Some say that part of what makes politics so disgusting is that you have to do some… necessarily “evil” acts to get things done. As someone who has been in political operations (and in political media operations, no less, which is IMHO dirtier than ordinary PolOps) for the last eight years, I know this to be more or less true.
In fact, one of the lessons imparted to us in the old Liberal Family days was that there will come a time when you have to… give way to certain things just to get something done. The idea, if I remember the lesson correctly, was that since the “reformist” elements (like us) were not yet fully in power, we had to give concessions to the “traditional” forces still entrenched or we’d be eliminated outright. Unless we were willing to put a gun on the forehead of the status quo, we had to take one on our idealism’s chin sometimes and go through an incremental co-opting of the old order.
Still, the question always was about where the line is. Where do you stop? Until where are you willing to compromise the values and ideals you hold dear?
I raise these issues in view of the increasingly vicious campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in the United States. From what can only be described as a bright-eyed campaign that was poised to sweep the world’s only hyperpower by storm and perhaps restore much of the energy and idealism that makes America such a beacon of all the things that are good in humanity and freedom, the Democratic nomination race has become the political equivalent of World War I with attrition and horrendous “damage” to each other’s “forces” becoming the staple.
Obama’s once glorious crusade has been reduced to the political equivalent of trench warfare. Even then it might have retained much of its luster if he wasn’t forced to be more aggressive than what I heard he prefers to be. And it’s all because of Hillary Clinton. It was like his advisers telling him that, unless he shoots back with the same despicable weapons as his rival, he might lose. So there is Obama, making the same ad hominem attacks the Clinton campaign has been renowned for since Day 1, turning the battle into a quagmire worthy of the battlefields of Verdun and the Somme.
I recall reading something from the International Herald Tribune (I can’t remember the article now) how Obama had strongly resisted hitting back on the same level as with the Clinton campaign. From what I recall, it appeared as if he was compromising on his message too much if he would deign to hit back as aggressively as Clinton was attacking him. Yet, he had no choice. Tell a lie long enough and people will believe it.
Like this “lie” over Obama’s “bitter” comment. I heard the clip, saw the transcripts. The political PR professional in me tried mightily to look for the negativity in the comment but… it was a stretch. I saw where the “twist” should be, but in my mind only someone with so much malice would overemphasize it to the point that what really was a neutral statement would become a testament to one man’s supposed “insensitivity.” And scream something at someone loud and often enough, and they get shellshocked enough to believe the bullshit you’re telling them. Like the voters in Pennsylvania, who believed in the bullshit bandied around by Clinton and McCain over the “bitter” statement to give the former an 8% win over Obama.
McCain pouncing on every gaffe – contrived or otherwise – by Obama would be par for the course. The former is a Republican, the latter his ideological opponent in the Democrats. It is expected. And for the presidential candidate of a political party headed by someone like George Bush, one would be surprised if dirty tricks and mudslinging didn’t happen. The Republicans have become the purveyors of a reality where the line on the concrete is indeed marked by blood and would be more bloodied if one didn’t cross it regularly. To be a Republican during the Age of Dubya is to agree to a world where the only way to secure Freedom is to transgress it. Orwell would find such a world familiar.
But it galls to know that a candidate wanting to replace the incumbent gestalt operates on the same principle of the ends justifying the means. The basic principle of an Opposition in a democracy is to provide an alternative, since democracy operates on the idea of choices. But if Hillary Clinton is just Dubya Lite, where is the choice? If Clinton is very much willing to reduce the debate to a bar as low as about personalities rather than on issues and ideas, what, really, makes her different from Bush and all he stands for and the Democrats supposedly are foil to? If fear would be the weapon of choice, why vote for a Democrat? At least McCain knows how it feels to be in war, to even be a POW. And based on what he’s doing in his campaign, he actually comes across as being different in a positive way to both Bush and Clinton.
Clinton’s thrust to win over Obama has razed the political landscape of the Democratic nomination with its scorched-earth tactics. Whenever she and her handlers make a stab on Obama’s credentials, especially when they not only take off-the-cuff statements out of context but continue to insist their context is the right one (even when a first look or hear over the statement says otherwise), they reduce the debate on the future not only of America but of the world into one where the least evil candidate should win. In the world of the Clintons, everyone is tarnished, and thus the only measurement of capability to govern should be based on pragmatism. More of the same, actually.
Clinton and her handlers, in their shock over the tidal wave of support Obama has garnered, seem to not have gotten the message America wanted to send its would-be leaders: enough of the old way of doing things. What made the Democratic nomination so magical at the start was that feeling that any of them – at least at the start – represented genuine change, not more of the same pragmatic, destructive, divisive politics.
Obama had thrown down the gauntlet, not to his rivals among the Democrats, not even to his would-be opponent in the Republicans, but to the whole broken system of American politics. And the level of enthusiasm from the American public, based on record turnouts for the Democratic nominations and the participation of Independents to them, showed that the ones whose voices should matter had resonated with his message.
To see that message so… perverted by someone from Obama’s own Party leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Clinton’s quest for a return to the White House has shown her willingness to attack the Messenger and not prove that she has a better Message than her rivals. She presents herself better because she can do the job better. But so can McCain, maybe even better because, since Clinton’s willing to fight within the context of the system perpetrated by Dubya, he actually has a better understanding of a World at War, being himself a former warrior. He knows the costs of war, whereas Clinton’s closest exposure to conflict was an episode under a sniper fire that apparently was a figment of her imagination. I don’t know whether or not the Americans are outraged at the fact that someone wanting to replace a president who has lied and perverted information has herself lied and perverted information just to score points with the public.
So perhaps Clinton is the best weapon the Republicans have in keeping the White House Red this coming November. It never was Obama; his message was so much the antithesis of the Dubya Philosophy that, with the Democrats as a party behind him, or at least his message, there would have been no doubt of November’s results.
I don’t know about the Americans, but with the way Clinton has been smashing her fellow Democrats with her fear-based, paranoia-centered, hate-filled campaign… it might be much better if they vote for McCain. Because if Clinton would be believed that Hope as a message cannot stand up to “reality” – and if abstract concepts like Hope or real Democracy cannot hold their own in America, where else can it? – or that Obama is not as genuine as he sounds… why the hell would I vote for the Democrats? What makes them different?
If there is no choice… why choose?