Thursday, May 08, 2008

Revolution of the Saints

I watch the mass psychosis that has overtaken half of my party and I am left stupefied. While I have had a cynical view of the netroots for several years, what I see now so thoroughly surpasses the worst I had imagined that I am struggling to come up with ways to comprehend the dissolution of what should have been a solidly unified party.

I've spoken in earlier posts about the split between the Stevensonian and Truman contingents in the party, the class splits and the way in which the working class has been demonized as the source of the party's failures, as much philosophical as electoral. The difficulty Yankee liberals have with "The South" is part of the problem as well. I think that misogyny is the solvent that has allowed much of the elite resentment to come out in the open because it is a form of bigotry that is acceptable to voice directly.

What I'm seeing is an amplified, exaggerated perversion of the lessons, biases and attitudes I encountered in my very liberal college education, things that resonate with me in strange ways, playing on the way I learned to see the world as divided into evil whites, good whites and the oppressed Others we good whites had to free from the evil whites. And now, according to my class - and I don't know what other class I could possibly belong to, given my ethnic makeup, education, profession and acculturation - I am one of the evil whites in the world. The themes I have been writing about for years are coalescing into a weird reality.

This is philosophical revolution, one that is at its heart anti-democratic and anti-political. It is rising from a deep well of, for lack of a better term, Yankee Puritanism, something that has fueled great things and without which we would not have this country, democracy or even Democrats. I reach for religious language and examples to explain this, even as a large number of this contingent are functional atheists. At its root, we are looking at the separatism inherent in much Protestant political thought and causes. Instead of confronting difference and coming to an accord, the saints wish to banish the fallen from the world and thus make the world more perfect.

There is a religious element to the Obama campaign, and it takes the form of distinguishing oneself from the fallen political world. It is different than simply "running against Washington" which can be a very pragmatic kind of operation, but is openly hostile to the very purpose of politics, which is to compare, contest and compromise in order to balance interests and needs. From this campaign we have literally heard language of "coming to Obama" and of having faith in the One. There was never much attempt to persuade voters to support the candidate and less with each day that passes. We are exhorted to simply acknowledge truth and surrender to this leader. Step back from the campaign and the leitmotif becomes clear, revealing the fundamentally chiliastic nature of the claim. It is charisma in the oldest sense of following a leader because he has been anointed. This is not simply or merely cynical posturing. This campaign's followers really believe that there is nothing more needed than to be faithful to the messianic leader.

Hillary, in stark contrast, is ministerial in her approach. This is a job, it is the most demanding job in the world, and here are her credentials and body of work to demonstrate that she is the most competent and capable to fulfill the needs of the position. Minister in this sense would be both political and religious - someone who tends to the needs and concerns of the beloved community. It's hands on, sleeves rolled up, get dirty helping raise the barn or negotiate that treaty. Power is present and necessary, wielded for the sake of others, which requires her to explain in as much detail as you want to hear exactly how she will use the authority granted to her. It is straight up attention to material interests.

What I see rising from the other side is clearly of two kinds. Half of Obama's support is simply racial identity voting. The other half is from the faction of the party that is significantly insulated from the stark world of need and want. There is a love of the other-worldly where the beauty of the idea and the ideal matters more than the base. The political "base" is seen as base - low, uncouth, adulterated, impure, unworthy. They are not among the saved and the saints. I honestly cannot remember a previous time when so many people in the party were reviled for doing nothing except vote for a conventional candidate. These are not Naderites or Wallace supporters. They are middle-of-the-road solid Democrats who voted Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Clinton, Dukakis, Mondale, Carter, Carter, and so on down the line. The contempt of the saints for the fallen has always been there, but is emerging without a filter or much in the way of self-consciousness this time. The code we learned to speak in our liberal arts colleges falls to the wayside, and I read claims of being rid of the old evil "white working class" (What of us who are not that thing? What of those of us who are?) in a final conflict to end all conflicts and there will be a purified party to which will flock millions of new, young, untainted followers, ready to be led into the land of Goshen.

As Madison wrote in Federalist 10, the end of political contestation means the end of freedom.

The concrete has no place in Obama's campaign narrative. Speaking too much about material benefit pulls you down into the weeds and you are no longer shiny and new and unifying. You take on interests which incur expectations and interfere with the abstract pursuit of the ideal, a government cleansed of politics, run according to bipartisan, technocratic and efficient methods. Kind of like the 50s, but without all that civil rights and women's rights stuff.

In Obama's speeches and claims, there is the structure of the great humanistic appeals of the 50s and 60s, the form of rhetoric that elicits certain kinds of feelings, and the ideas that inspire people to rise above particularity. But what is missing are the foundations that would provide the justification and ground for what is otherwise an exercise in ego-gratification. Oh, look at me transported by the wonderful grandness of the yak-yak! The reason why the words of MLK and LBJ could move us not just to emotion but to action was because they were fully embedded in the grime of life, the tangible things that we don't notice until we are deprived of them - where can I sit when I am tired, where can I eat when I am hungry, may I slake my thirst at this fountain or use this restroom to relieve myself? Can I open a bank account in my own name? May I visit my partner in the hospital?

Instead of seeking to make ideals of unity and benefit for all concrete, contempt has been mobilized. Those who say "Show me what you've got," are reviled as racist, stupid, retrograde, besmirched and fallen. We don't need no stinkin' working class! We will get new and shiny young voters to replace you, untouched by your peculiar love of solid wages, health care and Hillary. Why would the Democrats want to cast off the heart and soul of the New Deal coalition? Where does the animus come from? These people are acting out a separatist fantasy and make up one half of Obama's support.

I speak of what I know very well. Cultural liberals really do tend to think that people who fit the profile of Clinton voters don't have deeply held principles and are not capable of forming complex opinions of the world, little more than dupes of puppet masters like Karl Rove. They act from false consciousness, not from the rich inner life that the properly educated and worldly claim as their own. The dedication and commitment of Clinton voters is denied because those hicks can't really believe anything, and thus the saints need not take into consideration the desires of the fallen as real, let alone legitimate.

As Chris Bowers put it:
Cultural Shift: Out with Bubbas, up with Creatives: There should be a major cultural shift in the party, where the southern Dems and Liebercrat elite will be largely replaced by rising creative class types. Obama has all the markers of a creative class background, from his community organizing, to his Unitarianism, to being an academic, to living in Hyde Park to shopping at Whole Foods and drinking PBR. These will be the type of people running the Democratic Party now, and it will be a big cultural shift from the white working class focus of earlier decades. Given the demographics of the blogosphere, in all likelihood, this is a socioeconomic and cultural demographic into which you fit. Culturally, the Democratic Party will feel pretty normal to netroots types. It will consistently send out cultural signals designed to appeal primarily to the creative class instead of rich donors and the white working class.
We are watching nothing less than a revolution of the party saints against the tainted and fallen dregs who frighten them.



No Blood for Hubris said...


I'm a well-educated Yankee liberal who understands that Hillary Clinton gets it. All the way.

lori said...

Are you telling me I've turned into a damned, dirty ape?

Other Lisa said...

Thank you for this. Sums up the moment very well. I've been slack-jawed over the Chris Bowers thing all evening.

Anonymous said...

I am stunned at the hubris of this. It's what Paul Begala tried to tell Donna Brazile, that you can't build a majority coalition with nothing but eggheads and African Americans. Donna seems to think you can. She answered someone's protesting email with:

"Message to Base: Stay Home"

It is really inconceivable to me that anyone with a lick of intelligence would think this is a winning coalition, or that working class dems are going to buy it. Republicans aren't stupid, particularly not about elections. I'm sure that John McCain has been watching all this very carefully, that he already knows how poorly Hillary supporters have been treated. And if Obama is the nominee, he will be wooing us with wine and roses, so to speak. That would certainly be the smart thing to do. There is no way I can vote for someone who wants to destroy the democratic party. As koshembos commented over at Corrente:

"Obama intentionally and explicitly discards the FDR coalition which is the foundation of the Democratic party. Namely, he is a 3rd party candidate that is in the midst of a hostile take over of the Democratic party."

rainsinger said...

Thanks again Anglachel. I would add an observation, from having lived/worked abroad so much in recent years.

I think another conflict this primary season has brought to the surface, is between the Head-of-State role, and the Head-of-Government role.

In other countries, these 2 roles are often separate, and held by different people. While some HoS's are inherited royalty, and others are elected to the office, the role is far more of a symbolic, ceremonial, moral leadership role, often with a religious, spiritual component.

The HoG role, is, as you point out how Hillary promotes it - its a job, with duties, authority and responsibility. A Managerial position.

Under the US Constitution, we have conflated the two roles into one person.

During the 90s, when I was in Europe, the whole Clinton impeachment drama confused many Europeans. They could not understand the moral outrage, for them, its not an issue for a H-o-G.

Also, they were confused by the importance of religion in US political rhetoric. To them, personal character traits, and personal private life issues, and particularly religion, are very far removed from the Head-of-Govt. Its a job to them, not a "calling", and they elect HoG's to do the job.

But, when such things do arise in their Head-of-State, then yes, they can get morally outraged, the symbolic Head-of-State role is very different to them - it is a "calling", (inherited or elected) or an embodiment of national cultural, religious, and moral symbolism, and to have it besmirched is upsetting to the masses.

As one of my British friends said once, you Americans elect a King to sit in a Palace, then complain when he fails to run the country like a Prime Minister.

This reminded me of the Kennedy years, the whole cottage-industry, fanned by Hollywood surrounding the 'Camelot' meme for example. Brits have similar love and respect for members of their Royal Family, (along with Danes, Dutch etc), and in Germany, India etc which elect Presidents separate to the Government jobs, but nobody would ever put them in charge of day-to-day running of their government. *grin*

This mass love phenomena for Obama, has struck me the same way - as so little issues or policies, or about governance, have come out of the Obama campaign. Indeed, its like its trivial and unimportant to many Obama supporters.

Obama has already said something along the lines, that he would "delegate" all that boring governance and administration stuff - as a way of brushing off his lack of experience in it.

I remember asking myself, hmmm.. while you are off "healing" the nation's psyche *roll-eyes* --
Just *who* are you going to "delegate" all that boring yucky stuff to?

Then I looked at those closest to him, his economic advisors, his Party supporters etc, etc, etc ... and went- ohhhhh sheeit..

Anonymous said...

As always, I am amazed by the depth of the analysis. This time, however, I have difficulty getting my hands around it. Part is due to being unfamiliar and baffled by the Christian tradition. Both Islam and Judaism are flat religions where hierarchy and saint don't really exist. Another part is due to being familiar with the racist attitudes of the elite in other political system. So I offer my perspective not in opposition or negation of the post, but rather as a potential additional interpretation.

From my different perspective what I see is a special form of fascism where the nation was replaced with the party and the military was replaced with the blogospheric goons. I also observe that there is no daylight between the racial hatred of the black and the brown and the elite racial hate of the blue collar worker and her supporters. It is not an accident that Obama, through Donna Brazile, disguises the black vs brown conflict as the elite against non-elite.

Although Paxson in his writing on fascism doesn't emphasize the role of the leader. Franco, Salazar, Mussolini and of course Hitler went hand in hand with a cult of personality.

