Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Me Decay

I share the good Prairie Weather's unease over Obama's visit to FOX this weekend, an apparent lapse of judgement brought on by either pique or mounting frustration. He does not need them, nor can he sway them to his side. And though I admire bravery in a politician, that quality works best combined with judgement, and for the life of me I can't see what there is here for Obama to gain, outside of a few bonus points for showing up nitwits, while there is more to lose. It is hard appearing high-minded around dim, petulant assholes.

But things have reached a boil, of the lancing variety, in the Democratic contest. Perhaps Barry is looking to do nothing more than change the conditions of the campaign a jot. Maybe he will articulate social and economic concerns mainly ignored so far. And while I would guess that the Clintons would have rather not strayed into the current swamp they inhabit, they are pleased enough to push on, likely expecting Bill's manifold gifts as a charmer will eventually make everything okay with the Dem opposition. This might be another of their miscalculations. To put it delicately, they have misjudged the party's mood from the get go and a lot of people are pissed.

The ever-sharp Field Negro has two excellent observations of the recent primary in his home state. He has some pretty arch things to say about voters on either side of our racial divide, but essentially doubts America can elect a black man.

If this were something like a normal election year, I'd say he has a point. But it is not. I don't think we are going to have normal election years for a while. The U.S. globe is wobbling on its axis and a lot of the old verities of what Kunstler likes to call the happy motoring utopia are more or less used up. It is a brave new world, which no one, even Sen. Obama, who appeals to initiate positive changes rather than adapt as needed to harsh ones, wants to admit. Too complicated, too scary.

My sister, a fiercer Democrat than I, is backing Hil. Why? "Better the evil you know than the one you don't," she says (the girl, btw, is a wealth of old Italian aphorisms.) Simple as that, and tough to argue against. But that known evil has demonstrated some pretty surprising characteristics of late. Chief among them is the invincible assumption that people do not vote issues at all. Nothing in the Clinton message supposes that a clear articulation of Democratic party ideals will be enough to beat the weak and unpopular GOP this year.

That is hard to stomach, especially coming from the presumptive leaders of the party. Me Decade refugees, the Clintons are fighting battles they mainly lost ten years ago. Call me an optimist. I like Obama, and his chances, because he has not really lost anything so far, and has had the good sense to this point not to drain the bile of his frustrations on the rest of us.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Change In The Whether

Apologies for the radio silence, I've been off on a quick tour of the southland, where in a very unscientific and limited survey conducted last Saturday on a stroll through the wealthier nabes of downtown Charleston, SC, I saw Obama signs outnumbering those for McCain by a 2-1 margin.


I'd like to go back to something I wrote last February, specifically:

As frustrating as Obama's appeal is to the rest of the establishment, no one, not Hil, not the GOP, not FUX or the Washington Pest, is going to lay a glove on him this time around. The strength of TV networks and newspapers is ebbing daily, and they know it. The election is about the death of their influence as much as the rise of Obama.

This was, of course, weeks before the Rev. Wright imbroglio and the Bitter comments, back when folks were having fun with the candidate's middle name, and decrying the absence of any flag pin on his suit. And while Obama needed to respond to the Wright story, he did so in a way that propelled his candidacy, and defined his commitment to the nation, that was breathtaking.

Let's note too that his rather blunt assessment of small-town anomie that so riled the self-appointed warders of the nation's selfhood has apparently hurt not a bit where it mattered, his standing in the polls, and in fact triggered a backlash only among the corporate media as ugly as it was abject. This is a long way of saying that I think my observation from February last has mainly held up pretty well.

One senses that the corporate media has finally twigged to what the Clinton Kamp sort of figured out in March, that they are facing a phenomenon. Indeed Obama's campaign is utterly emblematic of the broad-based digital-populist wave that is washing the influence of the dunderhead networks utterly out to sea. They can hit him, but they can't hurt him because all force has been leached from their blows. Their monopoly on the narrative is gone, daddy, gone.

The media love McCain because It is a Corporate beast and thrives best under the lash of a bully, so long as the bully feeds it well. They mainly like Mrs. Clinton, not for her politics or personality, but because she is a well-tested product marketed successfully for years. She fits into the preferred narrative, brings eyeballs to the Tube.

But it should be clear to anyone with a brain that the entire apparatus of broadcast television consists of white people telling white people what they want to hear. And for half a century that was such a successful formula that TV people probably got they idea that they in fact controlled events. In fact they did not, rather benefitted from the same affluence and sense of entitlement, what Albert Murray 40 years ago called the folklore of white supremacy, held by the society at large.

But, as Murray pointed out in his wonderful collection of essays, The Omni-Americans, such ideas never had any basis in social reality (a reality invisible to white liberals and conservatives alike), and they have been steadily eroding in the public mind in the decades since the book came out. Indeed, there are distinct echos of Murray's proposition regarding constant social change as a fundamental American condition, something which calls forth the highest ideals of democratic citizenship, in Obama's great Philadelphia address.

A confluence of events has brought us to the point of bankruptcy in many fields. Good economic times can hide a wealth of problems, and our sores now are pretty well exposed. A man can only do so much, and it would be wrong to expect Barack Obama to salve over any of them. I get the idea though that he is yet humble enough to understand this himself. He is not the phenomenon, rather just the face of a deep and inevitable change that, to a large extent, has already occurred.

