Why I Would Vote for Barack Obama
By Steve Russell
If I got to vote at a time when it mattered, that is.
But I will not moan and groan about being cut out of the process. If we move to regional primaries, as has been suggested to avoid having small populations in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada winnow the field for us all, then we will give in to wholesale over retail politics. Nobody will be viable coming out of the chute who cannot raise tens of millions for media buys and very few deciders will see the candidates up close and personal let alone get to ask questions. The low dollar entry has so far given us stars like Huckabee on the GOP side and Carter on the Democratic side, but hope springs eternal.
Hope does not spring eternal for an anti-imperialist candidate. It has never happened and never will. Not Henry Wallace, not anybody. Anti-war, yes. Isolationist, yes. But nobody wants to be emperor to preside over the decline of the empire. Not even Mikhail Gorbachev intended that.
The issue is not who wants the empire to decline. The issue is what costs the candidate is willing to impose on us all to defend the empire. I personally would like to see a decline like England’s. Even the Soviet model of decline would be better than the Roman one.
The neo-cons set no limits on the cost of empire and they seem to equate it with survival. The Democrats generally will probably observe cost limits imposed by public opinion.
Given that they all want to preserve the empire, and I believe they all genuinely wish to be viewed by history as change agents, who will govern best? I think we have reason to know the answer.
Clinton has showed us twice. Long ago, she showed how she would go about reforming the health care system. She attempted to get the major players behind closed doors and bargain with them, buying off who couldn’t be persuaded. Essentially, she bought off big insurance and made the miscalculation that smaller insurance companies who were cut out of the deal could not matter. They little guys bought the Harry and Louise ads and the Clinton plan bought the farm.
During one of the early debates, she was asked how she would reform Social Security. Did she prefer to raise taxes or cut benefits? Nobody with a pulse knows of any other option. She would not answer because she wanted to get the major players behind closed doors and bargain without tipping her hand.
Sound familiar? The process is no different than Dick Cheney’s energy policy. Now, I have no doubt that the players behind those locked doors would differ in a Clinton administration from the players in a GOP administration. But that would be the process and that’s not leadership.
Obama comes out of the community organizing paradigm. His style is to state his opinions and open the floor to all comers for a long and public debate which might change his mind. Not everybody who speaks has to be a current player or have wonk credentials. It’s enough to be a stakeholder.
My attraction to Obama is more about process than policy. On health care, he admits that single payer would be a better deal, but thinks (maybe correctly, maybe not) that it’s not politically doable because there is so much investment in private insurance. Single payer would not only destroy the private health insurance business, it would do the same to malpractice insurance because we would no longer be using the tort system to pay for mistakes—the national health system would do so. It is not a small thing to pull up such deep financial commitments, no matter if you think it would be a good thing.
On single payer, he invites advocates to show it’s doable against the wishes of Harry and Louise. On Social Security, he would raise the ceiling on contributions, which amounts to a tax increase, and invites anybody who favors benefit cuts instead to sell the country.
Whether you agree with me or not on the merits, Obama’s chances do not look good against the Clinton machine. They have found their strength and his weakness, a way to play the race card without seeming racist. They will force him to run as “the black candidate,” something he has studiously avoided because “the black candidate” cannot win.
All that fakery about who is a racist in South Carolina Bill Clinton blames on Obama. Horseshit. That’s a Clinton production. Obama is not going to accuse anybody of racism because that takes him off his game.
Then there were Obama’s remarks about the Reagan revolution. What he said was correct. Reagan persuaded Democrats to vote against their own economic interests. The Republicans in fact have had all the new ideas since Reagan. Bill Clinton does not like to hear the truth, but his reign was a capitulation to the Reagan revolution, which was the whole point of his vehicle, the Democratic Leadership Council.
Government bad; big business good. Rehabilitation bad; incarceration and death penalty good. Individual welfare bad; corporate welfare good.
Obama wants to have a conversation with the American people in a way that produces Obama Republicans rather than Reagan Democrats. However, his insurgency is unlikely to survive being forced to wear blackface. I would vote for him if I got a chance.