Before objection is raised, I want to emphasize that I don't compare Obama individually with any of these criminals. All I say is that Obama encourages the cult of personality around him and his movement is intellectually violent, racist and resembles fascism.

How do I explain the sudden rise of the "creative class" racism towards everyone else (had Obama been fully white, African Americans would have been clumped and hidden with blue collars). I believe this is tied to the deterioration of the middle class due to the increased gap between rich and poor and due to the stagnation of middle class wages. The presumptuous elite, getting poorer and weaker politically, has jumped on Obama and the old faithful racism wagon as a crutch to stand on and extricate themselves from the middle class hole.

An external element in this, to put it bluntly, new racism is the extreme politicization of the supreme court, the spineless Congressional Democrats, the war crimes in Iraq and the lawless current administration. Old hates such as Bubba-hate, Bolsheviks hating the Manshekis also come into play.

gendergappers said...

This is confusing in so many ways. We've heard all our lives of how important the working people are - they are the ones who keep the country going.

Now we find they are to be thrown on the junk pile along with the reverence for age and experience.

Successful cultures revere their elders, support the worker bees and care for those who need care.

I see a future United States of China or India or ... - if BO is elected. His rich, artistic or professorial tribe living high on the hog as our country and its resources are sold to the highest bidder.

And Saint Obama looked down from his perch on the backs of women and the poor and said, "it is good."

Zelda said...

That was beautiful.

Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

Yep -- You nailed it, again. Please send to Donna Brazile, with warm regards from all the voters she's left behind. Don't worry, Donna -- You can spend the McCain years at CNN.

anoki said...

Ironically, it reminds me of the Weathermen -- rich privileged kids that believe themselves to be proletariat saints by 'helping' AAs and other oppressed groups through mindless violence. The only problem is that they're helping no one because they can't see past their own entitlement and their ideas of revolution have consequences for the truly oppressed that they themselves don't feel. But hey, who cares if people die or starve to death or don't get health care when their revolutionary actions cause public sentiment to turn against social programs, affirmative action, equality and social justice and allow the GOP to seize control of government by painting every program and sentiment designed to help ameriolate the social and economic injustices of our nation as inextricably linked to their mindless radicalism for decades -- they got to be saints and radical chic is so much fun when your daddy and family connections mean you'll never see a day in jail or have to worry about being too stained to get a good paying job at an university. Nope, you can always go into business for yourself since daddy will give you 100k and in the new creative class the fun stories will even help you gain admirers for doing so much to 'help' the downtrodden.

Nath said...

jalc, as a European I nodded in agreement at much of your comment. I’d like to add that the current shift within the Democratic Party seems to be roughly analogous to the shift away from their labour-movement roots seen in many of the European social-democrat and Labour parties that began in the nineties (prime example, the British Labour Party).

Anna Belle said...

You're inching ever so close to the truth these days. I think you should just go ahead and apply the label, because it is real: neoliberals/ neoliberalism.

This is the liberal version of George W. Bush's Republican party. I, for one, have had enough of such politics. I always argued against adopting Republican tactics to fight back. Apparently former Republicans like Arianna and Kos disagree.

Unknown said...

An important distinction that I would add to your excellent essay, Anglachel, is that the “sainthood” you describe is a delusion that exists only within their own minds.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Harmful Acts, (despite the popular-sounding title) is an important new book by the scholarly and widely-respected behavioral psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson. It extrapolates dissonance theory to most areas of human existence, especially politics.

Dissonance theory states that the urge for a vaulted self-image, and to need to self-justify and self-delude to maintain it, is a universal, primal, powerful driving force in humans. They describe experiments where subjects are told to irrationally harm someone. The subjects immediately manufacture in their minds reasons the victim “deserved” to be abused in order to reduce cognitive dissonance. They were then eager to pile on more abuse. Thus pecking orders and mob hysteria are borne.

Obama’s supporters want power and realize fellow Democrats in their way must of necessity be harmed, therefore they must demonize half the party to feel good about it. The demonization triggers them to pile on ever greater abuse in a vicious circle of mob hysteria.

Combine dissonance theory with a) the last remaining bigotries allowed the white liberal: sexism and ageism, b) the Internet’s “road rage” phenomenon which, through individual isolation, eliminates normal social restraints, c) an older white female candidate, and you have the perfect storm brewing. All that was needed was a charismatic, young, multi-racial male about which it could coalesce. The result was inevitable.

Thus they must purge and “purify,” as Anglachel describes so well.

I detect little that is “saintlike” in their beliefs, motives, or actions. I see only narcissism and ambition. And I am very, very sad.

Bo Gardiner

ClareA said...

Hmm...I wonder, given the current direction of the economy, how many of those New-Coalition Democrats will suddenly find themselves members of the benighted classes?

anoki said...

kentuckianna, I agree with you and have thought for some time that Obama is essentially a neo-con/neo-liberal that decided to stay within the party. In my view, it's more than tactics -- it's an emerging display/glimpse of his ideology which centers primarily upon internationalism and business at the price of domestic issues both mundane (a real UHC program) and abstract (social progress). His embrace of right-leaning economics and economists also fits the label. He's got a few twists like harping on Iraq as a mistake **but** his reliance upon and embrace of humanitarian hawks which promote US interventionism for the sake of self-defined humanitarianism looks a whole lot like a more palatable and sugar-coated version of W's neo-cons and their promotion of US interventionism for the sake of 'spreading democracy' and/or imperialism to me.

That said, while I think his movement has adopted GOP tactics, I doubt the majority of supporters have consciously embraced his ideology beyond its most superficial notions -- change, hyperfocus on issues that are intangible like govt. reform, etc. At least, I'm praying they don't truly want to dismantle the New Deal, implement a version of Health Care reform doomed to fail, reexamine the SSI "crisis" with eyes to privatization, eliminate Affirmative Action, promote Tort Reform, and sever all ties with "old" democratic coalition.

At this point though, his 'movement' is looking more and more to me like a force that must be stopped at all costs even if that means four more years of GOP control.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Hey Anglachel,

Great analysis. One question I have for you about one of your observations:

So what is making these creative class atheists so enamored of the religious overtones of Obama's campaign? This should be anathema to them. What gives?

Your observation is, of course, correct. And I think Janis once explained some of the underlying motivations of the phenomena rather well: they're seeking the 'passion' w/in the religious rhetoric, not necessarily the religiosity. Janis recommended a vibrator rather than a sermonizing political figure. I would recommend a week-long solo hiking trip.

But then again, even w/ Janis' explanation of the phenomena you observe, the question remains: why is the "creative class" so disproportionately susceptible to crude appeals to "passion?" What is so collectively and uniformly missing in their lives that makes Obama's campaign the perfect object to fill their inner voids?

rainsinger said...

Nath, yes. I'm currently living in Australia (Aussie gf here) but flip stateside, UK and SE Asia with my work from time to time.

Strong drift here too, right-wing on economic matters, with only lip-service to social justice issues. Aussies only recently threw out 12 years of hard-line Tory rule, but the new Labor government is quite conservative. Just in comparison, its seen as a saviour of the liberal/left and is very popular, so far, as the one thing they have done is stop the race-baiting, wedging and dog-whistling.

I read an article recently discussing this political drift phenomenon, although not labelled as neo-liberal. It was called the 'Super-Industrial Revolution' of the 3rd millennium - and dated it from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Interestingly, almost 200 years to the day, of the conventional dating for the first 'Industrial Revolution', with the fall of the French monarchy in 1789.

As with the first Industrial Revolution, the new economy and technology, brought massive changes - including a power-shift from feudal monarchist heirarchies, to the development of the 'Nation-State' as the center of power, and the economic hub.

The King is Dead. Long live the Nation-State.

Now, the article was arguing, the power is shifting again, away from the Nation-State, to trans-national corporate power-bases.

The Nation-State is Dead. Long Live the Corporation.

Even the once mighty USA, cannot stand against it, even if they wanted to.

I see this US primary season bringing that process into stark relief. I can't believe Obama has been funded by college kids, breaking open their piggy banks, and assorted other little people - especially as they seem to be the ones that aren't voting for him?

I feel like I've been living in an Orwellian world, everything reversed - as in "1984", as well as a classic takeover scenario, of the revolutionaries becoming their oppressors, as in "Animal Farm".

Pat Johnson said...

Your post says it all!

BBKE said...

These posts always lead me to look at things in a different manner. I knew last fall that the Obama zealots hated Southerners and women. But Puritanism is an angle of which I had not considered. It makes perfect sense in that many groups are targeted for exclusion for "sins" based upon region, sex, economic condition, religion, and education based upon their own prejudices which have nothing to do with the individual.

The comments here are also among the best conversation on the net. Radical chic and neoliberalism come into play. I am going out on a limb and to bring up a subject that some will find uncomfortable but I observed in fairly close proximity until I removed myself from very unpleasant local politics. That is the sexualization of a candidate. There seemed to be a response to Obama from his acolytes which was based upon sex, age, and race.

The response to Sen Clinton and Sen Edwards was the opposite. Their sexual identities were bad and shameful. Puritanism is part of these attitudes but so is cultural liberalism. This is another way in which groups who do not fall into the Obama demographic are in conflict with a large part of the voting public.

harpie said...

Wow! Amazing conversation here, Anglachel and all commenters.
I feel we live in very disquieting times. Will the coming trainwreck yet be averted?

Chinaberry Turtle said...

Yes, Northern Puritanism, unless you belong to the Kennedy clan. Then, of course, you can cheat on your wife, disgrace the Whitehouse by bringing prostitutes home for your amusement, and kill a young woman while driving drunk and get off scot-free. Somehow Northern Puritanism is able to turn a blind eye to all of that.

Good god I cannot stand these new cultural liberal elites.

Anonymous said...

The discussion of Obama in terms of liberalism and conservatism ignores, in my opinion, the fact that his movement (or whatever you chose to call it) is only about him and nothing else.

It so happened that he targeted the Democrats; in theory he could have targeted the Republicans as well.

It is a fact that some of his most rabid supporters fully admit that they are unclear about his plans, approach, etc.

Dropping labor and senior is just an ad hoc result of the coalition that formed around Obama. Of the three components in the coalition, two are obvious: African Americans and the young. The latter are attracted to the energy. The creative class is the big question mark. At the very least, seem to be idiot savants.

Karl said...

There's no link, but could someone tell Chris Bowers that his candidate isn't a Unitarian, he's UCC -- which means he believes in things like the "holy trinity" and the "resurrection." In the rush to mindwipe themselves about Jeremiah Wright they seem to have succeeded. And, WTF, is there a Unitarian revival going on and nobody told me? What does that have to do with Whole Foods?

Unknown said...

Most Obama supporters are hardly "elitists" in any sense. After all, Hilary is the one with the long-standing DC establishment connections. Why are Clinton supporters so anxious to rehash right-wing talking points? If you hate liberals so much, why would you support someone like Hilary who in fact basically shares Northeastern liberal values. She's a senator from NY for a reason. Most Obama supporters don't "Hate the South" or "hate woman" either. In fact Obama has done better in the South than Hilary, as long as you're willing to concede that blacks are Southerners too. If Hilary wins the nomination, the next day the Republicans will start calling all of y'all out of touch feminist elitists. Why play the same stupid game?

