In the current issue of the New Yorker George Packer writes that “to Clinton, the Presidency is more about achieving goals than about transforming society.” Achieving goals is, of course, important and some would even say that transforming society is too lofty and naive an ambition.
Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic compellingly distills the arguments:
If you believe that America’s current crisis is not a deep one, if you think that pragmatism alone will be enough to navigate a world on the verge of even more religious warfare, if you believe that today’s ideological polarization is not dangerous, and that what appears dark today is an illusion fostered by the lingering trauma of the Bush presidency, then the argument for Obama is not that strong. Clinton will do.
But if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes. Sometimes, when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution.
This, as we are painfully aware, shouldn’t be our main concern, primarily because our most basic decision on how to best articulate our values in November shouldn’t be given to Republicans and independents. But we would be remiss in ignoring it entirely, particularly when it is on the side of a progressive candidate. Two very good reasons to consider electability this year are:
1. Hillary Clinton comes to this campaign with a lot of baggage. Some, but not all, is overblown; however, there is a very large segment of the population who are very strongly motivated to forestall the return of the Clinton family to the WH. This group includes not just Republicans but significant numbers of independents and even Democrats. This is an obstacle for us not only in the presidential race but most especially in the down-ticket races in states where “values” voters are in the majority. It’s difficult enough for Democrats in these states to appeal to independents without the added weight of a very unpopular (in their state) candidate at the top of the ballot.
2. Obama has brought into the process a huge number of enthusiastic supporters particularly new young voters. Obama represents for them a break from the past. Leaving this new and surprisingly robust constituency at the door would be a major setback for the continued growth of our party.
I think Barack is the better advocate for a single-payer plan. He has said that he would support this but is concerned that the country would not. The alternative to this is universal coverage through the current insurers. Although effective on the health care level this would be an extremely costly and wasteful program. It might break the entitlement bank and would be a huge coup for the insurance industry, millions of new government subsidized high cost insurance policies. No wonder Clinton has the support of the health insurance lobby. With pressure from below, Obama’s slightly open door can be fully opened to the vastly superior single-payer plan. (More on his listening abilities below.)
Sen. Clinton voted for what is the most catastrophic foreign policy adventure in our nation’s history. She does not regret her vote. Hundreds of thousands of less “knowledgeable” and “experienced” people, knowing full well what that vote meant, went into the streets and jammed congressional phone lines in protest. We were right and she was wrong. Her support for Kyl-Lieberman and her standing to applaud, unlike many in her caucus, Bush’s SOU line about having al Qaeda on the run in Iraq shows that she is clearly not on the side of progressives on this issue.
Barack Obama like the rest of the Democratic caucus has been far too timid to confront the Republican framing of the war as support for the troops. But there is ample evidence that he is to the left of her positions on the use of military force. He has made strong statements of opposition to the war before and during his time in the Senate. The only exception of this is a statement he made in defense of John Kerry during the 2004 campaign. As I see it, he minimized, here, the significance of Kerry’s vote, not wanting, out of overly zealous loyalty, to throw him under the bus. More experience would have tought him to spin the reporter’s question more adroitly.
Moreover, there is no question that a president with Obama’s ethnic and international background would have far reaching positive effects on how our country is viewed by the rest of the world.
The most important reason I will vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday (and I hope in November) is that he is a good listener. His background as a community organizer has surely helped in that regard. To those of us who believe strongly in a bottom-up process, this should be the most attractive quality in a candidate . Accountability for us is at the heart of our agenda and is central to the democratic process. I firmly believe that our agenda is sustainable only if it is “of the people”. An example of how Obama understands this is how he has impressed environmental leaders in the evolution of his position on coal gasification, an important technology for many of his constituents in Illinois and yet potentially a major contributor of green-house gases. Through dialogue, his position, including voting record, has become much more in line with that of environmentalists.
Chris Dodd was very frank recently when he said that the reason that he has dared to defy the leadership in the Senate with regard to telecom immunity is the flood of emails and phone calls of pressure and support. This is democracy in action. These are our leaders, and we citizens must have a hand in the evolution of their positions and even in their growth as leaders. I will enthusiastically vote for Barack Obama for President because I believe he has the ear to become a great one.