Thursday, June 05, 2008

Too Lame Even for Bullets

Although this probably should be an RBOC post, as I promise you, I shall ramble from topic to topic. And yet, I can't organize my thoughts into bullet points. And so, well, there you are.

So the first thing I suppose is that I am collapsing under the weight of the summer teaching. My classes are going along fine, and the students are working hard and everything, but I'm just done. Only three more weeks to go, Thank God, but Gooooddddd. How I'm going to make it through these three weeks I do not know.

In other news, I've embraced my foolishness and am feeling much less disgruntled than I was a couple of days ago. There was a lot of thinking, a lot of taking long, hard looks at myself, and I think I've come to a semblance of calm related to those things that were causing me disquiet. Nothing's resolved, obviously, but I am feeling like some good things were hashed out (both with myself and with another party), and so even though I'm most certainly foolish, I feel as if this is not the worst thing in the world to be for the time being. And I do have some semblance of a path forward plotted out, which does make me feel much better about things in general.

So I suppose now I should turn to politics. First, let me say that when I voted in my primary, I voted for Clinton. That being said, come November, barring something truly unfortunate, I'll vote for Obama. But. I (like many in my state and in other states that people like to dismiss as racist) do feel like I don't really know Obama as a candidate (which is what I said in a lengthy conversation I had with an Obama canvasser prior to my primary). And I'm probably better informed about him than most of the people who claim that they don't know him, but still, I feel like I don't really know him. In all of the conversations about how blue-collar voters and women of a certain age don't respond to him, I don't think that enough attention is paid to why voters of those persuasions might be turned off. So, let me make some wild generalizations based on my conversations with my mom (a lifelong democrat), my stepdad (an immigrant who's independent), and a hometown friend (a lifelong republican who wanted to vote for Clinton in a general election). Here's what I see. I think the people who don't "know" Obama feel like the whole "change" message is a lot of hooey without a whole lot of substance behind it. Yes, lots of people have responded to it. But I think the people who he's not reaching want to hear more from him about what *specific* changes he plans on making and *how.* That's not because they're racist, necessarily, although maybe some are, but rather because they ultimately feel like a guy who was educated at Columbia and Harvard, who is a lawyer (and we all know about lawyers) and who has been in the legislature (and you can't trust anybody in government), isn't all that different from any other person who's been on a ticket. Why should we believe he means "change"? Now, you might say that Hillary Clinton fits the same profile. Indeed, she does. BUT, I think if many gravitated to Clinton they did so based on the "Better the Devil You Know" principle. Sure, she's politics as usual, but we've known her for years, and we know (we think) that she cares about working people and women. I'm not saying Obama doesn't, but I don't see him showing - in all of the boring and simple ways that somebody like my mom wants to be shown - how he does, and how his "change" stuff is part of *her* daily life. So if Obama wants to reach the skeptics out there, who don't give a shit for a rhetoric of change, then he's got to start delivering them some meat and *paying attention to them.* (In other words, he needs to show up and really talk to people in places like Kentucky and West Virginia and South Dakota and Florida and wherever else people don't feel like he's given them any time. He's got the money. He needs to do it, and not just assume that those states won't go his way.) When people say they don't know him, that's what they're asking for. In my humble opinion.

That said, I saw part of an interview with him today on CNN where I did feel like he was speaking that language a bit more. Perhaps as things shake out in the next few months, there'll be less about "change" and "uniting" the country and more about nuts and bolts. NOT that the change and uniting thing should be thrown out by any means, but if he's interested in getting those voters, who are working class, or women, or whatever, and in getting some voters away from McCain, the nuts and bolts stuff needs to come to the fore a bit more. Enough that this is what the media covers about what Obama is doing, at least in part. Actually, the town hall thing suggested by McCain might help with this, although I agree with the pundits that Obama can't let McCain dictate how the campaign moves forward, and that he needs to start setting his own agenda more (this is where the nuts and bolts become paramount, I think). In sum, I think that he needs to stop appealing to our desire for a messiah and start appealing to our desire for a leader. And no, those two things are not identical.

I think he has it in him. I want him to have it in him. And I also would love it if he chose a woman to be his running mate, though not necessarily Clinton. I've been bothered by the fact that in all of the Veep projections that it's Clinton or a range of white dudes plus Richardson. Lots of women might be great, and women do make up half of our population. I'd like to see a better mix in the projecting, if only to show me that Clinton is not a Geraldine-Ferraro-esque token. If Clinton is a Geraldine-Ferraro-esque token, then that means that we've got another 20 years to wait for another "viable" woman candidate. And yes, that puts my panties in a bunch.

That said, the people who are saying that they'd vote for McCain in protest against Clinton not being nominated... my mother included and my friend from hometown included... well, they're idiots. I've explained to my mom why this is idiotic, and to my friend why this is idiotic, but I don't know whether I can convince them on my own. This is why I want Obama to start speaking to them. They're both in Ohio, people. Their votes matter, for real.

Hmmm. What else? I'm not sure that there is much else. During the whole long-hard-look-at-myself phase of the past couple of days I watched both Georgia Rule and The Memory-Keeper's Daughter. This first indicates that I gravitate toward garbage when in times of introspection. Second, though, I did enjoy both. I do love me some Lindsay Lohan, even in a crap movie, and that Emma Watson? AWESOME, even in a made-for-Lifetime-movie.

Yes, I do believe that is all.


Anastasia said...

this is so spot on, my friend. the bit about Obama, that is.

Ivory said...