Unknown said...

Bowers comment, particularly the howler about 'Unitarians', should not be taken too seriously as he is without a doubt the dumbest blogger on the planet.

The rest of your excellent post is very, very good. I can only hope that the SDs repudiate Obama as he will be destroyed by McSame.

Interestingly I was banned from Bowers laughable 'OpenLeft' site for advancing the contention that McSame's winning would be the best outcome for progressives as it would enable us to use his victory to dislodge the idiot DNC fools who've made McSame's victory a near certainty. Chris was outraged. I wonder how he'll feel if Obama gets nominated and then get's chucked under the bus so The Magic One can pander to the Neocons. Heh....

One thing I know for sure, Americans will never vote for a prancing, arrogant bumbler who has Wright, Rezko and Auchi in his entourage.


rainsinger said...

a.Citizen:"Americans will never vote for a prancing, arrogant bumbler who has Wright, Rezko and Auchi in his entourage."

While I might not be bothered by them, I know plenty of American folk who would be. Ironically, most of whom are in the states Obama had the most success in, in the early primaries.

But, he's going to make up the difference with moderate Repubs and Indies, or so I recall being told.

Ahh.. on second thoughts, perhaps thats why there has been some rumblings from Obama camp recently, seeking Hillary voters, like a 'Wanted' Ad.

Took them what, 10 or 20 states, to realise they might need our votes after all? Dems possibly might be the only ones who wouldn't get apoplectic at that list of connections. Just personally speaking, I didn't have a problem with them, one at a time.
But its the whole freak show 'package' of them. And we haven't heard much about Odinga. Yet. How many more are there?

Does he have any 'nice' friends at all? Just one, might help.

vector said...

I agree with everything in this post, EXCEPT that it horriby insults the saints, by comparing them to the leading Obama supporters.

Unlike the leading Obama supporters, most of the saints were NOT respectable people, and they were not afraid to get their hands dirty.

As G.K. Chesterton once wrote:

"We are always ready to make a saint or prophet of the educated man who goes into cottages to give a little kindly advice to the uneducated. But the medieval idea of a saint or prophet was something quite different. The mediaeval saint or prophet was an uneducated man who walked into grand houses to give a little kindly advice to the educated."

Personally, if I were to compare the Obama supporters to anyone, it would not be the saints, it would be the Puritans.

A much better comparison, I think.

Blackdogred said...



BBKE said...

Jonathan at 7:32, I understand that you may not share any of the attitudes of the earliest Obama supporters, but I assure you that condescension, elitism, cruel misogyny,ageism and regionalism were part and parcel of their attitudes and behavior. This was so ingrained and accepted that they did not understand the anger from my non Southern, elite, entrepreneurial husband when they asked for political contributions for Obama. They did not understand that he did not view Sen Obama and politics in the same way that they did and would be offended by their behavior towards me.

Hank Gillette said...

Anglachel said:

I watch the mass psychosis that has overtaken half of my party and I am left stupefied.

I feel exactly the same way. I have the feeling though, that we are not referring the the same half of our party.

From USA Today:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

You must be so proud.

Murphy said...

The Obama movement has done serious damage to our political society in ways too numerous to repeat (racism, misogyny, hysterical purgings of allies to name a few). The worst thing by far however, is its degradation of the middle class.

This analysis is helpful to me in an uplifitng way. Your incisive views and the comments offer things worth thinking about. Could it be that the two Americas that John Edwards used to talk about actually comprises all of us? I smugly used to think that I was in the 1st of the 2, assuming that the 1st America was made up of employed, relatively financially secure, insured, educated, privileged, safe, and legal Americans, and that the 2nd America was, well, everybody else. In other words, I thought his distinction was purely economic.

Now I think it's much more than that. The middle class used to be made up of the widest swath of American families: from the upwardly mobile working class, through the white collar (teachers, nurses, managers), ending with the upper middle class of professionals (lawyers, business owners, professors, writers) and the secure retirees. Only the very poor and the very rich were left out. Democrats used to be the party that cared about one group of left-outs, and Republicans took care of the other /snark.

By pitting the sub-groups of the natural coalition of the working/middle class against each other this movement really could destroy the democratic party.

vector said...

I just remembered something I meant to include in my earlier comment.

I wrote:

most of the saints were NOT respectable people, and they were not afraid to get their hands dirty.

In contrast, seducers always have to keep themselves clean.

Murphy said...

sorry for the ramblings. Thank you Anglachel, and your commenters, for offering deep thoughts to people like me who are confused about how we could have gotten here and what we should do from here on out. Other than keeping on working for Hillary.

The question I can't answer is, what would actually be better for the country if Obama is the dem nominee -- for him to lose, or for him to win?

I'm tending towards deciding that the best way to destroy the virus that is the Obama movement and which threatens the continued existence of the party of FDR, is to kill it in its tracks by working my ass off for John McCain.

Anonymous said...

I "love" how they call themselves the "creative class". There's very little creativity that I've seen from that lot- snobbery, misogyny, plagiarism, rigid minded cult-like behavior, willful ignorance, self-centeredness, think they have a right to dominate and silence anyone "less" than them, etc... It's the far right wing Republican mindset with only a few modifications.

In the meantime the real creative people come in all classes and frankly, most support Hillary- except for the ones that have Obama's mindset.

I'm a creative person, and a highly creative thinker as well- when I took a test on creative thinking, I scored genius level in creative thinking, my IQ is also in the genius range. But I have common sense and a strong inclination to distrust anyone who acts like a televangelist or guru. I'm fiercely independent and make up my own mind about things.

All these things, plus my feminism and strong support for other human rights, made me check up on not just what the candidates said but what they've done- and also how well did what they say match up with what they did and voted. Hillary's all link up much closer than any other candidate I've ever backed- even more than Jesse Jackson Sr. Obama is the complete opposite, I think only the Bush administration has him beat on the dissconnect, and placing blame on others for one's own mistakes and stupidity. Obama is a powerhungry con artist is the only true picture of him (and his backers as well).

orionATL said...

i too have been taken by the messianic presentation of the obama "promise" by his devoted followers.

that they do consider him some sort of "chosen one", some sort of savior, may explain their extraordinary obliviousness to the realities of american politics.

that reality is, whether these lads and lassies think so or no,

that politics is going to continue to be practiced in this country much the way it has for the last 250+ years.

american politics is a manifestation of human behavior in groups,

a cultural and social accretion of centuries.

it is not an object, like a car or a computer program, to be modified at will and as desired.

on chris bower's stunningly narcissistic comment cited here:

(parts of this previously posted at correntewire.)

when i saw the quote you included from chris bowers, i was sure the comment about the “creative class” was sarcastic.

but, good god,

the idiot is sincere.

he really believes there is a social entity called “the creative class”. that’s just foppish.

he really believes that the netroots world he lives in will become the soul and substance of a “new” democratic party.

dumb? definitely

deluded? apparently?

inexperienced? unquestionably

narcissistic? absolutely (“we are the ones we have been waiting for”)

this young intellectual punk think his gang is going to take over the democratic party.

what am i reminded of?

what am i …?

oh, yes.


marching into the pentagon in january, 1961.

the hyper-smart, can-do kids from corporate america with guru/Svengali robert macnamara their leader.

i am angry and stunned at the arrogance and ignorance displayed.

Potato Head said...

Thanks for the breath of sanity. As it happens I"m reading a biography of Che Guevara, and the similarity in rhetoric between the fidelistas in the Sierra Maestra and Obamagogues like Matt Stoller are really quite striking. There's the same exaltation of the Movement, the embodiment of the Movement in the Leader, the rhapsodic exhortations to wipe out the corrupt Old Order, and the casual contempt for anyone not on board with the Program, including the ostensible beneficiaries of the Program. Not saying we're heading down the road to tyranny (an eventual Party implosion is my guess), only that the mentality on display is disquieting.

jacilyn said...

the guys upstairs don't care about winning or losing. They care about neutralizing the economic demands of what used to be the Democratic party.

When Obama wins the nomination, they win - no matter who wins the general election. Because the real goal for most of them is redefining the party so that no one is representing economic issues. And they are doing it by turning one half of the party against the other half.

We will have two parties that are economically conservative, offering tax breaks instead of fighting for a living wage.

If Obama gets away with it, we'll have a Republican nation - it will just come in two flavors, your choice of socially conservative or socially liberal.

Seriously I don't know anything about how one manipulates the "creative class" but I know all about how labor unions get broken and this is about breaking labor demands.

wbever said...

I think this is such a thoughtful essay, and one that has helped me understand why in particular I've found the Obama campaign's "unity" theme so offensive.

Initially, I thought it was just a pouffy, feel-good veil, a riff on BO's 2004 'purple America' convention speech. But it's more than denial or avoidance of difference, as you argue; it's dismissal of those who are different from the elite Obama coalition. BO and his campaign indeed are anti-democratic and anti-political and stand in stark contrast to the Clinton's view of the purpose of government.

The messianic character to BO's campaign is just plain chilling.

The images alone will prevent me from ever voting for BO (sneering at HRC that she's "likable enough"; shunning her outstretched hand at the State of the Union; the ever popular passive aggressive scratching his face with his middle finger and then smugly grinning about it the day after he lost PA). But this piece has helped me understand more completely why BO doesn't deserve my vote.


wbever said...

I think this is such a thoughtful essay, and one that has helped me understand why in particular I've found the Obama campaign's "unity" theme so offensive.

Initially, I thought it was just a pouffy, feel-good veil, a riff on BO's 2004 'purple America' convention speech. But it's more than denial or avoidance of difference, as you argue; it's dismissal of those who are different from the elite Obama coalition. BO and his campaign indeed are anti-democratic and anti-political and stand in stark contrast to the Clinton's view of the purpose of government.

The messianic character to BO's campaign is just plain chilling.

The images alone will prevent me from ever voting for BO (sneering at HRC that she's "likable enough"; shunning her outstretched hand at the State of the Union; the ever popular passive aggressive scratching his face with his middle finger and then smugly grinning about it the day after he lost PA). But this piece has helped me understand more completely why BO doesn't deserve my vote.


Chinaberry Turtle said...

there really does appear to be an opportunity here for a viable third party. Let Donna Brazille, Obama, and Dean have the "new Democratic" party. Hillary could start the "Labour Party", or call it something else. The point is, it would include the traditional FDR wing of the Democratic party. That would bring back a lot of Reagan Democrats. If played right, it could equally steal from both the "Democrats" and the Republicans, making it a true third party that gathers 1/3 of the vote.

Unknown said...

Please e-mail me / i cannot find an e-mail address for you. Susanunpc at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

"Simply racial identity voting"? Really? And you call the Obama camp out of touch and patronizing?

Since there are not any significant differences between the two candidates' policies (Clinton is right on health insurance mandates; Obama is right on the gas tax holiday and Iran), most voters have taken their cues from the rhetoric of the campaigns and associations of the candidates. Obama's rhetoric may be vapid and a lot of people dislike Rev. Wright. On the other hand, he doesn't dismiss non-white Americans as less than hardworking . . . and he didn't vote to authorize this crazy war . . .

