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Gently Lowering Expectations

hypnot's picture

Maybe it's time for another attempt to refocus the shrillness.

The primaries are almost over. John McCain has the majority of Republican delegates, and Barack Obama continues to lead in Democratic delegates, approaching a majority while Hillary Clinton runs a close second (CNN's horserace).

The party conventions will assemble and count the delegates and make the nominations official, but the primaries--however questionable their claims to democracy--are where most candidates have become losers. The primaries and caucuses have been distorted by money, insiderism, and media favoritism, but they are still the voters' only vehicle for direct expression of their will before the conventions. The voters will not be consulted again until the general election.

As the general election approaches, George W. Bush's thoroughly shameful performance during two disastrous terms in office places the Republicans at a disadvantage from the national level on down. Anyone affiliated with the Republican Party should have copious explaining to do. On an even playing field, any Democratic candidate, from the school board up to the presidency, should be choosing among a wide array of arguments that will hobble and defeat Republicans.

With such a grim outlook based the issues, the Republicans take some solace in the dilemma of the Democrats, who now must choose between a woman and an African American. The Republicans, who define their allies and adversaries in terms of identity politics (aka particularism ), believe that their traditional prejudices are a pragmatic key to the Democratic contest: Whenever the Democrats finish tearing one another apart and settle on a candidate, that candidate will represent one aggrieved identity group that achieved victory at the bitterly resented expense of another. The Democrats do not have to behave according to Republican perceptions, but the tendencies are already in motion.

A divided Democratic Party fits with the long- and short-term interests of the Republicans, whether they are optimistic or pessimistic. McCain will be much stronger against a candidate backed by only half of the Democratic Party. If the damage is great enough--if the wedge can be driven deep enough--a split Democratic Party will conduct such a poor campaign that the Republicans will manage steal or even win the election. If the Democrats win in spite of deep divisions, the Republicans will work to exacerbate them and ensure that that Democrats are unable to muster a reliable legislative majority.

The contest has been close, and often it has been both petty and bitter. The candidates--and especially their supporters--have been less than elegant in their campaigning. Both factions have participated in the quadrennial electoral ritual, opening with position statements and professions of high ideals and then descending into more strident arguments over less significant issues—often in response to prodding from media who bear a closer resemblance to the Signifying Monkey than to Edward R. Murrow. In the end, the Democrats will have to say no to the woman or no to the African American. That rejection will be familiar and offensive to women or to African Americans (and other minorities). Both populations have faced similar rejections throughout their histories in America, and they have felt the influence of prejudice in the selection process. About half of the Democrats will be disappointed. Many of these will be angry. The Republicans will work to increase the disappointment and anger, and the Democrats, led by the winner, will have to bind the wounds and unify and motivate the party. If readers of this blog want to see the Republicans defeated, they will have to overcome their aversion to Unity.

The contest between Clinton and Obama has often deteriorated to the personal level. As a party, the Democrats have no business considering either candidate as unqualified. If they lack faith in the individual, they should take heart from the resources offered by the party, which is able to supply the candidate it selects with a wide range of qualified, experienced advisers who subscribe to the party platform. Obama's and Clinton's positions are mostly similar, which may explain why personal issues have become prominent in distinguishing between them.

Both candidates have disappointed Democrats who were hoping for more radical positions, but both have been constrained to present themselves as committed Democrats who do not make voters uneasy with proposals that stray too far from the status quo. Both talk about change, but the changes that they propose are incremental, not revolutionary--a conservatism encouraged by the national political climate and the perception that election of an African American or a woman would constitute revolutionary change all by itself.

Clinton's unwillingness to repudiate her vote to authorize the U.S. attack on Iraq likely stems from the correct calculation that the Republicans would pounce on such a change of opinion as indecisive and soft on security. Obama has had to prove that he is young, but experienced, and black, but not too. That Clinton and Obama would modulate their positions, statements, and behavior to counter stereotypical reservations about women and African Americans has limited the quality of the debate and the range of their proposals, but it represents recognition of political reality: the insecurities of the electorate and the propensities of Republican operatives.

