Current Affairs

Obama the candidate

OK, well maybe I will find myself writing about politics more over the next couple months anyway. I’m a Obama supporter. Why Obama and not Clinton? Difficult question. I find their policies to be largely the same. I am somewhat surprised by the ferocity with which others cling to their candidate. The difference seems to be one of ethos and perhaps pathos: they have attracted support from different demographics within the Democratic party. That we know. We also know that Obama has attracted independents and brought out new voters.

I find it curious that 1/4 of Clinton supporters say they will vote McCain rather than Obama, while Obama attracts independents. But this is the sad irony of Clinton’s campaign: a woman who would be, and has been, labeled an arch-liberal by her opponents has found success through the support of the social conservative wing of the Democratic party.

And who knew that democrats were so conservative? Well, only everyone living outside the US.

What leads Clinton supporters to be such opponents of Obama? Would they really prefer McCain even though Obama’s platform is nearly indistinguishable from Clinton’s. I can understand the electability argument. I don’t know that I agree; those things are hard to predict. But when you say you’ll vote for McCain or not vote, aren’t you just making the electablity argument into a self-fulfilling (and self-defeating) prophecy?

So it’s not about the issues, and it’s not about electablity, at least not for all Clinton supporters. So what could it be? What is it that Clinton and McCain have in common that makes them different from Obama? (rhetorical question)

From my perspective, if it had gone the other way, I’d have been happy to vote for Hillary. I’m hoping in the end the Dems can get their act together. I’m not sure why Clinton isn’t moving in that direction. I trust her to be a shrewd politician but also to not be so self-interested as to damage her party. In the end I think she could bring her supporters behind Obama. Maybe she’s smart in recognizing that after such a long fight, she might damage her relationship with her supporters and weaken her ability to bring them into the fold in November if she folded quickly now.

I appreciated Obama’s speech last night. I think we’ve come a long way in the last 15 years (sadly because things have gotten so much worse), that a candidate can speak openly about universal health care, greening the economy, and supporting education, K-20. I admire his belief that we can come together. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the only way we come together is if the working class sees voting for Obama as the clear option for voting for their pocketbooks. Because if they vote on their values, they’ll likely not vote for him in large numbers. The same thing would be true to some extent for any Dem, but I think especially for Obama.

McCain’s strategy has to be the classic Republican strategy, which has clearly worked quite well in the last 28 years.

  • appeal to conservative values
  • stir up xenophobia mixed with nationalism
  • obfuscate economic issues and raise the taxation/big govt specter
  • ad hominem attacks

I suspect that this argument will work as well as it every has. Dems win on the following conditions:

  • voters punish Republicans for war
  • new voters come out for Obama
  • voters see Obama as better economic option

To me the sad thing is that I don’t see any of the things that excite me about Obama’s speech as really inspiring the average American voter. I admire his conviction that our nation needs to change. That we need to change the way we conduct ourselves internationally. That we need to reinvent our economy around sustainable alternatives. That investment in human capital through health care and education is a sound investment (it makes sense for families and for us as a nation).