What I see here are a lot of right-wing talking points overwritten in the style of an Ivy League sophomore. The fact that a number of your commentators suggest that they'll hope (or campaign!) for a McCain win if Obama wins the nomination undermines any real claims that support for Clinton is something OTHER than a cult of personality. Get your heads out of your asses, people. If you actually want the things Clinton says she wants, you'll support the eventual Democratic nominee regardless of whether s/he was your first choice.

orionATL said...

the kindest thing,

the VERY kindest thing,

that can be said about bowers' thesis is that he was bonging for barry and had taken a few too many tokes before he started typing.

more seriously,

i have thought for some time, based mostly on the radical behavior of the bush administration and the right-wing republicans toward the constitution and toward long-standing american political tradition,

that this nation is becoming increasingly politically unstable.

the political behavior of the obama organization and the obama followers suggests that is indeed the case.

the exclusivist, contemptuous nature of the obama party

seems to me to herald a radical take-over of the democratic party, similar to the right-wing take over of the republican party.

a critical point:

in the case of BOTH parties, this take-over was/is being fueled by huge sums of money from corporations and large private fortunes.

if you doubt this, please read the latest issue of the atlantic magazine, an article about obama's fund-raisers, paying close attention to the role of the silicon valley rich in raising the vast sums of money that have given barack obama more "credibility" among democratic professionals than hillary clinton.

in short, first the republican and then the democratic party were/are being taken over by zealots whose salaries were paid for by very wealthy americans.

so now this county faces the prospect, actually i would say the near certainty, of being bereft of not only moderate republicans and their elected leaders,

but moderate democrats and their elected leaders.

so then, what?

a war of zealots, where, as in all wars, the average family gets trampled, while the soldiers fight, the politicians manipulate, and the netroots philosophs type, type away.

whaleshaman said...

Hank Gillette: You must be so proud.

You neglected to include this paragraph about the practicality of what she was saying:

Clinton rejected any idea that her emphasis on white voters could be interpreted as racially divisive. "These are the people you have to win if you're a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that."

There you have it. And yes, now I am proud.

Redstar said...

I wanted to create a link but I got all stymied by the blogger.

Here's my own take on this madness:

Howling Latina said...

Obamania is a cult; the raison d'etre. Listening to the "We are the Ones Song" gives me the willy-nilly.

I believe women need to stand up and be counted by not voting in November. Dems will still be in the majority. Maybe as an added bonus Lieberman will leave to join his good friend McCain's administration.

Enough! I've been blogging at my tiny blog and Obamatrons are starting to drop in and appeal to my sense of unity; if that doesn't work, then they accuse me of using divisive language; and if that doesn't work, then they just insult me.

Pobrecitos, wait until November when they have to pay the piper with a loss in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

alibe said...

I got an email from Chelsea….about her mother. Really nice and of course it was tied into a donation if possible. But the nice thing about it was a suggestion to give a donation in memory or in honor of our Mothers. My Mother was a big time Clinton fan and loved Hillary. I have a great picture of my Mother reading Hillary’s book. My brother sent her the picture and she sent a very gracious letter to my Mother who was disabled at that time. She had the letter framed with the picture in her room until the day she died. So in honor of my feminist Mother who marched and lobbied for the ERA, and Abortion Rights, I sent another donation. What better way to honor my Mom. I told my kids to never mind a gift for Mother’s Day. Just send a donation to Hillary. I don’t need anything as much as I need Hillary to show them what courage and class looks like. Go Hillary!

Anonymous said...

@latina and others --

You can't convince me that Obamaniacs are the only people falling for a cult of personality here when you, yourselves view a McCain win as
"[Obamanics'] hav[ing] to pay the piper." It's all of us. If you like Clinton for her ideals and programs, and not because she represents the fulfillment of some psychological need, you don't want the Democrats to lose Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania; white men; Reagan Democrats; all women. This election is about who will be on our Supreme Court when Stevens and Ginsburg pass, how many more people will die in Iraq, whether torture is allowed under our name.

There are lots of fair criticisms of Obama: he's not the leftist he sometimes purports to be; he's shortsighted about healthcare policy; his most outspoken supporters are smug and/or fanatical. The election has also been infected with a horrible, open misogyny. But what offends you so much more about Obama than all the Democratic men you've supported before? Does John McCain actually score better on that account? And have you actually seen Obama take advantage of the misogyny toward Clinton the way you've seen Clinton try to take advantage of the racism against Obama? It's been a terribly ugly campaign, but for the most part Obama has avoided the nastiest slugs.

Get over yourselves and the notion that you're the only people with politics while others are only blindly following their identities or aspirations. If you have politics, you don't want McCain in the Whitehouse. If you were actually Spartacist revolutionaries who wanted to scorch the earth to speed up revolution, you wouldn't have been voting for Clinton in the first place.

I urge you to read the following:

Other Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Other Lisa said...

Get over yourselves.

I'm feeling the unity.

I won't vote for McCain. But am I going to vote for a "movement" that doesn't value me or my values?

Yeah, I know. Lie back and think of the Supreme Court...

Anonymous said...

@other Lisa

I'm confused. Does the "movement" comprising the 20% of "hardworking Americans, white Americans" who won't vote for Obama because of his race represent your values? The movement of the lunatic racists here?

The secret is that presidential politics aren't movement politics. You're not electing a movement, and you don't have to join one -- or, better yet, you can start one that does reflect your values in addition to voting. But meanwhile, if you do want to stop irreversible damage on the Court, in Iraq, to our earth, to our health, voting for the Democratic nominee -- however flawed, and even if you have to hold your nose -- is your best shot.

p.s. I caught the sarcasm about "get over yourselves"/unity, but if you're aligning yourself with posters here who make fun of "eggheads" and dismiss African American voters as exercising reflexive identity politics, etc. -- not to mention calling Obama "the Precious" and all the other slights about what a lightweight he is -- you hardly have the high road.

Other Lisa said...

Wow, now I'm confused.

Look, in order to win the nomination, Obama had to have near-monolithic African American support. Therefore he ran a race-baiting campaign nearly from the beginning, starting in South Carolina.

Obama has employed a lot of sexist dog whistles and has not said a word when his surrogates have engaged in out and out misogynistic attacks.

But what's really important, if we are going to have the "values" discussion is that he. Is. Not. A. Progressive.

Why the progressive wing of the party has gone so bat-sh1t crazy for the guy is something I don't like thinking about, because the only explanations are those that point out how shallow a lot of so-called progressives' values really are.

He is not for universal healthcare. He has a crappy record on the environment. His economic advisors are neo-liberal, Chicago-school of Economics types. He praises Republicans' "better ideas on government regulation."

I mean, EXCUSE ME? Yeah, we've seen just how well Republicans' better ideas on government regulation have worked the last seven years.

He is unqualified. He never even bothered to convene his own Senate subcommittee. His explanation? "We were busy with our Presidential campaign."

He does not care about the working class and working class concerns.

I have no clear sense of what he believes and what he cares about and what he will do. The only thing I know for certain he cares about is his own ambition.

I was all set to support him when it became clear that Edwards wasn't going to make it. Then I saw the New Hampshire debate. "You're likable enough." I will never forget that. The condescension.

Then the Jay-Z crap.

Those things I guess you could consider minor compared to his deficiencies in policy and experience, but I felt like I got an unfiltered look at who he really is.

I didn't like what I saw.

And I'm tired of being insulted and lectured by people with half of my political experience.

Oh, and as a p.s.? I'm actually in the freakin' "Creative Class."

Other Lisa said...

Heh - and my final p.s.

He's going to get his a$$ kicked in November. And I'm pissed as hell about it.

Thanks a lot, Blogger Boyz.

Unknown said...

A fine essay. I feel rejected by the party I have been a registered member of since I came of age in 1979. My response to the party leadership if Obama is the nominee is WIN WITHOUT ME....
I will join that huge group of the democratic base that Donna Brazille has said is not neccessary....
All of these current Party leaders will be obscure oddities....And we will have ushered in another Reagan Era or worse...Obama with his campaign has effectively destroyed the Democratic Party.
Donna Brazille in my opinion needs to understand that 13% of the population is not a majority anywhere else but in her head. The Country is tired of Extremists from either side. Keep up the good essays...In future days the voices of reason will be fewer....and more critical than ever...
A Good Mothers Day To All....

Anonymous said...

@ Other Lisa

Look, in order to win the nomination, Obama had to have near-monolithic African American support. Therefore he ran a race-baiting campaign nearly from the beginning, starting in South Carolina.

With all due respect, there are lots of ways to get African American support. I tend to agree with you that the best way would be to support policies that benefit African Americans, and everyone who has been counted out in the past, and Obama has not done that. But I don't think his campaign has engaged in race-baiting either, and reading this blog is actually my first introduction to this notion.

There are plenty of other explanations for Obama's success among African Americans. Perhaps it is, as Anglachel herself says, reflexive identity politics. (Note that this wouldn't require race-baiting as Obama is known to be black.) Perhaps it is people who felt betrayed by Bill Clinton. (Since you identify as a progressive, I'm sure you remember that he signed sweeping welfare "reform" legislation and the AEDPA -- laws that disproportionately hurt African Americans.) Perhaps it is people who were wary of Clinton's support of the war authorization and general hawkishness. Perhaps it is people who felt turned off by the Clinton campaign's race-baiting. (Since I believe in being specific, by this I mean Bill in SC, Ferraro, insinuating that Obama may have been a drug dealer, "hardworking Americans, white Americans," etc. I can say more if you are interested.) Perhaps it's a combination of the above.

Obama has employed a lot of sexist dog whistles and has not said a word when his surrogates have engaged in out and out misogynistic attacks.

I haven't seen this -- and yes, I am very sensitive to the misogynist attacks on Clinton. Could you please share some of the specifics? (Also, did you happen to read the Betsy Reed article I posted? I thought it was very compelling.)

But what's really important, if we are going to have the "values" discussion is that he. Is. Not. A. Progressive.

I agree with this, and this is why I did not support Obama (or Clinton) in the primary. I might quibble about some of the specifics -- for instance, I think Obama's language has been so vacuous that I have no idea how we'd know if he "cared about" working class concerns. Yet please remember that Clinton only started to use populist rhetoric following the Ohio win (the "for everyone who's been counted out" speech). I am a New Yorker, and she has represented me in the Senate for the last seven years; she has never been a champion of the underserved.

Yes, Obamania is frustrating and confusing. Yes, Obamaniacs are smug -- and perhaps Obama is as well. No, I don't believe Obama has all the answers. But I didn't have much more faith in Clinton, Gore, and Kerry, either, and I believe they were all far superior to what we have now and what the Republicans are offering. And I believe, at this point, that we can't afford four more years of war, two more Alitos, healthcare rollbacks, more job losses.

And I'm tired of being insulted and lectured by people with half of my political experience.

This is understandable. But I strongly doubt I'm one of those.

Oh, and as a p.s.? I'm actually in the freakin' "Creative Class."

I don't doubt most of the people here are. ;)

Other Lisa said...