Once the Democrats have decided on their nominee, we will hear even more attempts to inspire the majority of us voters with calls to hope, unity, and change. The time for considering radical, interesting policy proposals will be split between the past (when the wider fields of candidates were vying for leadership) and the future (after the general election, when the new administration and the new Congress will confront the Bush legacy). I hope (can't help myself) that Democrats--and anyone else who cares about the future beyond the next quarter's profits--will not be so angry, disappointed, or apathetic that they do not recognize that even without radical change, their party is always better for the country, even the ungrateful, shortsighted rich. Many of us won't have the candidate or the policies that we would have preferred, but the fundamental difference between the two parties remains: Both claim to be better for everybody, but the Democrats actually believe it.

I have been disappointed by both candidates, but I'm not suicidal yet.

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Comments

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

the Obama campaign is now getting their $4.00 an hour trolls to show up here and lecture us about the need for Unity.

If you wanted unity, you should have been screaming bloody murder when the Obama campaign decided it was okay to paint Bill and Hillary Clinton as racists.

The fact is that I think that McCain is a much safer choice for this nation than Obama.

And if we are going to have a disasterous four years because of people like you tolerated the race boating of the Clintons, at least if McCain is president, there will be a democrat in the white house in 2013.

Submitted by cg.eye on

1. Signifying Monkey.
2. Negroes were conflated with apes by racists.
3. He's calling Obama a --

No, no, the commenter's calling for unity, so why would he/she throw racist or Negro folkloric imagery about, since we're Post Racial, now....

Better to unpack the Naughty Bits.

"I hope (can’t help myself) that Democrats—and anyone else who cares about the future beyond the next quarter’s profits—will not be so angry, disappointed, or apathetic that they do not recognize that even without radical change, their party is always better for the country, even the ungrateful, shortsighted rich."

A party when it has been hijacked by the funders of the other party no longer has its previous identity. Salt into water is no longer fresh water. Also, the problem is that one candidate has proposed one program that would really help the process of party distinctiveness along. Unfortunately, the other candidate believes that only the shortsighted rich should get affordable healthcare, since the poor will opt out of a non-universal system whose premiums would be higher because not everyone is in the risk pool.

"Many of us won’t have the candidate or the policies that we would have preferred, but the fundamental difference between the two parties remains: Both claim to be better for everybody, but the Democrats actually believe it."

What the Democrats in power actually believe has been the focus of this blog while other blogs have focused on the quality of Mrs. Clinton's tears, utterances and hidden messages. Yes, Obama's semiotics, too, but we're trying to see where the wind blows, before we get mown down.

"I have been disappointed by both candidates, but I’m not suicidal yet."

Neither are we. Sorry to disappoint.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

n. The knee-jerk belief or pretense that -- in spite of all evidence to the contrary -- things are even-steven.

More on this later....

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

So if that's what you mean by united, we are. But if your point is that I have to run into Obama's arms simply because he is not McCain, then no sale. Bob Barr isn't McCain either, but I'm not voting for him. Neither is Ralph Nader, but I'm not voting for him.

You see after the RFK crap, Obama is going to have to convince me that voting for him isn't going to violate every one of my principles. I was already choking on the race baiting and leveraging of misogyny, but what he did with the media over the weekend is everything I loath about Republicans and is what I believe is destroying our country. And before I get lectured on how awful McCain is, I completely agree, which is why I'm not going to vote for McCain, as I said. But right now I'd pretty much have to abandon everything I think is important and worth fighting for to pull that lever for Obama and I'm not going to do that. Of course, he could convince me that I don't have to, but he's going to have to do that or he isn't getting my vote. And I say that as someone who has voted for every democratic candidate for every office except as I recall one in the last 20 years. I'm not the take my ball and go home kind. I'm the pull the (D) no matter what kind except apparently Obama has discovered that even this yellow dog has limits. Given some of the assholes I've held my nose and voted for that is saying something.

And to think I started out this campaign season saying I'd be happy with any of them.

So the Green Party - a complete joke or capable of getting its act together before I'm dead in 40-50 years (if I'm lucky enough to live that long)? At least they support single payer healthcare.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

To putting a real Democrat in the White House at least from 2012 on (Plan B), who will fight for Democratic policies. I don't particularly care at this point who that is, but don't think that Obama is what I would call a real Democrat who will fight for Democratic policies. He is actually proud of the fact that he WON'T fight for Democratic policies but instead wants to "change politics" or some kind of ephemeral bullshit like that.

