How Hillary lost me and Edwards got my vote (in 48,000 words or less)
I've been blessedly neutral when it comes to this years slate of Democratic presidential candidates. It's really no surprise considering the unique, if not historic, flavor of the 2008 election.
For one thing, it's been decades since neither party had a presumptive nominee. This creates a wide open field on both sides, and we've seen what each party has to offer.
It's no surprise that I feel that the Republican field reflects their bankrupt policies and deceitful attempts to scare the sheep into line. Really, take a look at what they have.
Rudy, a guy who has nothing to run on but fear itself, handicapped with the rabid right by the only human part of him, his so-called "liberal" stances on gays and common sense gun regulation, and his all-to-human personal life. A guy who's been aptly accused of having 9-11 Tourette's syndrome, repeating it like Rainman on a roll. A guy who has retained some of the most unhinged neocons in the country to advise him on foreign policy, including Norman Podhorotz who advocates bombing Iran as soon as logistically possible. Just what we need. Isn't insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
Mitt, not an empty suit, but a Men's Warehouse model brought to life (sort of). A guy who also used to be semi-sensible but is now spouting right wing gibberish so crazy it makes sane people of both parties cringe. A guy who is injecting mad millions of his own money into his campaign in an effort to spend maybe a thousand or two for every Iowa caucus vote he gets. A guy who, deep down, NOBODY thinks would be a good president.
John, the poor guy. Found out the hard way that his party doesn't cotton to independent thinkers. Too honest and with too much integrity to pass the right-wing muster. Also prone to wildly exaggerating the threat of terror and conflating it with our disaster in Iraq.
Huckabee, the only one in the field that displays some actual humanity. A eminently likable guy who actually isn't completely full of shit. He clearly actually believes what he says, and most of what he says, you can respect him for, even if you disagree completely. And a lot of what he says is sensible and shows a good eye for some of what this country needs to do to correct itself. But even Mike has a troublesome knack for veering into la-la land with some of his Muslim boogie-man talk, and comes off a bit un-hinged in what might be presumed to be an attempt to feed the right the heavy doses of fear and loathing they've become addicted to.
Ron Paul. I admit I don't know a hell of a lot about him, but he's also a no B.S. kind of guy that isn't afraid of telling the right just where to get off. A right-winger who's no phony. He's sort of like Diogenes and his lamp, trying to warn the Republicans where they've gone so desperately wrong. Has the cojones to actually oppose the Iraq fiasco. A candidate who's amassed many fans among pragmatic, non-Bush cult conservatives. Doesn't stand a chance.
All the rest are one-issue nuts or have already dropped out, mercifully.
Not a bad field to run against, I'd say. And many Republicans openly rue the sad state of their field.
But back to the subject.
I'll limit this to the top three Dem candidates to keep it to just under novel length.
First of all, Hillary Clinton. I like her. I've vigorously defended her from years of literally insane attacks and irrational hatred drummed up and manufactured by the Mighty Wurlitzer of the right wing noise machine.
She's been portrayed, and STILL is portrayed, as some wild-eyed flaming liberal that will pass out drugs to third graders and advocate free love for everyone. She's apparently makes Dennis Kucinich look like William F. Buckley, if you believe the tripe spewed by the right.
But then as usual, this smacks into reality. Hillary, as any sentient person realizes, is far from a far left liberal. She's moderate if anything, and on many matters leans right. Of course, this fact doesn't stop the braying from the right, as facts rarely get in their way.
Early on, the more liberal, or in reality, the more centrist elements of the Democratic party faulted Clinton for her stances which often buttressed or otherwise supported and enabled the Bush agenda, as well as several other measures which were far from traditional Democratic stances. She wasn't liberal enough for their liking.
I tended to dismiss this as unnecessary carping by people who expected too much purity from any candidate to be practical. I stuck with her. I was damn proud of Clinton for both weathering the mind-bending years long assaults on her and her husband as well as persevering, surviving, and thriving in her quest for and victory in becoming a senator. Even Republicans have trouble faulting her for her performance as senator, and she's widely hailed as being excellent in that position. Now she still has the guts and fortitude to actually run for president, knowing all too well exactly what forces are aligned against her. Gotta like that.
I was all for her for primarily those reasons, and argued against those who felt she shouldn't run, would be too divisive, etc.
I think she's done fine on the campaign trail, but I was, and still am, troubled by her votes recently in favor of labeling the Iranian Republican Guard a "terrorist organization". Such B.S. measures are only neo-con tools for ginning up yet more conflict, and in light of her thoroughly non-convincing "if I had known then what I know now" defense of her voting for the Iraq boondoggle, this is even more troubling.
This created some doubt in my mind for the first time that Hilary would actually be what the country needed in this crucial time.
In other words, the messages of Edwards, and Obama to a much more ineffective extent, that Clinton represents more of the same, a change from Bush to be sure, but nonetheless, a continuation of the big-money, defence industry driven, corporate driven, agenda. And that agenda, I am convinced, bears little to no relationship to the wishes of this country's people as to the direction this country must take.