I find it hard to believe that anyone following this campaign hasn't noticed the constant barrage of misogyny, but here is a good place to start.

Obama IMO has enabled this sexism - he has never once spoken out against it - and supports it. "Tea parties," "periodically, when she's feeling down," and the Jay-Z crap (the final straw for me) are a few examples.

As to the rest of your post - I'm not sure where to start. I was a Gore supporter and a Kerry supporter and Gore's getting cheated out of the Presidency is the great wound that I don't think will ever heal.

I don't want to see a McCain presidency. But I honestly do not think I can vote for Obama. His campaign is like an abusive spouse, IMO.

Then there are the plans to remake the Democratic Party in Obama's image - to cut off support for all progressive organizations that do not follow the Obama line.

The New Obama Democratic Party will be a left-leaning Libertarian party completely in thrall to corporate interests. It will ask government to do very little for people. We won't be getting universal health care, so I don't know why you would vote for him based on that. He doesn't care about the environment (this is frankly the one issue that tempts me to vote for him) so I'm not sure how much better off we'll be in that regard.

As for the war, well, Samantha Powers said we would have at least 80,000 troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future, so I'm not feeling the hope and change there either.

A war with Iran scares the crap out of me, and that's another factor that would push me to vote for Obama.

But every time. EVERY TIME. I think I can rest with that decision, the Obama campaign comes up with some other massive insult to my intelligence, and I think, is enabling them the right response?

Their whole campaign reminds me of the Republicans after 2000.

"Get over it!"

So please stop with the lectures. You're not helping. You're making it worse.

Anonymous said...

Other Lisa, I think you misunderstood my post. I described myself as "sensitive to" the misognyny directed at Clinton. I am a feminist. I not only recognize the sexism, but I am deeply offended by it. (Again, I know you've decided that I am a goon of some sort, but I do urge you to read Betsy Reed's persuasive commentary about misogyny and the campaigns from the Nation.

My only question is the links you and others are drawing between the pervasive sexism and the Obama campaign. I just haven't seen them. Sure, I heard -- and was horrified by! -- the story about the campaign playing "99 Problems" in Iowa. But I'm convinced that this is a canard, not only because of credible blog reporting (see, e.g., and but because Obama is not so stupid to allow something like that -- he's a craven opportunist! -- and it doesn't fit in with any of his messaging.

In any case, I agree with many of your criticisms of Obama, but I think I am less scared of him and more scared of McCain. I'm sorry that our exchange has been so off-putting to you. You have asked me to stop, so I'll stop.

Other Lisa said...

I apologize if I've misconstrued your comments.

The fact remains that Obama himself and his campaign have engaged in sexist dog-whistles and that if he cared AT ALL about the tone of his supporters, he would have addressed it.

I'm pretty sure that Obama is a Trojan Horse Democrat - worse than the DLC ever was.

As a p.s., I wasn't even thinking about the Jay-z "99 Problems" but the whole shoulder-flicking, dirt off my shoe routine he pulled more recently.

Anonymous said...

Just as an aside, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" is an egotistical song, to say the least, but the message ("shake the haters off") is not misogynist. I have qualms about the glorification of pimping and hustling and the routine use of "bitch," but I think it's a stretch to say that familiarity with Jay-Z, or even listening to Jay-Z, is tantamount to misogyny. And, you know, according to the same song, "Ladies is pimps too."

kaya said...

i have to agree with missplsd on this. i certainly recognize the flaws in obama's campaign, but i think Anglachel's post was fairly hypocritical in that it dismisses the intelligence of the entire african-american race (not that thats anything new) and the "creative class," whatever that means, just as you claim all obama supporters are dismissing the intelligence of working-class white democrats.

i know you guys think obama supporters must be crazy, but it might help to try and understand WHY they are obama supporters instead of writing them off, since it seems pretty likely he's going to be the nominee. hint: its not because they'll vote for just about any black person who runs, and its not because they're swept up in some 'cult of personality.' its because they believe he will make a good president. is that true? who knows? but stop pretending like you're the victims here, because the only significant difference between clinton supporters and obama supporters is the bumper sticker. both camps are guilty of incredible degrees of racism, misogyny, and general disrespect pretty much from day one.

and finally i have to say, throughout the campaign i've been pretty horrified by the amount of misogyny thats been going on, but even i wasn't offended by the jay-z thing. at a certain point you're just looking for trouble. 'dirt off my shoulder' is just not an offensive song, like missplsd said, its about trying to make it to the top, and frankly if a candidate can't even make a humorous reference to a hip-hop classic without alienating like a million people, then 'pac was right - we ain't ready to see a black president.

Unknown said...

Obama supporters trolling here, mocking our deeply-held values and concerns, bullying and screaming their profoundly ugly, shrill, McCarthyite "burn the witch" accusations of racism, are driving me further... and further... away... from Obama...

Anonymous said...

Obama supporters trolling here, mocking our deeply-held values and concerns, bullying and screaming their profoundly ugly, shrill, McCarthyite "burn the witch" accusations of racism, are driving me further... and further... away... from Obama...

I know the prudent course is not to respond, but I just want to say that I haven't intended to bully or scream. I'm sorry that so many people here took my comments this way, but this is not how they were intended. I disagree strongly with your conclusion that I have engaged in a McCarthyite witch hunt (interestingly, one of my relatives was a victim of actual McCarthyism and I wrote my undergraduate thesis about witch trials . . .), but I am sorry, too, that you have taken my questions here, and my concerns about Clinton, as a mockery of your deeply held values. I believe I actually share your values and I came here seeking a discussion about strategy, but apparently your wounds are far too deep to tolerate dissent.

Finally, I am not an Obama supporter (never voted for him or gave him a dime, and it's unlikely that I ever will), so please don't let my commentary here drive you from (or toward) him. I do not represent his campaign. You should, of course, decide what to do if he is the Democratic nominee based on a sober reflection of the needs of the country and not on any offense a random person on the internet has (however inadvertently) caused you.

p.s. I wanted to get in touch with Anglachel to remove some of my posts and to find out if there was any way that I could engage her commenters without offending them, but I couldn't find contact information. I have been really surprised by some of the comments here, and I am curious about what drives them. In any case, my inability to get in touch with Anglachel directly partly explains why I keep coming back to the comments section to discuss this meta-blog business.

Other Lisa said...

Okay, the second Jay-Z thing, on top of everything else, was disrespectful, immature and un-Presidential. This is not a freakin' MTV interstitial spot, you know? It's a presidential campaign.

Believe me, I never in my life thought that I would be supporting/defending Hillary Clinton, but this campaign has been a real eye-opener in a lot of ways.

As for why Obama supporters are for him? For the most part, you got me. I actually do understand the African American support, and I really see it as a pretty positive thing. But otherwise?

I have been involved in "progressive" politics and movements in the past and most of the people I know are supporting Obama, and I can't get to what the actual reasons are. He's not a progressive.

On the other hand, he makes nice speeches (which personally leave me cold, but I guess that's just me). My best guess is that this support is in part due to "the Speech" (the anti-war speech, not the "Throw Grandma Under the Bus" one), and I sort of get that too, but only up to a point, because once he got to the Senate, Obama has exhibited absolutely no leadership in this area.

The rest of it, I am going to assume some portion of it is about white liberal guilt and feeling that voting for the African American candidate will somehow exculpate that guilt on a personal level and also on a national level. Which is understandable but also pretty damn silly, IMO.

For those who have actually studied the guy's positions and policies (such as they are), I guess part of the appeal is this Left Libertarianism, whereby you get your personal freedoms but don't have to pay a lot of taxes for them.

On a less snarky note, I know some people who support him because they feel the movement he has inspired will be able to pressure him and the Democratic power structure to make the kinds of progressive changes they would like to see. This strikes me as naive and unrealistic, as Obama has shown time and time again that he will abandon anyone who impedes his rise up the ladder. I read somewhere that he was the Eve Harrington of this election. Works for me.

Finally there are those who simply do not like Hillary and the Clintons in general, who see them as centrist, corporatist tools and who will never get past HRC's vote for AUMF and her rhetoric on Iran.

I totally get that because I was one of those people for the longest time. But I realized that a lot of my opinions of Clinton had been mediated by a MSM that for whatever reason HATED her and that I had not really studied her myself and formed my own opinions.

Compared to Obama, she is the populist in this race, with the greater commitment to core Democratic Party principles. She is more qualified, more knowledgeable, works harder and IMO is more electable. Is she perfect? No. But she is the better choice in this election.

Anonymous said...

@ Other Lisa, re: Jay-Z

Fair enough. I just don't think it's any less presidential than Bill Clinton's boxers-or-briefs MTV appearance or playing the sax on Arsenio. :)

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, with which I largely agree.

fachero said...

Other Lisa says she never in her life thought she'd be supporting Hillary Clinton. Presumably she had good reasons for that, substantive reasons, well thought out ideas.
I wonder what changed. I read Other Lisa's posts and see no difference in fanaticism from the more unhinged of Obama's supporters. We have people here sincerely suggesting the blogosphere is an analogue for the military in a fascist country.
Complaints about Obama. Not. Being. A. Progressive.
Excuse me, but when did Hillary Clinton become a Wobbly?
Yeah, I get it about the misogyny. It's been over the top and took me by surprise, in fact.
But I happen to agree with Bob Somerby on this: We shouldn't use the mainstream media's and right wing's frames against our own candidates.
The incessant denigration of Senator Obama here sounds like a whiny temper tantrum.
Any criticism of Clinton, even on the issues, is taken as coded sexism. Talk of dog-whistles, Obama not doing enough to stop it, etc.

What the hell is going on here? As unhappy as I am about it, he's won more votes, he's got more delegates. That's the game we're playing, those are the rules we agreed to.
My candidate dropped out. Looks like yours will too. Get. Over. It.
And stop all this stupid talk about not voting for Obama if he's the nominee, or worse, voting for McCain.
Because if McCain wins, what will you do then? How will you feel then?

Other Lisa said...

Give me a break, Dave. I laid out pretty clearly why I've ended up supporting Clinton in this race. It has to do with clear distinctions in policy and electability. If that makes me unhinged, well, bring on the Thorazine.

Mssplsd (I hope I spelled that right), I was actually at the '92 Democratic Convention. When they showed the "Man From Hope" promo (done by the Thompsons of "Designing Women" fame), my eyes were rolling so much and so hard that I probably looked like I was having a seizure. I really do not like that kind of fluffy image stuff.

The Jay-Z stuff was a step beyond that IMO because it was not only a silly pop culture reference, it was disrespectful towards Obama's opponent. Not exactly motivating me to get on the Unity Pony.

fachero said...

