Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Political Blogging - The Hillary I Would Have Voted For

In the next week I will return to topics concerning Rousseau and the movie Into the Wild, but right now I want to mention something positive about the Clinton campaign.

As I recently wrote my first negative post about Obama, I now am writing my first positive post on Clinton. In the past months Clinton has couched herself as the edgy, policy-egghead that cares more about winning than being right. Her campaign has continually taken the low-road (see the New York Times article), and unfairly and unduly polarized and racialized the nomination process. That said, I was quite moved - even inspired - by the recent ad Clinton has running in North Carolina. The ad features Maya Angelo reading an endorsement for Clinton, see it here.

The message is a shift from here criticism of Obama's 'Yes we can' to her pragmatic rejoinder, 'how we can.' This message offers no policy initiative, no 10-step solution; it offers, 'just words.' It is a brilliant ad. Yet, it is unlikely to assuage black voters to the extent that they will vote for Clinton, but who knows? Everytime Clinton has shown her emotional side it has followed with fanfare (and, too, some incredulity by pundits). Whatever follows, all loyal Democrats are praying that Clinton's campaign (and Obama's) have more ads that look like these, and less like the 3:00a.m. ads.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Political Blogging - What Tide Change?

The MSM have to make stories dramatic, no matter how mundane they may actually be. Clinton's primary win on Tuesday has been cast by the media as an extraordinary story of a candidate who has been beaten, bruised and broken, but still won over the Keystone State. How heroic.

And yet, the possibility - the sensibility - of the Clinton campaign continues to lose credibility. Instead of the tidal change of support she purports, national polls show, for her, only erosion.

The link is to the Real Clear Politics tracking chart of the national averages for the Democratic race.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Pope, Politics and Immigration

The Pope's visit highlighted how different the secular and sacred are. The media seemed honestly perplexed at how to cover the event, most seemed to relegate the visit to the political (because the assertion of the self is always a will-to- power, right?). Some articles contrasted his dogmatic positions with his personal humility (as if piety and orthodoxy are inherently antithetical). Most of the news stories just didn't understand what to think of someone taking their faith seriously.

Of the offenders, none were worse than Lou Dobbs and Congressman Tancredo. An opinioned response in the Wall Street Journal, today, brilliantly illuminated and allayed the controversy:

That 'Insulting' Pope'
It's not everyday that a backbencher in Congress draws international attention by insulting the spiritual leader of one in four Americans. But Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo, the anti-immigrant obsessive, wasn't about to miss his moment.

Pope Benedict XVI called on U.S. bishops last week to "continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hope, to support them in their sorrows and trials and to help them flourish in their new home."

Mr. Tancredo's response was to accuse the pontiff of "faith-based marketing" and claim that "the pope's immigration comments may have less to do with spreading the gospel than they do about recruiting new members of the church." Mr. Tancredo - who sports T-shirt that read "America Is Full" - also cited a March 1 Wall Street Journal editorial to support this argument. The editorial concerned a new Pew servery on religion in the U.S. and noted that in recent decades the Catholic Church has been losing members among the native born but gaining them among the foreign born. "We'd encourage our friends on the right who want to limit immigration to consider the health of the Church," we wrote.

Our point, evidently missed by the Congressman, was that the U.S. Catholic Church has traditionally been an immigrant church, helping to settle and assimilated generations of Irish, Polish and Italian newcomers. The pope made a similar argument during his visit last week in separate remarks to U.S. educators. "Countless dedicated religious sisters, brothers, and priest together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society," he said.

To Lou Dobbs, another Tancredo-like compulsive, all of this amounted to the pope, "insulting our country." The CNN anchor said, "I really don't appreciate the bad manners of a guest to tell me in this country and my fellow citizens what to do." You know the restrictionists have gone head-first into the fever swamps when they denounce a Christian religious leaders for sounding like a Christian.
The pope welcomes immigrants because he's Catholic, not because they are. He isn't "marketing" his faith. He practicing it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Political Blogging - Coup de Grace

Unless Obama wins Pennsylvania, Clinton will not concede the race tomorrow. With all the money, support, and effort she has put into the Keystone-state, she's not going to win a battle and then turn around and surrender the war (that is without losing political face). She will either wait until Indiana, or more likely North Carolina.

Hillary Clinton wins Pennsylvania with less than a 15% margin. Thus, the blow-out necessary remains elusive, but the win is still present.

The Indiana primary provides a split ticket with a win for either campaign of less than 10%. Either way, Clinton remains in the race.

North Carolina is the coup de grace. It is the final and unforgettable bludgeon to the Clinton campaign, signaling the unstoppable force of Obama's victories.

Between PA and NC she begins to soften her tone, and strengthen her message that it is only Democrats that can turn this country around; on the night of the NC election she concedes early and presents herself as a loyal Democrat who has always seen McCain as the inevitable downfall of the US, and Obama as the only possible salve for such present despair.