I'd been listening to Edwards, a guy who I've always liked, but never really warmed to, for years now. But when he started taking off the gloves a month or two back, I found it very refreshing. He was the only candidate that was pushing a vital neo-populist message to the forefront, highlighting what I sincerely believe to be the root problem of nearly all our national woes, namely the overwhelming corporate dominance over, to the point of merging with, our government. It has simply been taken way too far.
It was bad enough during the Reagan/Bush era, but under Bush the lesser, the keys to the store have been given away, lock, stock, and barrel. They write the laws, they own the legislators, they reap the profits, they dictate their own taxes, and on and on and on.
It's amounted to a wholesale looting of the country's treasury based on the horribly flawed idea that government should be starved to death, and who better to bleed it dry than corporations? If government no longer has any money, it can't finance any regulations or social programs, and will be limited to massive defense spending and support of business, which is just as they want.
So I've always admired Edwards for his recognition that the gap between the very poor and very wealthy is growing at an alarming rate and already stands at the greatest level since the pre-depression era '20's and that, along with the other ills of rampant corporatism such as the corruption of our political system, is a crucial issue to the future of our very democracy. But I still held an open mind about Clinton.
The press, in their supremely aggravating pack mentality and need to create a pleasing story line to make the campaigns more "interesting", demand conflict, whining if they don't get it, or trying mightily to inflating minor differences into huge eruptions, describing the mildest comments of one candidate towards another as "angry outburst"s or "the claws came out" or similar goofiness, instantly changing their stories on a dime if the pack narrative changes, and otherwise treat this momentous process as if it's some student body election complete with snarky quips about clothing and other ridiculous distractions.
Like so some group of jerks in junior high trying to get the two most popular kids to fight each other, they tried to gin up some big conflict between Obama and Clinton, then raise up en mass to DEMAND for an entire week that Obama come out and hit Clinton HARD. They demanded that their fight, damn it.
Edwards had already been thumping Clinton very well, but they barely took notice. They wanted Obama and Hillary to get into it, the nastier the better, though they stood ready to inflate even the slightest hint of conflict into a huge event.
But it was when the press pack all simultaneously decided around a week ago that the primary was already over and declared that Clinton was simply unbeatable, that I began taking a dimmer view of Clinton myself. (Of course, they instantly changed their story after the recent debate, now Clinton was on the ropes and it was the race of the century.)
Maybe it's my affinity for underdogs, I don't know. But I know I wouldn't like any of the candidates to cinch up the race anywhere near this early. It was that prospect that perhaps forced the thought of Clinton actually being the nominee into focus, and I found myself not really comfortable with it at all.
The day after the recent debate, Edwards gave an appearance that got pretty wide coverage, especially a few facts he listed about Hillary and her campaign.
He noted that Clinton had accepted more money from lobbyists than any other candidate from either party. He also noted that she'd received far more money from defense contractor employees than any other candidate of either party as this piece on Huffington post details.
I don't think I can support such a candidate. The entire economy of this country has been turned into a snake eating it's own tail, with tax dollars being funneled by the billions to defense companies to the point where our entire national manufacturing base is the production and development of weapons of destruction and death.
That is NOT what this country needs at this moment, a president who will fudge around the edges and pretend to be changing course while essentially changing nothing.
It will take a strong and determined leader who will work hard and determinedly to fight to change the very profitable system that's been erected in the bargain between corporations and politicians over the decades. And that requires one who's ascension to the White House wasn't paid for by those very interests.
While radical change isn't sound, neither is someone who only represents a little change around the edges, and I'm more convinced than ever that Clinton will represent little or no fundamental change at all.
But what about Obama?
I'm almost surprised to admit that Obama is leaving me flat.
I like him and admire him. I found his candidacy inspiring. But since the campaign has started to gel, as much as I regret to admit it, he simply strikes me as someone not yet suited to either the campaign, or the presidency.
He's far too hesitant, too unsure, too uncomfortable, and though I dismissed initial accusations that he was too green to run in favor of at least seeing what he could do, I have been led to the conclusion that he indeed is simply not hardened enough to get the job done.
His ability to connect with voters and the public appears to be waning, not getting stronger, and he suffers from the same sort of cerebral disconnect that afflicted John Kerry.
Obama is clearly brilliant, and a very attractive candidate. His buzz has translated into a ton of money, which pundits and insiders regard as the same as actual skill, but his leadership ability is wanting.
I don't think his time is now, neither as a presidential candidate nor president.
If Clinton is indeed the Democratic nominee, she'll have my support, as she's vastly superior to any of the truly out-there Republicans.
But I'm hoping that instead, John Edwards emerges as the next Democratic presidential candidate, and next President of the United States.
As Edwards puts it in his latest ad:
"If you are looking for heroes, don't look to me, don't look to Elizabeth. We have support, we have health care, we have the American people behind us. Look to them; they are the ones that we speak for. They are the ones that we stand up for. And Elizabeth and I decided in the quiet of a hospital room, after 12 hours of tests and after getting very bad news, what we were going to spend our lives doing. For all those that have no voice. We are not going to quietly go away. Instead we are going to go out and fight for what it is we believe in. It is time for our party, the Democratic Party, to show a little backbone, to have a little guts. Stand up for working men and women. If we are not their voice, they will never have a voice.”
I agree. Edwards is my guy.... as of now.