Other Lisa,
Fair enough. You have laid it out pretty clearly. And many Obama supporters have laid their case out pretty clearly too. But you're setting up a straw man of sorts. You compare your well thought out reasons for choosing Clinton to Obama's less thoughtful supporters. Why don't you compare yourself to those who have been as rational as you in choosing their candidate?
A rational case, as rational as yours, can be made for Obama's electability.
But that's not my point here, and I've digressed.
My point is you sound as kooky as Obama's kookier supporters.
At some point between whenever you used to think "no way" about Clinton and I guess Super Tuesday, Clinton suddenly became a real progressive for you.
How she managed to do that is fascinating. I remember how the Clinton administration threw progressives under the bus. I remember them giving up on certain states. I remember them not doing very much to win back the congress. I remember the trade deals, and welfare "reforms", and "the era of big government is over", and the foreign policy failures (Rwanda), and the telecom act, and repeal of Glass-Steagall.
And though Hillary Clinton was not actually an office holder then, she seems to be running on those eight years of experience, plus twenty one other years in which she wasn't an office holder, that's why I'm mentioning all these. If she wants credit for the experience of being the spouse of the president and of a governor before then, then she has to own that president's shortcomings and failures as well.
Somehow, this candidate has become your progressive hero. She's Mother Jones, Shirley Chisholm, Ralph Nader, Senator Feingold, and Senator Wellstone all wrapped up in big progressive bow for you. Please.
You've done exactly what the Obama crazies have done. You've airbrushed out your candidate's weaknesses and flaws because, well, who knows why?
That's what I'm complaining about.
Come November, if Obama's the candidate, are you really going to not vote, or vote for McCain because you didn't get your way?
If he wins the nomination, he will have won it fair and square. Maybe not by a landslide, but that doesn't matter. When the buzzer sounds, one point ahead means you win.
And the best chance we all will have, in that case, of seeing progressive policies enacted, those policies and ideals so important to you when you didn't support Clinton, will be to vote for the Democrat.
Or will you throw a tantrum and by omission or commission help McCain win?

fachero said...

Other Lisa,
I figure you probably know all this but just in case, David Morris, from AlterNet took the time to remind us in January how economically progressive the Clintons really were.

Other Lisa said...

Dave, what the hell are you talking about? Are you confusing me with someone else?

I claimed that Clinton was the more progressive of the two candidates in the race. Not that she is some kind of second coming of Bobby Kennedy or whatever progressive model you'd like to put forth.

I also stated that the misogyny by Obama supporters, surrogates and from the campaign itself was a huge turnoff. This is not an issue of a few lunatic fringe supporters. It is widespread and at the very least condoned by the Obama campaign.

Accusing me of throwing temper tantrums, also, not a great way to promote the Unity. Mssplssd asked me to state my case, and I did. I don't know why you feel the need to pop in and lecture me.

Too many of Obama's online supporters don't know when to STFU and listen. I'd venture that this same tendency carries over to the campaign itself and its tone deafness to working class concerns.

Anonymous said...

Other Lisa, I do think Dave is confusing you with some of the other commenters. I've found most of your comments here clear and thoughtful, even when we disagree. I don't quite get why something like the "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" gesture eats at you so much, and I still strongly disagree that Obama has engaged in race-baiting, but so be it.

But in fairness to Obama supporters, neither Dave (who wrote of his candidate having dropped out of the race much earlier) nor I is an Obama supporter. You shouldn't judge us by them or them by us.

fachero said...

Other Lisa,
I was compelled to pop in and say my bit because of your harping about Obama not being a progressive.
Your argument seems to be Clinton is more progressive. OK, well on a scale of 1 to 10 Clinton's a 5 and he's a 4. Big freaking deal.
Her health care policy is better, you say? Hmm. You really think the proposal on her website is what she'd managed to get through Congress?
Moreover, you go on about dog-whistles. Thing about dog-whistles is if you can hear them, then you ain't a dog. Sure, some of Obama's supporters are sexist assholes. So what? Doesn't mean he is. Some of Clinton's supporters are racists. But I don't for a second believe that she is.
I believe your enthusiasm for the idea of a female president has blinded you to this particular woman's weaknesses as a candidate. And I believe you have become as blind to your preferred candidate's faults as those you criticize on the other side.

Aww hell. I give up. There's no use talking to true believers. I should know that by now from conversations with misty-eyed Obama supporters.

kaya said...

other lisa - i agree with pretty much all of your points about why people might vote for obama, although i argue there still must be something else there, because i don't think those explanations account for the entire population of his supporters. i think dave is right that you need to compare your rational support of clinton to a rational support of obama, and honestly i don't even know why we're arguing about this because on a policy level the two are pretty damn similar.

i do have to say though, you say 'obama supporters need to stfu and listen.' i mean really. is that 'obama supporters?' or is that everyone on this damn internet? it doesn't strike me that you're 'listening' overly well if you failed to notice that NONE of the people engaging with you in this debate are obama supporters. and from the few times i've commented on this particular blog, it doesn't really strike me that anyone commenting is interested in listening to a divergent opinion. arguing, sure. but actually considering the merits? i guess that would be too civilized.

at least republicans support each other. jesus. we deserve to lose in november.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear, kaya. Thanks for your fantastic posts.

Unknown said...

If Chris Bowers is correct, then it's time for a split-off of the Democratic Party. In Obama's grab for the nomination, he and his supporters have done nothing but insult white, southern, female,60-ish baby boomers like me. I believe the divisions in the party that he has made will put McCain, barring any huge gaffs, in the White House. Presently I'm so dug in that I can't vote for anyone but Hillary for President.

fachero said...

How, exactly, has Obama insulted you for being a white, southern, 60ish woman?
I agree some of his nuttier supporters have done it, but how has the candidate himself done that?
It's curious to me that one of the criticisms of Obama is his vagueness, his dependence on airy rhetoric, yet when it comes to insulting women, or voters without a college degree, or white southerners, he is accused of the most specific and concretely phrased insults and attacks.
So he's vague when speechifying but very pointed in his anti-Southern, anti-woman, anti-non-degreed person bigotry?
Make up your mind, please. He's too vague or too pointed. Which one?

What has he said about you, palhart? Give me a concrete example, please.
Your phrasing betrays your own hidden assumptions.
His "grab" for the nomination? Grab?
He is ahead in delegates because he and his team have run a great campaign. Period.
This was Senator Clinton's nomination to lose and she is on the verge of losing because she failed to run a national campaign. She figured she'd have it all sewn up by the end of Super Tuesday. She figured another of those 90's DLC Democrat campaigns, 27 state or 18 state campaigns would be enough.
Instead he astutely decided to run ground campaigns in as many states as he could, to win (not grab) as many delegates as he could.

If Hillary Clinton is so sharp, so wise, so astute, so much better qualified, why did she not anticipate this inexperienced, unwise newcomer?
How could she not see him right behind her?
How did she go from being the frontrunner to running second? She got fewer votes and delegates, that's how.
Yes, the media hate her, but we're going to blame Obama for that?
Yes, the media have been having fun mocking less affluent, white southerners. Is this Obama's fault?
There are a few white Southerners who make it easy for the media to call all of you redneck racists. Blame them, not Obama.
What exactly did Obama insult? Your femaleness, your age, or your Southerness?

No, palhart, I respectfully propose he did none of those. What he did was insult your hopes for having a 60ish female president.
But that's the game. He played it better. And despite otherLisa's insistence on the existence of concrete policy differences with Clinton, the stark reality is those current policy differences will be meaningless when the dirty business of actual governing begins.

I sincerely hope you will not be so dug in by November, if Obama's the nominee.
Because you can be sure the Republicans care nothing about your whiteness, your southernness, your femaleness, or your age.
To Republicans, as a Southern white woman you are nothing but an ethnically acceptable vehicle for christian heterosexual reproduction, preferably a quiet vehicle who submits to her husband as God has ordained and doesn't get too uppity.
But now that you're in your sixties, you're not even good for reproduction, so from the Republican point of view, what good are you?
You're just a drain on the Social Security system which they want to privatize.
So, to the Republicans you're just an old white lady with a big mouth.

Yeah, go ahead. Let McCain win because you wouldn't vote for Obama. Go ahead.
See how much the Republicans respect you for being a white, southern, 60ish woman. How much respect have they given you for the last sixty years?
I wonder.

LDW said...

missplsd said...
"I don't think his campaign has engaged in race-baiting either, and reading this blog is actually my first introduction to this notion."

I suggest you read the following from The New Republic:

Race Man
by Sean Wilentz
How Barack Obama played the race card and blamed Hillary Clinton.
Post Date Wednesday, February 27, 2008
After several weeks of swooning, news reports are finally being filed about the gap between Senator Barack Obama's promises of a pure, soul-cleansing "new" politics and the calculated, deeply dishonest conduct of his actually-existing campaign. But it remains to be seen whether the latest ploy by the Obama camp--over allegations about the circulation of a photograph of Obama in ceremonial Somali dress--will be exposed by the press as the manipulative illusion that it is.

Most of the recent correctives have concerned outrageously deceptive advertisements approved and released by Obama's campaign. First, in Iowa, the Obama camp aired radio ads patterned on the notorious "Harry and Louise" Republican propaganda from 1993, charging falsely that Senator Hillary Clinton's health care proposal would "force those who cannot afford health insurance to buy it, punishing those who won't fall in line." In subsequent primary and caucus campaigns, the Obama campaign sent out millions of mailers, also featuring the "Harry and Louise" motif, falsely claiming that Clinton favored "punishing families who can't afford health care in the first place." A few bloggers and columnists, notably Paul Krugman in The New York Times, described the ads as distorting, but the national press corps mainly ignored them--until Clinton herself, seeing the fraudulent mailers reappear in Ohio over the past weekend, publicly denounced them.

The Obama mass mailings also attempt to appeal to Ohio's labor vote by claiming that Clinton believed that the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, was a "'boon' to our economy." More falsehood: In fact, Clinton had not said that; Newsday originally applied the word "boon" and has now noted the Obama campaign's distortion. In this campaign, Clinton has called for a moratorium on all trade agreements until they are made consistent with labor and environmental standards--and account for the effect on jobs in the United States. Obama makes a big deal about how Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. But he fails to mention that, within the councils of her husband's administration, Hillary Clinton was a skeptic of free trade agreements, and as a senator and candidate she has said that NAFTA contained flaws that need to be rectified. Ignoring all that, the Obama flyer features an alarming photograph of closed plant gates, having no connection to any action of Senator Clinton's, as well as the dubious quotation about her from Newsday in 2006. Newsday has criticized "Obama's use of the quotation" as "misleading ... an example of the kind of slim reeds campaigns use to try and win an office." Obama, without retracting the mailing (and while playing to protectionist sentiment in the party) said only that he would have his staff look into the matter--long after the ad has done its dirty work.

Misleading propaganda is hardly new in American politics --although the adoption of techniques reminiscent of past Republican and special-interest hit jobs, right down to a retread of the fictional couple, seems strangely at odds with a campaign that proclaims it will redeem the country from precisely these sorts of divisive and manipulative tactics. As insidious as these tactics are, though, the Obama campaign's most effective gambits have been far more egregious and dangerous than the hypocritical deployment of deceptive and disingenuous attack ads. To a large degree, the campaign's strategists turned the primary and caucus race to their advantage when they deliberately, falsely, and successfully portrayed Clinton and her campaign as unscrupulous race-baiters--a campaign-within-the-campaign in which the worked-up flap over the Somali costume photograph is but the latest episode. While promoting Obama as a "post-racial" figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics.