I would prefer a real Democrat in 2008, but that is looking unlikely, so I am now committed to Plan B. Plan B also includes a strong Congress which over the next 4 years will push a real Democratic agenda, including Univeral Health Care. In order for that to happen we need to jettison the weak, uh, ELEMENTS (that's the word!) who have so ineffectually occupied the leadership positions of each house of Congress. No matter the outcome of this primary, that I think could be the sole unifying force betweeen the PROgressive blogosphere and wing of the Democratic Party and the FAUXgressive blogosphere and wing of the Democratic Party (if such a diseased wing actually exists). The reasons will not be similar, but the outcome will be happily recieved by all.

Are you ready Pelosi and Reid? Ready to rumble? I wonder who you think has your back?

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Good night and good riddance!

dotcommodity's picture
Submitted by dotcommodity on

but now that I know Obama I completely disagree that they are similar in policies.

It is Obama and McCain who talk using Republican frames. They are a wash. Either Republican-lite Obama or McCain would be a danger.

But I think Obama has a zero chance to beat McCain anyway, so I see no further danger by taking this to the convention.

Hillary could not be more vilified in the media. Yet she is soaring above it in McCain matchups. It thrills me that a real Democrat standing up for our values as Democrats is beating either YOYO lite.

That is the change I seek. An FDR level realignment.

Imelda Blahnik's picture
Submitted by Imelda Blahnik on

You see after the RFK crap, Obama is going to have to convince me that voting for him isn’t going to violate every one of my principles. I was already choking on the race baiting and leveraging of misogyny, but what he did with the media over the weekend is everything I loath about Republicans and is what I believe is destroying our country.

Word. Wordy McWord Word. Thanks for that, BDBlue.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

How true this is. In fact, same as it ever was. Fuck lowering them, my expectations are low enough already. Limbo low. Lower than a snakes belly low. The lowest of all lows.

Herculow.

Why doesn't somebody come around here trying to RAISE expectations? I could really use that about now. Couldn't we all? Can't we agree to be unified in our desire to RAISE expectations? Obamanation could start with this: we were wrong, we aren't going to be a Unity Pony and already are planning the pits in Hell where we will throw the mangled carcasses of Bush Administration war criminals. We were wrong, our "health care plan" is a sleight of hand crock that we cooked up to bamboozle you, we will fight tooth and claw for a real Universal Health Care plan like Hillary's or Edwards and fire our Harold and Louise actors. We were wrong to smear Bill and Hillary as racists who wish were assasinated, that was David Axelrod's idea and he's fired. So is Jesse Jackson Jr. We were wrong to not want Hillary on the ticket, "Hillary, won't you be on the ticket, pretty please with a cherry on top? I'm sorry I'm an unworthy moron. If you don't want that, we will make sure Harry Reid steps aside for you publicly at the convention.". We were wrong to fight against seating Florida and Michigan, they get all their delegates. We agree, Howard Dean, Donna Brazille and Nancy Pelosi are ineffectual incompetents, who do you want to replace them? We were wrong to sit by while the MSM and our surrogates slashed you with their vile sexism. That has no place in our society and I will give no interviews to NBC or MSNBC until they publicly apologize to you.

That's a good place to start to raise my expectations.

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Good night and good riddance!

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Because it seems like they've been lowering mine since at least 2000. Every time I expect X, they come in at X-1. At this point, I no longer expect anything other than them to be barely better than Republicans. Granted, there are individual Democrats who are a lot better than Republicans, new Congresswomen Jackie Speier for example, but I'm talking about the party overall.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Forget the cinnamon, $4 can't even buy a decent half calf-decalf double cappucinno (light on the foam please, careful not to burn it now) with a twist anywhere I would be seen, dahling.

What self-respecting troll would work for less than a decent half calf-decalf double cappucinno with a twist (light on the foam please, careful not to burn it now)?

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Good night and good riddance!

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

exactly.

Our expectations started low.... and when we had to decide between Clinton and Obama, and chose Clinton, they got even lower.

And while I've become far more impressed by her over the past four months, my expectations for a Clinton presidency haven't been raised at all. If anything, in terms of accomplishing the agenda I'd like to see accomplished, they've been lowered -- not by her, but by everything but her.

but at the time I decided that Clinton was a better option than Obama, my expectations for Obama weren't so low that I couldn't vote for him.