Tomorrow: watch Obama lose, but only by small margins.
Clinton knows the final death blow is to come, but wait until the coup de grace: North Carolina; 65/35. Then she concedes. Convention wars be damned.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Political Blogging: Why I Want an Elitist for President

America essentially paints itself in two opposing characteristic hues; equality and elitism. The two poles of American achievement call everyone to simultaneously be like everyone else, and to be the very best. This schizophrenia reaches fever pitch in presidential candidates; they are to be both your bar-buddy and political-science professor. They are to wax eloquently of the policy nuances that pervade tax-codes and foreign affairs, while also jovially discussing with blue-collar workers the chance the Cubs have of winning their first World Series in a hundred years.

We hold our presidential hopefuls to this paradoxical task because it begins with a fallacy. All children are cajoled to believe that they too can be President someday. What an awful lie. A society seemingly built on hyper-individualism and the spirit of manifest destiny also holds within it a deep sense of egalitarianism. Succinctly: "You can be whatever you want to be." This truth seems so palpable in childhood; one need only extend ones hands and grasp their desires. Though as the days linger on, we find our choices more confined, our dreams more elusive. Where we once dreamed of living abroad, we now settled for a vacation across state lines, and where once we hoped to become a lawyer we settle on being a paralegal. What makes this lifestyles so seemingly despicable is that it is so desperate from what was promised. This, to be sure, is the resounding critique of Ayn Rand's objectivism (and the myriad of self-help, and get-rich books); namely, that we are not autonomous, individualized creators of our own future. The human will cannot fashion itself into its own wanting; we are constrained by a myriad of factors in such endeavors. We both love and loath the idea that we are very nearly like everyone else.

And yet, there are those seemingly rare cases of stardom and celebrity: those intractably charismatic personalities and those captivating and enigmatic minds that seize our attention. Are not these elites? Without falling into idolatry, there is something admirable in recognizing greatness.

The critique against Barack Obama is that he is an elitist. The connotation being that he looks despairingly down upon blue-collar workers and rural America. Though such an outlook ought to be rejected, it is most likely not truly imbued in Obama. However, more importantly, Obama, Clinton, and McCain all (and rightfully) ought to embrace the denotation of being elitists; that they exceptional citizens, specially suited for the most powerful political position in the world. They are the elites of American society.

However, such overtures begin reactions to those allergic to non-egalitarian sentiments. Again, we want presidents who are an impossible both/and. Of course, Obama is an elitist, but so are Clinton and McCain. There exceptionalism is the very reason for their political success. They are exceptional, because they are exceptions. We are asking presidential candidates to do the impossible: to be the exceptional and concomitantly exceptionaless. I want a president who is an elitist, I want Obama.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Political Blogging: We are not the ones we have been waiting for....

This blog will have done something it has yet to do: criticize Obama. Being a farm-hand and corn-reared son of Indiana you might think it begins with a little comment that has caused a maelstrom, but you'd wrong. Obama comments, though overly drawn and generalized, have a powerful resonance with me. Much of 'small-town' America has social mores that often remind me of the movie 'The Last Picture Show.' Religious zealotry and zionphobia scar many of those who live in rural, and often forgotten, America.

No, what is of concern is one line: "We are the ones we have been waiting for..."

The line by Obama (and was first the title of an Alice Walker book, and picked up by Jim Wallis' book "God's Politics") is featured prominently at the end of a new music video, "We Are the Ones."

Watch it here.

The video, powerful to be sure, changes nothing in my belief that Obama can assuage much of the political contentions that have created a riff in the American landscape, and also can begin to allay the world of its concerns of the United States. However, for all of this, Obama is not, nor are we, the Hope, but simply a hope.

John the Baptist always conceded that he was only announcing the arrival of someone greater than himself. Obama, though an incredibly inspiring individual, is not the one John was speaking of.

Perhaps its not even about Obama, but more about that one line. We are simply not the ones we have been waiting for... Or, at least more specifically, I am not who I hoped for. Such hope, is poor hope.

My first article on Obama caught the attention of another blog, Deep Furrows. The blogger used my article to show that Obama's followers write with a messianic flare in concern for Obama's presidential campaign. Though after arguing my rhetoric, she capitulated that I indeed was not crossing the line between a hope and the Hope, but nonetheless, I have grown sensitive to the critique.

My good friend Chris Marchland has kept me grounded, promising me, that no matter the political promises made, the status quo will remain the status quo. And to a large extent that is one of my hopes. In comparison to the other countries round the world, the United States is doing quite well. Change need not be radical, to be meaningful.

However, in a world still marred by sin and scarcity, no amount of hope will ever truly ascend human depravity, unless of course the One we have been waiting for arrives... ... and its not Barack Obama.