More than any other maneuver, this one has brought Clinton into disrepute with important portions of the Democratic Party. A review of what actually happened shows that the charges that the Clintons played the "race card" were not simply false; they were deliberately manufactured by the Obama camp and trumpeted by a credulous and/or compliant press corps in order to strip away her once formidable majority among black voters and to outrage affluent, college-educated white liberals as well as college students. The Clinton campaign, in fact, has not racialized the campaign, and never had any reason to do so. Rather the Obama campaign and its supporters, well-prepared to play the "race-baiter card" before the primaries began, launched it with a vengeance when Obama ran into dire straits after his losses in New Hampshire and Nevada--and thereby created a campaign myth that has turned into an incontrovertible truth among political pundits, reporters, and various Obama supporters. This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.

Readers of Philip Roth's award-winning novel, The Human Stain, will be familiar with the race-baiter card and its uses, but so will anyone who has been exposed to the everyday tensions that can arise from the volatile mixture of race and politics. In Roth's novel, a college professor loses his job and his reputation after he asks one of his classes whether two African American students who have regularly been absent are "spooks." The context of the professor's remarks make it clear that he used the term to mean "ghosts" or "specters" and intended no racial disparagement--but that makes not the slightest difference, as his enemies on the faculty fan the argument that he is a blatant and incorrigible race-baiter who can no longer be trusted to teach young minds. An innocent remark becomes a hateful one when pulled through the prism of ideology, ill will, and emotional exploitation. One day, Roth's professor (who, ironically, turns out to be a black man passing as white) is a respected, even revered member of the faculty; then the race baiter card gets played, and his career is suddenly destroyed.

Even before the first caucus met in Iowa, the Obama campaign was ready to play a similar game. In mid-December 2007, one of the Clinton campaign's co-chairs in New Hampshire, Bill Shaheen, remarked entirely on his own on how the Republicans might make mischievous and damaging political use of Obama's admitted use of marijuana and cocaine during his youth. The observation was not especially astute: Since George W. Bush, both the electorate and the press have seemed to be forgiving of a candidate's youthful substance abuse, so long as says he has reformed himself. Nor had the Clinton campaign prompted Shaheen to make his comment. But it was not a harebrained remark, given how the Republicans had once tried to exploit the cocaine addiction of Bill Clinton's brother, Roger, and even manufactured lurid falsehoods about Clinton himself as the member of a cocaine smuggling ring during his years as governor in Arkansas. And it was not in the least a racist comment, as cocaine abuse has afflicted Americans of all colors as well as classes. Indeed, there have been persistent rumors that Bush abused cocaine as well as alcohol during his younger days--charges he addressed in the 2000 campaign by saying that when "he was young and foolish" he had done "foolish" things.

None of the reports at the time about Shaheen's miscue (and the Clinton campaign's decision to relieve him of his ceremonial duties) mentioned anything about racial overtones. Yet the Obama campaign kept stirring things up. After being questioned for ten minutes about the drug allegation on cable television--and repeatedly denying that the national campaign had anything to do with it--Clinton campaign pollster Mark Penn mentioned the word "cocaine" (which was difficult to avoid in the context of the repeated questioning about drugs). "I think we've made clear that the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising, and I think that's been made clear," he said. Obama's campaign aides (as well as John Edwards's) immediately leapt on Penn and chastised him as an inflammatory demagogue for using the word that Obama himself referred to in his memoir as "blow." Since then, Obama's strategists and supporters in the press have whipped the story into a full racialist subtext, as if Shaheen and Penn were the executors of a well-plotted Clinton master plan to turn Obama into a stereotypical black street hoodlum--or, in the words of the fervently pro-Obama and anti-Clinton columnist Frank Rich of the New York Times, "ghettoized as a cocaine user."

The racial innuendo seemed to fade when Obama won his remarkable victory in the Iowa caucuses. With the polling data on the upcoming New Hampshire primary auguring a large Obama triumph, it looked as if the candidate's own appeal might sweep away everything before it. But at the last minute (as sometimes happens in statewide primaries), there was a sudden movement among the voters, this time toward Clinton. Many ascribed it to an appearance by Clinton in a Portsmouth coffee shop on the eve of the vote, where, with emotion, she spoke from the heart about why she is running for president. Others said that misogyny directed at Clinton on the campaign trail as well as on cable television and the Internet turned off women voters. The uprising was certainly sudden: As late as 6 p.m. on primary day, Clinton staff members with whom I spoke were saying that they would consider a loss by ten percentage points or less as a kind of moral victory. But instead, Clinton won outright, amazing her own delighted supporters and galling the Obama campaign.

That evening, the Democratic campaign became truly tangled up in racial politics--directly and forcefully introduced by the pro-Obama forces. In order to explain away the shocking loss, Obama backers vigorously spread the claim that the so-called Bradley Effect had kicked in. First used to account for the surprising defeat of Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley in the California gubernatorial race in 1982, the Bradley Effect supposedly takes hold when white voters tell opinion pollsters that they plan to vote for a black candidate but instead, driven by racial fears, pull the lever for a white candidate. Senior Clinton campaign officials later told me that reporters contacted them saying that the Obama camp was pushing them very hard to spin Clinton's victory as the latest Bradley Effect result. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, a cheerleading advocate for Obama, went on television to suggest the Bradley Effect explained the New Hampshire outcome, then backed off--only then to write a column, "Echoes of Tom Bradley," in which he claimed he could not be sure but that, nevertheless, "embarrassed pollsters and pundits had better be vigilant for signs that the Bradley effect, unseen in recent years, has crept back."

In fact, the Bradley Effect claims were utterly bogus, as anyone with an elementary command of voting results could tell. If the "effect" has actually occurred, Obama's final voting figures would have been substantially lower than his figures in the pre-election polls, as racially motivated voters turned away. Later, Bill Schneider, the respected analyst on CNN, several times went through the data on air to demonstrate conclusively that there was no such Bradley Effect in New Hampshire. But even on primary night, it was clear that Obama's total--36.4%--was virtually identical to what the polls over the previous three weeks had predicted he would receive. Clinton won because late-deciding voters--and especially college-educated women in their twenties--broke for her by a huge majority. Yet the echoes of charges about the Bradley Effect--which blamed Obama's loss on white racism and mendacity--lingered among Obama's supporters.

The very next morning, Obama's national co-chair, Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr., a congressional supporter from Chicago, played the race card more directly by appearing on MSNBC to claim in a well-prepared statement that Clinton's emotional moment on the campaign trail was actually a measure of her deeply ingrained racism and callousness about the suffering poor. "But those tears also have to be analyzed," Jackson said, "they have to be looked at very, very carefully in light of Katrina, in light of other things that Mrs. Clinton did not cry for, particularly as we head to South Carolina where 45 percent of African-Americans will participate in the Democratic contest ... we saw tears in response to her appearance, so that her appearance brought her to tears, but not Hurricane Katrina, not other issues." And so the Obama campaign headed south with race and racism very much on its mind--and on its lips.


By the time Clinton and Obama (along with Edwards) debated in South Carolina, it was clear that nerves had been rubbed raw. Obama's supporters, including New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, had been making much of a lame, off-color but obviously preposterous joke that Martin Luther King's close friend and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young had made back in December about Bill Clinton having slept with more black women than Obama. Supposedly, Young's tasteless quip--"I'm just clowning," he said, sounding embarrassed--was as part of some sort of concerted Clinton campaign. Likewise, also in December, former Senator Bob Kerrey's misinformed defense of Obama, in an interview on CNN, for having attended a secular madrassa in Indonesia (he did not) became twisted by the pro-Obama camp, including Herbert once again, into some sort of sneak attack orchestrated by cynical, race-baiting Clintonites. Kerrey is a Clinton supporter, but is notoriously unscripted. Once again, the Clinton campaign had to apologize. But the Obama campaign began ratcheting up the racial politics in earnest during the run-up to the South Carolina contest.

It has never been satisfactorily explained why the pro-Clinton camp would want to racialize the primary and caucus campaign. The argument has been made that Hillary Clinton wanted to attract whites and Hispanics in the primaries and make the case that a black candidate would be unelectable in the general election. But given the actual history of the campaign, that argument makes no sense. Until late in 2007, Hillary Clinton enjoyed the backing of a substantial majority of black voters--as much as 24 percentage points over Obama according to one poll in October--as well as strong support from Hispanics and traditional working-class white Democrats. It appeared, for a time, as if she might well be able to recreate, both in the primaries and the general election, the cross-class and cross-racial alliances that had eluded Democrats for much of the previous forty years. Playing the race card against Obama could only cost her black votes, as well as offend liberal whites who normally turn out in disproportionally large numbers for Democratic caucuses and primaries. Indeed, indulging in racial politics would be a sure-fire way for the Clinton campaign to shatter its own coalition. On the other hand, especially in South Carolina where black voters made up nearly half of the Democratic turnout, and especially following the shocking disappointment in New Hampshire, playing the race card--or, more precisely, the race-baiting card--made eminent sense for the Obama campaign. Doing so would help Obama secure huge black majorities (in states such as Missouri and Virginia as well as in South Carolina and the deep South) and enlarge his activist white base in the university communities and among affluent liberals. And that is precisely what happened.

First came the Martin Luther King-Lyndon B. Johnson controversy. Responding to early questions that he was only offering vague words of hope instead of policy substance, Obama had given a speech in New Hampshire referring to Martin Luther King, Jr. "standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial" during his "I have a dream" speech. (This rhetorical formulation was reminiscent of a campaign speech delivered in 2006 by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, another client of David Axelrod, Obama's message and media guru; in a later speech, Obama would repeat Patrick's rhetoric word for word.) When asked about it, Clinton replied that while, indeed, King had courageously inspired and led the civil rights movement, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law. "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," she said, adding that "it took a president to get it done." The statement was, historically, non-controversial; the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, among others, later said that Clinton "was absolutely right." The political implication was plainly that Clinton was claiming to have more of the experience and skills required of a president than Obama did--not that King should be denigrated. But the Obama campaign and its supporters chose to pounce on the remark as the latest example of the Clinton campaign's race baiting. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, a black congressman--neutral in the race, but pressured by the Obama campaign arousing his constituency--felt compelled to repeat the charge that Clinton had disparaged King, and told the New York Times that "we have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics." Several of the Times's op-ed columnists, including Bob Herbert and Maureen Dowd as well as Rich, rushed to amplify how Hillary was playing dirty, as did the newspaper's editorial page, which disgracefully twisted her remarks into an implication that "a black man needed the help of a white man to effect change."

Clinton complained that her opponent's backers were deliberately distorting her remarks; and Obama smoothly tried to appear above the fray, as if he knew that the race-baiting charge was untrue and didn't want to level it directly, but didn't exactly want to discourage the idea either. "Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark, about King and Lyndon Johnson. I didn't make the statement," Obama said in a conference call with reporters. "I haven't remarked on it. And she, I think, offended some folks who felt that somehow diminished King's role in bringing about the Civil Rights Act. She is free to explain that. But the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous."

