to others. Was the civil rights movement solely based on reason and reflection? MLK was a preacher were his speeches about rationality and sound logical arguments? Should death penalty opponents never bring up the “thou shall not kill” part of the bible? What about torture? Should opponents of that simply state that those practices violate US law and international treaties and file motions in court and that’s it? Can one also make an appeal to the commonality of man and the inherent decency of life when discussing torture or the death penalty? Do those concepts that lie outside of sound logic have a place in civic life, collective action and politics? Are they less valid?

    There’s a good book I suggest at least reading the introducation online: God’s Politics Why the Right Gets it Wrong and Left Doesn’t Get it by Jim Wallis.

    Perhaps you’re not around enough black people in Holland to understand this, Leannea works in Newark, I’m in DC people are now psyched not just about Obama but about PARTICIPATING and that can’t be bad.

    How about this shit…You know those shirts black kids sometimes wear in the city with big airbrushed pics of Tony Montana from Scarface or Tupac. There are now Obama shirts like that too and people are rocking them Yeah kids in the inner city are wearing a shirt with the picture of a US Senator on it.

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  • July 8, 2008 at 9:49 pm
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    David Sirota was interviewed on the show Media Matters recently and I thought he had a good point. He said presidential candidates are represented as movements unto themselves in the celebrity-driven media coverage today. The message propagated is that people only need to vote for the change candidate to do their part in the movement and that this is a disempowering message. Basically, we pull the level and wait to see what comes out, which will most certainly be more of the same if the people are not activated.

  • July 9, 2008 at 5:45 am
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    I agree with Steve & DRock. There is a great movement happening to support electing Obama going on right now. But we do need to recognize how terrible a lot of his policies are & that his mere inspiration of hope & change will not alone make that change.

    Especially if Obama is supporting giving amnesty to Bush’s complicit criminal corporate co-conspirators and giving the presidency unprecedented policing powers, we must hold him accountable when those authoritarian powers become his.

    No we should not discount the movement. But as Steve said, merely voting is disempowering. If we let the movement end with pulling the lever, Obama’s presidency will disappoint as much as Clinton’s did. Instead we need to do all we can to empower the movement for the election AND beyond. If this movement stays as exciting as it is now (I have seen those same shirts all over Philly in ways I never did in 2000 or 2004), neither McCain, Cheney, Obama, or American complacency can hold it back come 2009.

    So don’t let it die with the election of just one politician.

  • July 12, 2008 at 7:02 pm
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    Up front let me say I’m a huge supporter of Obama. Is he perfect? No, but the US is a huge ship. I would like it to turn on a dime, but that is way too optimistic. But this does represent a turn in the right direction. For the first time in my lifetime – arguably since the Civil War -, the social conservatives (who are the armies of Mordor to my mode of thought) have completely destroyed themselves. This is a great opportunity to breath new thought into the tired, stagnate system. Will it lead to radical change? I REALLY doubt it, but here is the scenario I would like to see: A dose of regulation for big business and a small redistribution of wealth down the social ladder. Then, because I believe in Keynes, we wait to see the overall economic benefits. They won’t be huge, but they will be visible. American’s are very pragmatic people. If they see Keynesianism succeeding, they will respond positively to it. They will elect more politicians from the left. Pop culture will pick it up as well, that will further sell it. Even the media, cowards ever since the Nixon administration bullied them, will fear less to speak of the left. Every step will move the bulk population to the left exactly the same way Calhoun moved us to the right way back in the middle of 19th century.

    Now, how can we botch this? By failing! If Obama gets elected and half-asses the project, or reaches too far too fast, it will flounder. Now is not the time for a dangerous course. We need to take safe steps, proving the concept every step of the way.

    I’m a believer, I really believe this type of economy will work. But it has to be nurtured and protected from shock. I know that’s not fun, but it’s the only way that will work.

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