Monday, June 23, 2008

Hillary Haters?

Hillary Clinton has certainly been the recipient of a volume of hate and vitriol far beyond anything she ever warranted throughout her public career. And yet now one wonders if she and her many followers are not taking their resentment at the potential passing of the torch to the next generation as a call to arms to hand another election to a Republican candidate?

I recieved the press release below over the weekend, and was reminded of Nader's run 8 years ago. Nader ran to challenge a Democratic party, that under Clinton and his triangulation strategy, had moved too far to the right. He had an ideological position and a strong critique that was at the foundation of his platform. He emboldened young people across the country to engage in politics and arguably pushed Gore to the left in the Fall of that year. Yet at the end, he decided to campaign hard in the very states that very the closest (including Florida). Here many parted ways with him (including Michael Moore) and it can fairly be said that Nader was ONE reason among many for Theft 2000.

Are Clinton backers really willing to play a similar role this year? Aren't the differences between Obama and McCain rather profound at this point (e.g., taxes, abortion, Iraq, Iran, campaign finance reform, etc.)? Are the differences between Hillary and Obama really so large that it demands this effort to undermine their own candidate? Was the process really unfair? And can we honestly consider Hillary as a champion of working class America and progressive values?

I certainly hope this growing collective comes to their senses, before we hear the mantra four more years ringing in our ears as America continues its internal and external collapse.

Spokespersons – Just Say No Deal:West Coast:Robin Carlson (206) 289-0005Thuc Nguyen GoPumaParty.comEast Coast:Will Bower PUMA (202) 365-2536Cristi Adkins Clintons4McCain.comDiane Mantouvalos HireHeels.comJune 18, 2008
MEDIA ALERT Is Obama Pulling The "Head-Scarf" Over Our Eyes?

Just Say No Deal Coalition Says, "We Won't Blindly Follow!"
- Online, in Washington D.C. and Nationwide, reacts to the scene on Monday night in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena when two young women wearing religious headscarfs were not permitted to sit in "special seating" behind the podium stage.While the Just Say Now Deal Coalition acknowledges that the Obama Campaign has a right to orchestrate their public events as they see fit, the Coalition questions whether Senator Obama's well-publicized and branded platform of a "new kind of politics" represents bona fide change or merely a brilliantly executed marketing campaign.The events in Detroit earlier this week represent yet another reason why the Just Say No Deal Coalition rejects the Democratic Party's arrogant mandate. Its members have all declared their decision to not "fall in line" behind the presumptive nominee.In operation just over two hundred hours, the Just Say No Deal Coalition is growing exponentially, from its core group of twenty organizations to an estimated two hundred. Concerned citizens continue to break their silence to express their dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Democratic Party and its apparent short-circuiting of the nominating process. The Just Say No Deal Coalition's online portal offers those voters a chance to reclaim their voices and the power to Just Say No Deal! The Coalition will continue to organize in pursuit of its mission of keeping another unqualified candidate from inheriting the Oval Office.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Do we really live in a post-ideological time? Is there such a thing as a post-ideological candidate? An article in the New Republic today argues over the merits of a Bloomberg VP slot for either candidate (ulitmately deciding he would be good for neither): The first reader comment to the article is by a Bloomberg employee Jeb who disagrees with the author and argues "He is post ideological." Has Bloomberg really transcended ideology? Has McCain? Has even Obama, who does seem to offer the best hope for moving beyond the partisan warfare of the baby boomers?

I think there is a growing belief that we can escape the ideological battles of the past, simply by accepting the new world order. Nixon said "we are all Keynesians now." The post-ideological platform seems to be around accepting the new world order of neoliberalism without dissent, and simply working to tinker with a system that puts far too much faith in markets and far too little in government intervention. Neoliberalism believes in privatization, deregulation, reduced taxation and, really, the expansion of the market ethos to every aspect of governance.

Let's start with Bloomberg. Blommberg first appeared as a Democrat, then became a Republican to make it easier to win the mayorship, then became an independent as he contemplated a run for president. But does that mean he holds no political opinions? Or that they teater vicariously between the two poles of partisan difference? Bloomberg appears to be that classic American figure, fiscally conservative (with some slippage) and culturally liberal. Is this really post-ideological, or is it the middle that has been fought over for forty years now (the very triangulation of Clinton)? Bloomberg, in many ways, appears to be the sort of dictatorial liberal that just wants to form the world to his specifications. He has taken over the City schools to little positive effect. He has faltered on the World Trade Center rebuilding. His traffic proposal flopped. And he has introduced smoke-free bars and restaurants (probably good) and policed trans fats out of our lives. He has also underseen a further decline in crime and a booming economy. But at what cost? Manhattan is now a middle class city, losing a lot of its edge and any affordible housing. It is now largely populated by finance types, with the artists pushed to the outer boroughs.

