straight talk and goodbyes
by Petey, Wed Apr 02, 2008 at 06:55:43 AM EDT
You might think the following analysis is not constructive. But I really think it needs to be said. Because much of the continuing vitriol among Democrats comes from a reluctance to face a stubborn truth.
The central rationales for the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are fundamentally incompatible. At the close of this extraordinary change election, certain progressive voices will suffer some degree of disempowerment.
The main idea behind a Clinton presidency is her win-at-all-cost nature. While her supporters may not phrase it exactly this way, they deeply trust her doggedness and her presumed ability to get things done one way or another. During this campaign her supporters have found comfort in precisely what disturbs Obama supporters: her steadily shifting strategies, messages, personas, etc - political proclivities that many see as necessary for passing a progressive agenda.
Meanwhile, an Obama presidency would represent the ushering in of a new kind of politics and a transformed cultural public sphere. Detractors portray him as a self-aggrandizing, empty-suited snake-oil salesman because of his soaring rhetoric, his frank conciliatory charm, and his Teflonish countenance - some of the very qualities that his supporters believe give him the best chance of passing a progressive agenda, as well as our best opportunity to move past the intractable bickering and partisan gridlock of the past few decades.
So, presumably, we're choosing either an expert at old politics or a visionary leading us toward something brand new. But as huge as these differences are, there's an even more important reason for today's astonishing level of fear and anger among the faithful.
I know many are dismissive of Barack's promise to redraw political maps and forge new coalitions, but, if he is at all successful in manifesting his vision of political/cultural change, some progressives will, without question, get left out in the cold. This is the dirty little truth we don't want to talk about. While his positions are generally liberal, those who have studied him carefully know that he really wants to move us away from our habitual left/right split toward a more relevant dichotomy for today's world: absolutism versus humanism. The losers in Obamaland will be the absolutists. Political and cultural warriors from both the left and the right will discover much in common when they attempt to wage old-style battles in a new environment that wants to treat them like irrelevant dinosaurs.
Many of us whose very identities have been fashioned by the good-versus-evil battles of the past few decades will adapt to the new realities on the ground - for that is part of the leadership Barack offers. But some of the more hardcore warriors, whose worldviews, like Reverend Wright's, have become static, will justifiably feel homeless as new coalitions proceed without them. Dedicated cultural and radical feminists, for example - those demanding that we never forget the oppressions of the patriarchy - are already, in the course of this campaign, fighting for relevancy against mostly younger post-feminists who no longer see the world in such stark terms.
And if Hillary somehow manages to become president? Those who hitched a ride on Obama's dream - the emerging front line of post-warriors - will experience a rather profound hopelessness. Like someone burned by love, they had been slow to allow themselves to hope again. After getting a taste of the dream, it would be awfully hard to jump back into politics as usual as if nothing had happened.
One way or another, this is a time of real change. A time for serious reevaluations of alliances and philosophies. The question, of course (for those whose main interest is making sure the Democratic Party retakes the White House) is which nominee would prompt the most deserters in November. It could be argued that Obama's supporters ought to more easily re-embrace the politics of old, since the dream is still new and ephemeral. My guess, however, is that Hillary would have more trouble holding on to the wave of newly motivated voters.
The good news is that the number of deserters will be pretty much limited to those who have cranked up their emotional investment, and vocalized their determination in places like this site. The vast majority of the electorate will find itself much more fluid and open-minded. After the dust settles, after all the realignments, this is still a year for Democrats.
But it's important to acknowledge that some will inevitably feel left out. We shouldn't pretend we will all come back together. The times they are a changing. Desperate attempts to preserve all the old alliances may be short-sighted. Maybe it's okay to recognize, and perhaps even respect, our new divergences. If we can discuss these core differences openly and honestly, we might start to see a bit less vitriol emerging out of the daily grievances that are blown out of proportion by our deeper underlying fears.
[note -- after posting this on Daily Kos I thought it might be instructive to cross-post it here]