The funny thing is that the Clintons, McCain and the old media still think they are in a contest when in fact they are only negotiating their varied ends.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Dash Of Bitters

Absent any damage to the Obama campaign, to the chagrin of all the big-city blockheads who presume to speak publicly for the little people, one is left to wonder if any damage was done at all.

Why, yes, there was. First to all the twits who jumped all over the candid candidate, the TV, radio and newspaper goofs who've demonstrated yet again that something is happening here and they don't know what it is, but mainly to the all-but-officially cooked Hilary Clinton campaign. In her desperation she turned an opportunity to discuss small town life and the economics of the last decade in ways both positive to herself and without hitting her opponent, into an attempted knock-out punch. She thought it was a cultural issue, a common-enough GOP reaction, and morphed before our eyes into a gun-lovin', church-goin' gal, just appalled that someone could say something so thoughtless, so wrong about her America.

But, whoops, turned out it wasn't wrong at all. At least a lot of people tend to agree with what Obama had to say, or think it deserves further consideration. On top of that, no one bought the I-am-one-of-thou Clinton appeal. (Perhaps because of her vast personal fortune publicized last week?) In one stroke Obama appears more engaged with the realities of American life, while Hilary seems a clown and a brute, not a good combination when running for a party nomination, well, among Democrats anyway.

More to the point, which the mythic superdels I'm sure will consider, is that it did not have to work out this way for her. In this instance Hil's boo-boo is entirely hers, and, should it cost her the needed Keystone blowout, not to mention a victory in Indiana, will be seen as the terminal blow to her sorry family effort.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stone Free

I rise from my bed of pain, and bower of Hyrocodone, only long enough to note with approval Sen. Obama's latest broadening of the discourse. He has moved on from class and anger to small town bitterness--maybe not the nicest way to put it, but more useful than "depression" or "anomie".

Yeah, he's getting dinged for it by the Establishment now, but it strikes me as an issue which will work out in his favor in the long run. For one thing, his observation, though a bit blunt on the subject of religion, is correct, something many in rural parts--and more to the issue, those who have had to leave--will understand. Once the backbone of the nation, small-town America has taken it in the teeth for almost fifty years now. (Remember too that Michelle O. is a small-town midwestern gal.) And, more to the better politically, it has encouraged the other millionaires in the race (and recall Obama's relatively modest fortune came from book sales, not a beer distributorship, or seven-figure fixer fees), to position themselves as champions of the common folk. This is certain to pay dividends in many ways in the months to come.

Now I certainly can't say if the Senator said what he did in a typical, if a tad careless, bout of clear-eyed candor in the midst of a probing discussion of the country's problems, or if it was meant to open another front in the campaign making this election like no other in over a century. Whatever the case, it was a brave move, one that argues very much for his qualifications in the heart and mind category.

As for my current medical distress, let me suggest that if you can possibly avoid being born to a parent with a history of kidney stones, by all means do so.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Rich Deserts

The revelation that the Clintons have earned more than a $1 million a month over the last eight years may not exactly damage Hil's pretty hopeless cause, but it does give some insight into the whys and hows of her campaign. They are a very successful infotainment brand, the C's, exactly the sort of service-oriented commercial enterprise, sprung up in the wake of our nation's industrial collapse, which Repups usually love crowing about.

It does, though, bring question to a broader existential issue which I think underlies the successful Obama bid, one which all members of the party must consider, namely: Why are you a Democrat?

Broadly, I'd say there are three reasons, any one of which would be of paramount importance to an individual blue voter: Support of organized labor, Dedication to a strong community commitment (healthcare, education, green causes, infrastructure, work relief), and Civil Rights for all, which in the main measure means addressing our woeful racial divide.

Now I would submit that Mrs. Clinton's strongest suit is her dedication to community commitment. The Clinton brand more or less sold the country on NAFTA, and just recently has seen fit to throw over whatever sympathy it had to a just racial vision for the more important goal of getting elected. But Hil is all about running good programs, which is fine, as good programs need to be run. But there is in all her calculations a profound disconnect somewhere, perhaps something as simple as a certain tone deafness brought on by making a steady average of about $13,600,000 per annum for almost a decade

I will further submit that for most Democrats over fifty (a group which includes your humble correspondent and likely most of the super delegates) the defining reason for party commitment is the cause of Civil Rights, or, more acutely now, the racial divide. And here Sen. Obama has galvanized the old mission, knocking off decades of complacency and discouragement. More to the point, he is holding up the brutal nature of the politics surrounding the racial divide as a means to highlight most all other problems the country is facing.

And it seems to be working.

There are certain Democrats, now losing sleep over the Obama/Clinton rivalry, terrified that the fight will lead to an undeserved McCain win. This is the only argument the Clintons have left, and it is characteristically narcissistic. For at the heart of it is the assumption that Americans are stupid and need to be led, and beyond that, the more thoughtful and broad-minded of us somehow deserve a society which conforms to our better ideas of how people should live.

I mean, just get over it.

While I have no illusions about the the electorate's skill in voting its best interest (self-knowledge being at an acute premium nationwide), I do give people credit for knowing when they're getting kicked in the teeth, and noticing where the foot is coming from. The GOP is fucked and Old John has not a whisper of a chance, a fact that the Clintons and the media are pleased to ignore, each for their own reasons

And even if a tired and fearful nation does roll out bed this November and insists on sending a nutty septuagenerian to the White House instead of a man young, gifted and black, then I'd say our decline will then be final, and, whether you like it or not, that will be richly deserved.