If you want to know Obama, read his books. His first describes the formation of his racial identity and some of the work he did in Chicago as a community organizer. The second is in essence a policy summary. It's short on the how of implementation but long on specifics about what he thinks about a whole range of policy issues and why. I think it's the most moving piece of political literature I've ever read. Helps that I agree with him on most things I suppose.

You can also go to his website and read up on his platform. His e-mail list is less of a win, mostly just requests for money. But what's fascinating about his campaign is his use of the web and e-mail to communicate with folks interested in his campaign. This will be someone's graduate thesis someday.

I was initially skeptical of Obama and did not vote for him but after reading his books, I feel that I know him better than any person I've ever voted for. I also read Hillary Clinton's autobiography which was less illuminating and some truly trite children's books about how both candidates grew up and got to be in the place they are.

In the end, there were some things that turned me off to Clinton. The first was that my sister was a congressional intern and the thought of him getting anywhere near her scared me to death. I don't care what anyone says - he used Monica L and abused his power doing so. As "first husband" he would be back in position to do that all over again. Gives me the chills. Thing two was that Republicans have so much dirt to fling at Hillary and I think they were hoping to have her run as it gave them a better chance of winning. Third, and this is minor, I think Hillary would do more good for women and the world in general on the supreme court than she would ever do as president or VP. If I were Obama, I would not have her as VP. But I would tell her that if an opening became available, she would be my first choice for a justice (and then pray that someone steps down).

I think you're right about Obama needing to reach out and I think he's doing that. But I highly recommend his books if you really want to know what he thinks about things.

Annette said...

I voted for Clinton in the primary, too, but I like Obama. I really liked The Audacity of Hope, and it seems like every time I watch an interview with him, I'm impressed with what he says.

I also have several family members who have pledged to vote for McCain now that Clinton is out of the race. Ugh. It makes no sense. I hope I can convince them otherwise (though we are in Texas, which is sure to go to McCain anyway.)

Comet Jo said...

Hi Crazy,

I’m mostly a lurker (though I’ve commented once or twice before, a while ago)—but this seemed like a good time to “come out” again. First off, I’m an Obama supporter. For a long time I couldn’t decide between him and Clinton, but at some point after New Hampshire (where I was glad it wasn’t all over, because I wasn’t ready for that) I decided I really did trust Obama to be what he claimed to be.

From my perspective, the thing about the whole Obama-as-elitist-Clinton-as-populist thing is how divorced from reality it seems. Growing up biracial in Hawaii and Indonesia means he’s spent a lot more time on the margins of American society than Clinton ever has, though its true she came of age at a time when women where much more marginalized than they are now. (Now, as the misogyny directed against Clinton suggests, women are still hated, but I think not so marginalized). He’s the one, after all, who went to a middling school for two years before he transferred to Columbia. (For a good summary of his life see his Wikipedia entry—a little shorter than the bio for those with summer classes.) He also spent his time in the Illinois Senate doing a lot of pragmatic, useful things for poor and working class people.

You realize this obviously, but a lot of people don’t seem to, and one of the reason a lot of Obama supporters are angry at Clinton, is that she worked so hard to make the “elitist” charge stick to Obama in ways that seem likely to benefit Republicans in the fall. That and the fact that her case for being selected for the last month or so has depended on the idea that her supporters would otherwise vote for McCain—they aren’t stupid, they can see that, and a lot of them might depending on how much and how well she works to convince them otherwise now.

As for the whole “change” thing and what it might mean—one aspect of what it means to me, is not fighting on Republican turf. This seems to be something that neither Clinton can see, the long term problems created by beating people at their own game. It ranges from welfare “reform” to Clinton’s war vote, and her attacks on the “latte” crowd. I see Obama as trying to move beyond that, for example by his rejection of the notion that talking to leaders we disagree with is a form of weakness.

Anyway, I thought I would try to respond in as thoughtful a manner as I could, because you presented your worries about Obama in a way that seemed genuinely thoughtful (plus they came from someone who’s opinions I respect on a lot of stuff).

On other matters: I find it really hard to imagine summer teaching. I have bills/debts that could be retired more quickly that way, but even though I like teaching I am really ready to take a break by the end of spring semester (actually, ready to collapse is a better description). Good luck with the next few weeks!

Chris said...

I realize that some believe Obama is false, empty words, with 'messianic' pretensions, but there's no constructive, productive way around that criticism. It just annoys people to see 20 thousand adoring people cheering for Obama in a stadium. Let's face it-- and it is quite understandable-- that people who don't support Obama would think he's a demagogue because of the response he gets from massive crowds. It's human nature. I would feel that way if I were not a supporter. (I will refrain from speaking about what it is like to be in those crowds, lest readers here think I'm simply trying to proselytize here, or self-indulging).

I think it is ironic, that Obama supporters like me, who are urban or suburban ultra liberal freaky freaks (sorry for using technical language here), have been thrown in with African American voters and pitted against Working Class Democrats and Latinos. There's white racism in this race, there's African American and Latino racism as well (toward each other), and there's classism (me insulting Working Dems for being racist ignoramuses). We got all the -isms going on people!

I live in Dallas, and there's a history of political rivalry between Latinos and African Americans in local politics. And in general, most Mexican-Americans by and large do not relate to the traditions invoked by Obama supporters and by his campaign: King and RFK for example. Maybe the Chicano activists do, but not most Mexican-Americans. Obama is particularly opaque to those voters.

Comet Jo said...

Didn't see it, but it sounds like Clinton gave a great speech today. Probably neither you nor Obama can convince your mom and your friend from hometown to vote for Obama, but she might be able to.