Meanwhile, below the radar, the Obama campaign pushed the race-baiting angle hard, rehearsing and sometimes inventing instances of alleged Clintonian racial insensitivity. A memo prepared by the South Carolina campaign and circulated to supporters rehashed the King-Johnson matter, while it also spliced together statements of Bill Clinton's to make it seem as if he had given a speech that "implied Hillary Clinton is stronger than Nelson Mandela." (The case, with its snippets and ellipses, was absurd on its face.) The memo also claimed, in a charge soon widely repeated, that he had demeaned Obama as "a kid" because he had called Obama's account of his opposition to the war in Iraq a fanciful "fairy tale."And a few reporters, while pushing the Obama campaign's line that black voters had credible concerns about the Clintons' remarks, had begun to notice that the Obama campaign was doing its utmost to fuel the racial flames. "There's no question that there's politics here at work too," said Jonathan Martin of Politico. "It helps [Obama's] campaign to... push these issues into the fore in a place like South Carolina."

When asked about the race-baiting charges, Obama campaign spokeswoman Candice Tolliver roiled the waters: "Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this really an isolated situation or is there something bigger behind all of this?" Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., the Obama co-chair, as before, was more direct and inflammatory, claiming that the "cynics" of the Clinton campaign had "resorted to distasteful and condescending language that appeals to our fears rather than our hopes. I sincerely hope that they'll turn away from such reactionary, disparaging rhetoric." The race-baiting card was now fully in play.

Among those dismayed by Obama's tactics and his supporters' was Bill Moyers. In a special segment on his weekly PBS broadcast in mid-January, Moyers, who as a young man had been an aide to President Johnson, demolished the charge that Clinton had warped history in order to race-bait Obama. "There was nothing in [Clinton's] quote about race," he observed. "It was an historical fact, an affirmation of the obvious." Moyers rehashed what every reputable historian knows about how King and Johnson effectively divided the labor, between King the agitator and Johnson the president, in order to secure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Moyers said was happy to see that, by the time he went on the air, the furor appeared to be dying down and that everyone seemed to be returning to their senses and apologizing--"except," he pointedly noted, "the New York Times." But this upbeat part of his assessment proved overly optimistic.


By the time the Obama campaign backed off from agitating the King-Johnson pseudo-scandal, it had already trained its sights on Bill Clinton--by far the most popular U.S. president among African Americans over the past quarter-century. Not only were Bill and Hillary supposedly ganging up on Obama in South Carolina--"I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes," Obama complained during the South Carolina debate--the former president was supposedly off on a race-baiting tear of his own. Yet, once again, the charges were either distortions or outright inventions.

The Obama campaign's "fairy tale" gambit was particularly transparent. Commenting on Obama's explanation of why he is more against the war in Iraq than Hillary Clinton, and disturbed by the news media's failure to report Obama's actual voting record on Iraq in the Senate, the former president referred to what had become the conventional wisdom as a "fairy tale" concocted by Obama and his supporters. Time to play the race-baiter card! One of Obama's most prominent backers, the mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, stretched Clinton's remarks and implied that he had called Obama's entire candidacy a fairy tale. (The mayor later coyly told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she had not intended to criticize Clinton: "Surely you don't mean he's the only one who can use the phrase 'fairy tale,'" Franklin said, in a tone that the reporter described as "mock indignation.") Appearing on CNN, one of its pundits, Donna Brazile, hurled the wild charge that Clinton had likened Obama to a child. "And I will tell you," she concluded, "as an African American I find his words and his tone to be very depressing." With those kinds of remarks--"as an African American"--the race card and the race-baiter card both came back into play. Although Brazile is formally not part of Obama's campaign, her comments made their way to the South Carolina memo, offered as evidence that Clinton's comment was racially insensitive.

On January 26, Obama won a major victory in South Carolina by gaining the overwhelming majority of the black vote and a much smaller percentage of the white vote, for a grand total of 55 percent. Although the turnout, of course, was much larger for the 2008 primaries than for any previous primary or caucus, Obama had assembled a victorious coalition analogous to that built by Jesse Jackson in the 1984 and 1988 South Carolina caucuses. (Bill Clinton won the 1992 state primary with 69 percent of the vote, far outstripping either Jackson's or Obama's percentages.)

When asked by a reporter on primary day why it would take two Clintons to beat Obama, the former president, in good humor, laughed and said that he would not take the bait:

Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice in '84 and '88 and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama's run a good campaign. He's run a good campaign everywhere. He's a good candidate with a good organization.
According to Obama and his supporters, here was yet another example of subtle race-baiting. Clinton had made no mention of race. But by likening Jackson's victories and Obama's impending victory and by praising Obama as a good candidate not simply in South Carolina but everywhere, Clinton was trying to turn Obama into the "black" candidate and racialize the campaign. Or so the pro-Obama camp charged.

Clinton's sly trick, supposedly, was to mention Jackson and no other Democrat who had previously prevailed in South Carolina--thereby demeaning Obama's almost certain victory as a "black" thing. But the fact remains that Clinton, who watches internal polls closely and is an astute observer, knew whereof he spoke: when the returns were counted, Obama's and Jackson's percentages of the overall vote and the key to their victories--a heavy majority among blacks--truly were comparable. The only other Democrats Clinton could have mentioned would have been himself (who won more than two-thirds of the vote in 1992, far more than either Jackson or Obama) and John Edwards (who won only 45 percent in 2004, far less than either Jackson or Obama). Given the differences, given that by mentioning himself, Clinton could have easily been criticized for being self-congratulatory, and given that Edwards had not yet dropped out of the 2008 race, the omissions were not at all surprising. By mentioning Jackson alone, the former president was being accurate--and, perhaps, both modest and polite. But Obama's supporters willfully hammered him as a cagey race-baiter.

Not everyone agreed with the race-baiting charge--including Jesse Jackson himself. Jackson noted proudly to Essence magazine that he had, indeed, won in 1984 and 1988, and, even though he had endorsed Obama, criticized the Obama campaign, saying, "again, I think it's some more gotcha politics."

Hillary Clinton's unexpected popular victory in Nevada and her crushing Super Tuesday wins in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and California seemed, according to media reports, to have been offset by Obama's more numerous victories in much smaller states that Democrats are highly unlikely to win in a general election. His string of victories in caucuses and primaries over the next four weeks gave the Obama campaign undeniable momentum. But Obama and his strategists kept the race and race-baiter cards near the top of their campaign deck--and the news media continued to report on the contest (or decline to report Obama's role as instigator) as if they had fallen in line.

The New York Times, for example, opened its front page on February 15th to report an utterly inaccurate and possibly wishful story that Representative John Lewis of Georgia--a genuine hero of the civil rights movement, a courageous voice for integration, and a stalwart Clinton supporter--had announced that he had decided that, in his role as superdelegate, he would vote for Obama. Lewis quickly called the story false, although he added that he was wrestling with his conscience over whether to switch. Meanwhile, the press generally ignored a report, confirmed by all involved, that Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., had warned one of Clinton's unshakable black supporters, Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, that he'd better line up behind Obama. Jackson, once again playing the role of the Obama campaign's "race man" enforcer, posed a leading question: "Do you want to go down in history as the one to prevent a black from winning the White House?" Black congressmen were threatened to fall or line or face primary challenges. "So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position," Jackson said. Yet for the Obama-inspired press corps, it was the Clintons who were playing the race card. "The question now is how much more racial friction the Clinton campaign will gin up," wrote Frank Rich, Obama's vehement advocate in the New York Times.

The Obama campaign has yet to reach bottom in its race-baiter accusations. On February 25, Hillary Clinton planned to deliver a major foreign policy address, an area in which Obama's broad expertise is relatively weak. Clinton was also riding high in the Ohio polls, despite the Obama campaign's false charges about her health plan and support for NAFTA. That same day, the notoriously right-wing, scandal-mongering Drudge Report website ran a photograph of Obama dressed in the traditional clothing of a Somali elder during a tour of Africa, attached to an assertion, without evidence, that the Clinton campaign was "circulating" the picture. The story was silly on its face--there are plenty of photographs of Hillary Clinton and virtually every other major American elected official dressed in the traditional garb of other countries, and Obama's was no different. The alleged "circulation" amounted, on close reading, to what Drudge's dispatch said was an e-mail from one unnamed Clinton "staffer" to another idly wondering what the coverage might have been if the picture had been of Clinton. Possible e-mail chatter about an inoffensive picture as spun by the Drudge Report would not normally be deemed newsworthy, even in these degraded times.

Except by Obama and his campaign, who jumped on the insinuating circumstances as a kind of vindication. The Drudge posting included reaction from the pinnacle of Obama's campaign team. "It's exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties and diminishes respect for America in the world," said Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe, who also described the non-story as "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election" and "part of a disturbing pattern." Although he never explicitly spelled out the contours of this pattern, he was clearly alluding to race baiting. Later in the day, Obama himself jumped in, repeating the nasty, slippery charge that the Clinton campaign "was trying to circulate this [picture] as a negative" and calling it a political trick of the sort "you start seeing at the end of campaigns."

Although finally skewered, for the first time, on "Saturday Night Live" over the past weekend for its pro-Obama tilt, the press corps once again fell for this latest throw of the race-baiter card, turning the Drudge rumor into its number one story, obscuring Clinton's major national security address. In doing so, the media has confirmed what has been the true pattern in the race for the Democratic nomination--the most outrageous deployment of racial politics since the Willie Horton ad campaign in 1988 and the most insidious since Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, praising states' rights.

It may strike some as ironic that the racializing should be coming from a black candidate's campaign and its supporters. But this is an American presidential campaign--and there is a long history of candidates who are willing to inflame the most deadly passions in our national life in order to get elected. Sadly, it is what Barack Obama and his campaign gurus have been doing for months--with the aid of their media helpers on the news and op-ed pages and on cable television, mocked by "SNL" as in the tank for Obama. They promise to continue until they win the nomination, by any means necessary.

Sean Wilentz is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (Norton).
© The New Republic 2008

LDW said...

missplsd said...
@ Other Lisa, re: Jay-Z

Fair enough. I just don't think it's any less presidential than Bill Clinton's boxers-or-briefs MTV appearance or playing the sax on Arsenio. :)

Thanks for your thoughtful comments, with which I largely agree.

I think Obama’s smirking middle finger and brushing ‘the dirt’ off his shoulders is not in the same universe as the ‘boxers or briefs’ or Clinton playing sax on Arsenio moments.
Jay-Z is a criminally violent, misogynistic, bigoted racist, and Obama emulating him, and then grinning while his Obama-bots whooped it up is vile and disgusting, not cool and hip...unless one is part of a the gansta' hip hop rap crap crowd that thinks it is, but I don’t consider it presidential to treat a violent thug as cool.

The 'boxers or briefs' and playing the sax on Arsenio could be seen as an attempt to connect with Americans through a popular culture medium, but the worst one could say is that humour was low brow or the music was from the common people. Obama was having an ‘in the hood, niggaz togetha’ moment - some people may consider it racist to frown on any aspect of music or popular culture that originates from Black America, but when the cultural phenom 'bad boys' are actually, factually, violent criminals spewing nasty misogynist hatred, it's not Presidential to treat them as cool.

The Realist said...

From now on, i wish to defer to you, anglachel, to express for me, the feelings i cannot seem to put in words. An amazing inisght.