Saturday, June 21, 2008

And he doesn't look a thing like Jesus

Over at TPM, I put the post below up at 7:59 this morning.

As of 1:38 this afternoon, I have 22 comments on it.

Interestingly, I also have only 4 approvals.

To put that into perspective, my most popular post to date has 18 comments, and THIRTY FOUR approvals.

So this one is generating a lot of buzz, but hardly anybody likes it.

Story of my life, really...

* * *

You sit there in your heartache
waiting for some beautiful boy to
save you from your old ways
you play forgiveness, watch it now, here he comes
he doesn't look a thing like Jesus
but he talks like a gentleman
like you imagined when you were young...
-- The Killers, "When You Were Young"

During the primaries, Barack Obama talked to us like a gentleman. He may not have looked like Jesus, but nonetheless, he walked on water, healed the lame, drove the moneylenders from the Temple, and raised the dead.

But that was during the primaries, when this political season was young. Now the primaries are over, and Barack Obama wants all of us to know that he doesn't look a thing like Jesus, and if we're looking for a Messiah, we need to look elsewhere.

Obama took us all badly aback when he recorded a radio ad supporting U.S. Representative Jack Barrow of Georgia, a white conservative Democrat much despised by the more liberal-progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Obama's support for Barrow was especially hard to take given that Barrow is being strongly challenged for his seat by Georgia state Senator Regina Thomas, a strongly liberal-progressive black woman running in a district that is predominantly African-American.

Disappointment is perhaps inevitable when a mass of people look up to any political candidate with as much hope, admiration, and respect as we have showered on Senator Obama. Even the best of us are only human, after all. And it is a supposedly inevitable truth of how our political system works that a candidate cultivates the fringes of their own particular political base while seeking the nomination, and then moves back to the middle once they have it.

Yet Senator Obama was supposed to be the candidate of change, the politician who was writing a new book, finding a new path, and forging a new political truth. This was the package we were presented with, and that half or more of us bought eagerly and enthusiastically throughout the primary season. Obama was the Prince of the Rising Tide, the King of Wishful Thinking, the New Hope.

Well, now the Empire is striking back.

There can be little doubt that Obama's support of John Barrow, as conservative a Democrat as any Democrat has ever been, over Regina Thomas, is an act of the most cynical political calculation. Barrow is going into his third term in the House of Representatives, and his IOU is going to be worth more to President Obama than that of a freshman Representative with no seniority.

Yet there's also a message in Obama's method here, and that signal is a strong one. He's saying to all of us who consider ourselves to be his constituency and his base, especially those of us out here who may share his ethnicity -- don't count on me just because you think I'm one of you.

This is, perhaps, a reassuring dog whistle to many white moderates -- Obama will not necessarily put the interests of an African-American first simply because they are African-American, like he is. But it's a savage disappointment to those of us who were hoping for transcendental decision-making from this man who would be President.

Hard though Obama's decision to support Barrow over Thomas may be for all of us, it's easy medicine to swallow compared to Obama's even more recent announcement of support for the travesty of a FISA bill that has just passed in the House. At this point all those of us who, like Fox Mulder, still want to believe are clinging desperately to Obama's assurances that he "will work in the Senate to remove [retroactive immunity for the tel-coms] so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses".

Yet those of us with any kind of ear for political parsing can already smell the weakness of this non-promise. If Obama truly meant to do everything in his power to keep retroactive immunity from becoming law, he would have at the very least thrown in a 'hard' or a 'diligently' after the word 'work' to signal that intention. As it is, it seems obvious that this promise is an empty one, intended only to provide political cover to Obama later on.

Anyone can run the numbers and see why Obama has made this decision. With a majority of his own party backing this contemptible law for contemptible reasons of their own, hard opposition to it would only leave him vulnerable to accusations from the McCain campaign of being out of step with even his own base... something that might well hurt him, perhaps mortally, with those key moderates and undecideds that inevitably seem to decide every national American election in a nation as continually polarized as ours is.
And yet, again... we were led to believe we could expect more than this from Mr. Obama of Illinois. New directions. Real leadership. Change We Can Believe In.

Endorsing an undesirably conservative incumbent over a solidly progressive challenger in order to secure a political IOU is not change we can believe in. Weak, blustering non-assurances regarding lip service opposition to yet more utterly odious incursions into American civil liberties is certainly not a new direction or any sort of real leadership. This is nothing more than coldly calculated compromise, and nothing less than rank capitulation to the worst and basest elements in our current political discourse.

It's failure, pure and simple... which is, sadly and grimly, politics as usual for the Democratic Party. The politics as usual that Senator Obama of Illinois keeps telling us we are leaving behind, once and for all... but apparently, not right now, and not real soon.

Maybe Change We Can Believe In means no real change at all.


Or maybe there will be a new era of post partisan politics and government transparency, of new directions and real leadership... in a galaxy far, far away.

I still think Senator Obama was a better choice for the Democratic Party than Hillary Clinton, and is a better choice for the American people than John McCain.

But I'm starting to wonder if there wasn't, or isn't, a better choice than Senator Obama still out there somewhere.

They say the devil's water
it ain't so sweet
you don't have to drink right now
but you can dip your feet
every once in a little while....


At 10:43 PM, Anonymous Lynelle said...

Keep up the good work.

At 3:27 AM, Blogger Bullion Jackpot Call said...

Fantastic post.

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