The real point is that being a technocrat and financially responsible should not place one in a post-ideological position. There is no such thing in a country where corporations wield incredible influence over government, the presidency is accumulating power like never before and the income and wealth gaps continue to grow as the richest country in the world sees growing poverty and a middle-class whose quality of life is declining. Maybe we need a post-partisan president who actually escapes the hold of the DLC and Clintonism and has the political will to take on the real challenges facing the country today, outside the new paradigm of tax cuts, small government and an unwillingness to talk about race or class. Obama could be this president, but this will not make him "post" ideological. It will simply mean stepping outside the traps of the present and recognizing that the issues of the past have not been solved, but need new solutions to move forward.

Ideology is inescapable. Whether the old ideologies of conservativism and liberalism have lost their appeal in American politics at the moment (which appears untrue given the current campaign rhetoric on right and left), does not undermine the continuing battle over ideas and who the government will serve. Democratic revival is an ideological position, and one with great appeal. The last thing we need right now is someone who trascends partisan politics simply by moving toward the middle. Instead it appears to me we need someone who can transcend the battles of the past and start a national dialogue on the real problems facing America today and ways we can work collectively to address them. At the center of this battle are the age old problems of the power of the elites and the interests of the common good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


A New York Times article today asks McCain to be more forthcoming on the real cost of his tax plan: Two things he wants to do that could be very damaging to the country and increase the deficit substantially are to eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax and to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Each of these will cost the federal government substantial amounts of revenue and again give most of the benefit to the wealthy. In a country where the income gap continues to rise and the idea of the segmented labor market (in which two labor markets exist: one for the elites and another for everyone else) will worsen.

As the U.S. economy continues to suffer from short term trouble and long-term peril, one wonders how this sort of policy irresponsibility can go on. Isn't it time to seriously question tax policy in America? The rich are getting richer and the super rich are not holding up their end of the economy. Under Eisenhower, the top tax rate was 90%. Under Carter it was still 70%. Today it is 35%. How can we justify this as the deficit soars and the quality of life of the average American continues to decline? The only thing keeping federal and state budgets solvent is a dramatic increase in consumption (otherwise known as regressive) taxes. In other words, the burden of taxation has moved from the upper class to the middle and working class, by increasing things like tolls, sales tax, user taxes and other taxes on consumption. This is how Republicans like it.

Will the American people (and the media) start to really cover this issue and stop assuming they will themselves one day be rich and thus support irresponsible tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy? One hopes a reasoned debate occurs on taxes and the irresponsibility of McCain in attempting to continue the policy of tax cuts for the rich, at a time when what we really need is a more fair distribution of income and wealth to keep the country economically strong and socially viable for the long run.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Clinton and the Challenges of Feminism

A few days ago, the New York Times had an interesting article on potential sexism in the coverage of Hillary Clinton: I've been talking about this issue with my students and, ignoring for the moment the rather sleazy campaign that she sometimes ran, I do believe there is some truth in this claim.

It appears that Democrats are more comfortable with a Black man than a woman candidate for president. This is unfortunate. And the claims by the campaign of media bias seem fair though maybe not balanced. The difficult aspect of deconstructing the negative coverage is disentangling the general dislike for the Clintons that has built over the past almost twenty years from the issue of gender. While Clinton certainly received a lot of negative press, it is unclear if this is related more to her relationship to her husband and past as first lady or a general discomfort with a female Commander in Chief.

The bigger issue, however, remains -- which seems to me to be the conundrum of running for office as a woman. On the one hand, it would seem you would get more votes being more attractive and potentially benefit from your appeal as fitting certain feminine stereotypes (that while essentializing by their nature) voters might prefer over the bellicose, masculine, white male norm. And yet there is also the expectation that you fit into the traditional white, male macho role. Clinton seemed to bring a careful balance of the two, though clearly veering closer to the masculine requirements of the job. By taking this tact, she clearly turned off many who are uncomfortable with a woman who appears too masculine/macho. The press often derided or assailed her for her clothing, her demeanor or her tough tactics (while perfectly okay for Rove, McCain and the male white club in general). So how masculine could Clinton be without suffering from the press' derision and mainstream male discomfort (to put it nicely)? How feminine could she be without losing many voters and the press to our antiquated fear of women with power? Where does the balance lie? One wonders if it yet exists as a realistic formation in American politics, where sexism does in fact appear to still be rampant. It is an issue that I believe should (and will outside the mainstream media) be studied in great detail.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Masculinity and the Right

Susan Faludi, of backlash fame, has an interesting piece in today's New York Times: In it she argues that Republicans will again attempt to win the vote by being more manly than their opponents. With McCain, they certainly have a legitimate manly candidate, but the interesting aspect of this campaign is that Obama seems comfortable toeing the gender line and accessing his "feminine" qualities in public (with apologies to the essentializing aspect these analyses always engender).

The problem is the press will probably play along. No big surprise that Tucker Carlson, Don Imus and Scarborough are already using the tact, or that Newsweek is preening over McCain without any of the expected critique. But will the purportedly "neutral" press play along as well. Early signs are not good. The New York Times and Washington Post have already been quite critical of McCain and his many faults, inconsistencies and obvious hypocrisy on Campaign Finance Reform, but neither paper wins elections.

I'm back from a minor hiatus and hope to now contribute daily to watching the press, the campaign and hopefully the next step in moving beyond the power of the Republican machine to control the dialogue and win elections without any substantial dialogue on America and our future.