The symbols, they are not your friends
There are reasons to prefer Clinton to Obama. There are easily arguable reasons to be angry that Clinton is not presently likely to be a Presidential candidate in the general election. You can even make a case for not voting for Barack Obama. You can make an even better case for not voting at all.
But there are a few moderately popular reasons for preferring Clinton to Obama that disturb me. A variant of one of these is present in this post at The Confluence.
One of the most die-hard of these right-wing frames is that liberals “hate America.” Why in the world would conservatives think that, we liberals wonder? We love America. We love America so much that we want her to have the best government possible. Can’t these idiotic conservative buttheads understand the difference between hating America and hating America’s government and policies?
Well, maybe they can’t. And maybe…it’s partially our fault, because we do things like this.
You see, we liberals don’t choose our symbols wisely. If we are upset with the government, we should not burn a flag. The flag is not Democratic, Republican or Rosicrucian. It is simply a symbol of America itself. Why would we burn a symbol of America…if we don’t hate America?
Now, who is the idiot - the one that draws simple conclusions from symbolic acts, or the one that doesn’t understand what conclusions will be drawn from these very same acts?
No one understands the power of framing and symbols better than Hillary Clinton, who was re-elected in 2006 with 67% of the popular vote. Senator Clinton took a lot of flak from self-professed “progressives” because she co-sponsored a bill to make it illegal, in certain circumstances, to burn the flag.
(And later: "Burning the flag is like burning the Constitution." Aren't limits on political expression---and deeds like flag-burning are political deeds---kind of like burning the Constitution? Even a little bit? In theory?)
I'm sure readers here can see that there's lots of objections to be made about that passage. If I had the energy, I could do a sentence-by-sentence deconstruction of it, but you'd all get bored, as would I. But I think that the objection that is most salient to Corrente readers is this:
If anything, the US cultural overvaluation of symbols is why the Reagan Revolution managed to stick.
Why would you celebrate a trait and praise Clinton for---let's face it---pandering like any politician to a characteristic that allows people to be classified by how much they're willing to suck up to the powerful? Because that's what flags ultimately represent: they are symbols of the state. And who presently owns the state?
That is one of the ways by which propaganda allows the Reagan Revolution to have such a lasting effect on American culture.
So why would you (as people regularly do in Confluence comments) blame Michelle Obama for having a "chip" on her shoulder? If truly love and loyalty for the symbols of the powerful is a characteristic of the working class, why would you celebrate that characteristic, and why would you hold Obama's associates to blame for what is by all reasonable lights a responsible reaction?
Yes, yes, national symbol, unifying (???) force, etc, etc, etc. After this campaign I've come to appreciate Hillary more than I used to (but that isn't saying much about US politicians), and I developed no particular love for Obama by comparison. But a flag-burning amendment is pandering, is tantamount to burning the Constitution in its best and most vulnerable parts, and is above all in the service of the right.
This part of PUMAism is by far the most obviously reactionary. It responds to a resentment of the working class by Whole Foods Nation with a celebration of exactly the things that Obama supporters might actually be right about, without contributing to a critique of the parts that are wrong.
While I occasionally like to throw cold water on the idea of Canada as USlib paradise, it's just this sort of thing that makes me glad I'm a Canuck. For all his faults, Pierre Trudeau was right about this one, historically right. I've lately inched over to the point where I am starting to appreciate the hereditary monarchy and their pop icon vice-regents. I'm mean, it's a horrifying anachronism and in terrible taste, but it serves its purpose.