Now they are. There is a point at which ones expectations for a candidate become so low that s/he cannot in good conscience be supported under any circumstances. Obama has gone well below that standard, and the only thing that he could do that would convince me that he is worthy of being President is to acknowledge that he has no business at this point being the Democratic nominee, or becoming our President, and withdraw from the race -- that would show me that he at least has a clue.... and would qualify him to serve as Clinton's vice President.

dupager's picture
Submitted by dupager on

Will never vote McSame, but will not cast the ballot for Barry. Fortunately, I live in Illinois, and Barry's gonna take it..

My evolutionary timeline from fervent Democrat to anti Barry nonvoter went something like this..

1. DEc 07. why the hell does Obama think he's qualified to be President?! He was just elected to the Senate and has done zilch so far except get Durbin all giggly.

2. crickets...

3. May 08.. ZOMG!! HILLARY CLINTON WANTS SOMEONE TO KKK*LL OBAMA!!

So I still don't know why the hell Obama thinks he's qualified to be president.. but i do have a strong intense feeling that Barry's Axel-ratchiks aren't at all liberal.

On the other hand, I suppose if they can fight this dirty and desperately against a leading Dem (and only a few months ago considered a Dem icon and a shoe in), maybe they will actually be able sling the slime against the republicans..

But the "x-1 rule" would indicate .. not so much..

dupager

elixir's picture
Submitted by elixir on

Isn't there some kind of an application, vetting process, flip of a coin? How does Hypnot's Sucky, pardon my Austronesian, post make it to the esteemed halls of the Mighty Corrente Building. Lambert...LAMBERT.... is anyone home?

Thumbnail review: I found the comments much more refreshing and instructive than the original post.

I love this job!

shystee's picture
Submitted by shystee on

Lambert, our esteemed janitor, is not always around but someone is always watching...

If you search the pea-green column under the Bloggers Against Theocracy insignia you should see a red-brown link called "my blog". Click on that.

Your post may have to be approved before it appears on the front page.

And remember our informal guideline: be reality based. Post quotes and links to reputable sources. If you're confused, look to posts by Lambert and Senior Fellows as examples.

orionATL's picture
Submitted by orionATL on

like insurance agents

they wait until the house has burned down to come around and ask if they can help.

i never thought much of that way of gaining influence.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

That is a double espresso where one shot is caffeinated, the other shot decaffienated. In the pantheon of coffee orders it is close to the quintessence of bullshit. Like, come on the fuck get over yourself.

And then you add the cinnamon and reach the apex (or nadir).

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Good night and good riddance!

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

be Half Caff-Decaff, Not calf(part of the leg or a baby cow).

Bill Clinton for First Dude!!!

tas's picture
Submitted by tas on

the Obama campaign is now getting their $4.00 an hour trolls to show up here and lecture us about the need for Unity

You know Paul, when I look up "fucking asshole" in the dictionary, I see a picture of you. I wonder why.

Go have fun voting for McCain, you wingnut fuckhole.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

And I think that someone is tas. Well, there goes an hours wages buddy.

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Good night and good riddance!

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

You know Paul, when I look up “fucking asshole” in the dictionary, I see a picture of you. I wonder why.

I keep insisting I'm a top, but they won't change the picture.

but seriously...

Obama supporters actually believe that Obama is capable of effecting positive change through creating unity.

Now, I have voted for a Democrat in every presidential election since 1972. And I've never, in all that time, said I wasn't going to vote for the Democratic nominee. And I started out this campaign as "anyone but Hillary"....and only chose her when it was just her and Obama to choose from because I thought she was more experienced and quailfied, and the country had too many problems to take a chance on someone like Obama. But I had every intention of voting for him, because I wasn't committed to Clinton, I just preferred her.

I'm not voting for President this year. I won't vote Republican, but I can't vote for Obama.

AND YOU ARE STILL DELUSIONAL ENOUGH TO THINK THAT OBAMA CAN ACHIEVE CHANGE THROUGH UNITY? WHEN HE'S LOST SOMEONE LIKE ME?!?!?!

How fucking stupid do you have to be to still think that Obama is capable of the stuff you thought he was capable of a couple of months ago WHEN THE EVIDENCE IS SMACKING YOU IN THE FACE.