Triangulation: The Next Generation
[Welcome, Crooks & Liars readers!]
Why is it that Barack Obama’s rhetoric sounds so strangely familiar?
Oh, I remember. There was this charming young fellow from Arkansas – what was the name of that town? Anyway, he had this awfully nice idea, about a “third way” alternative to right-left partisanship. I wonder what became of him and that darling wife of his....
Wait, yes, it’s all coming back to me. She's pursued that third-way agenda herself, in the Senate and in a run for the presidency.
And so has the man from Honolulu/Indonesia/The South Side. (If this path doesn’t lead to the White House, it certainly qualifies him for one of those “New Sanfrankota” ads.)
So, which of our frontrunners do I prefer? To use the essential word of Obama’s generation: whatever.
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Anyone who thinks post-partisanship is a good campaign strategy can take solace in the similarities between Barack’s and the Big Dog’s charisma-coated chatter. It’s a proven vote-getter.
And anyone who rued Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” should feel a little uneasy.
Though no one seems to have noticed, the Republican brand is now at a very low ebb.
It’s an extraordinary opportunity to rewrite the vocabulary of the national conversation. And yet, instead of reshaping the national dialogue, The Great Likable Hope is putting a coat of gloss on the rightwing’s prodigiously destructive framing.
I mean, sure, that’s a fine idea. Why else would the Beltway pundits and helpful Republicans always recommend it?
Choosing this moment to sing Kumbaya with the GOP reassures the growing post-Boomer population that there is no institutional problem with the Conservative Movement, that they haven’t been lied to about, well, everything: “family values,” “the war on terror,” “trickle-down,” “the death tax,” etc., etc.
Living under the sway of those narratives has been such a boon for America, it would be terribly rude to awaken us from the dream that says, at the very worst, Republicans are no guiltier than Democrats and that we have no reason to doubt their sincerity in helping heal the nation’s wounds. Or that there even are any wounds bigger than what you’d pick up in a food fight.
Suggestion: if you think our problems are properly characterized that way, you have my blessing to go play Guitar Hero the rest of the day and leave the discussion to people who have, I don't know, noticed anything that's happened the past fucking seven years.
Could someone please explain how non-partisanship — fighting the urge to fight — is a good defense against big, powerful, well-funded sociopaths?
Last I heard, that was called "taking a dive." And though honeyed talk might get you the gig, it ain't going to win any fights.
Now, of course the Obamaites will tell us: "Your days are just about over. Now that's a hard motherfuckin' fact of life. But it's a fact of life your ass is gonna hafta get realistic about. See this business is filled to the brim with unrealistic motherfuckers…. How many fights you think you got left in you anyway? Two? Boxers don't have an old timer's day. You came close, but you never made it, and if you were gonna make it, you woulda made it before now…. Night of the fight, you might feel a slight sting. That's pride fuckin' with you. Fuck pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. You fight through that shit."
That's basically the message, isn't it? Obama wants us to be his champions, but he doesn't want to be ours.
Remember us, the people who fought the conservatives in the 1960s and 1990s? Well fuck us. Fuck our pride, and fuck our fights against racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Fuck our defense of the separation of church and state.
Fuck everything that harshes the mellow.
'Cause it will all be worth it when some NASCAR dad thinks nice thoughts about Obama... before he punches the chad for whichever authoritarian daddy the elephants serve up in November.
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I've tried my best to preserve the fantasy that it's possible to push Obama into seizing the opportunity his mediagenic demeanor might hand him. But I suppose I shouldn't hold my breath.
Among other things, he's calculatedly disassociated himself from netroots, the progressive bloggers who have hammered away and – I think – helped break through the mainstream mythology about Iraq, FISA, and much more.
Whether the lack of affinity between us is at his peril or ours remains to be seen.
Then there’s the very real possibility that we’ll all be frolicking with ponies.
Yes, the “hope” stuff is chill — the new millennium’s answer to the Boomers’ cool.
Silly us, we thought “big chill” was a pejorative!
As audaciously awesome as hope is, is it really much of a differentiator from the Clintons and their compromising centrism?
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A major fancy of post-Boomers is choosing the most pleasing “skin” for their cellphones and web pages. It’s a wonderful reflection on them that Obama’s skin unreservedly pleases them.
One might grudgingly acknowledge that it also reflects well on their parents, who fought hard for civil rights in the 1960s and beyond. Oh, sorry, that was just our shameful divisive partisanship. Forget I said anything.
Obama is, without a doubt, a new-look politician and a brilliant orator. But the difference between him and Hillary is, it seems to me, skin deep.
She’s got hard-knocks going for her, and he’s got pizazz. Both are helpful, neither is sufficient.
Neither candidate has galvanized thought against today’s ruthless, valueless, corrupt, and incompetent Republican Party.
Neither candidate has recognized the implications of the public's deep distress at the Bush-enabling 110th Congress.
In 2004, some of us wondered why the public didn't catch on to the obvious advantages of the Democrats. In 2008, some of us wonder why the Democratic frontrunners don't catch up to the progressivism of the American public.
To those who see Obama as a visionary alternative to the tired politics of the 1960s and 1990s, I offer this sage word: whatever.
I have no such advice to Hillary Clinton’s supporters. They’ve seen this movie before. They know how it ends. I just wish they’d notice that a more interesting, more challenging alternative is playing in theatre #3.
Well, seeing how little difference there is between the two leading candidates does have its benefits, as this agitated Boomer settles into the rocking chair and — for once — feels downright chill.
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Note: DailyKos cross-post, with a very lively discussion, is here.
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Note: I wrote the following to a friend who has been leaning toward Obama, to explain why I'm writing items like the one above...
I’d really hoped that Obama was going to be an upgrade to Hillary. That didn’t seem to be too starry-eyed a place to be setting the bar, y’know?
So, watching him in this campaign has been a huge disappointment, ending with methinks the inevitable analysis that as a president (as opposed to as a candidate), Obama has a little more upside and a lot more downside than Hillary. He appears to be somewhat more electable, but he’s also providing less air-cover for himself and for others to run and govern as progressives. At best, he’s Bill Clinton all over again – popular, better than a sociopathic Republican, and frustratingly more beholden to being a people-pleaser than being a change agent (other than, perhaps, stripping the word “change” of most of its meaning).
If Hillary is nominated and loses, we’ll have a lot to regret. Lord knows, we don’t want another sociopath. But I put the blame on Obama for being a bullshit artist who pissed on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move the country to the left and not on us who dared to notice.
This is not Nader 2000. People like me are dedicated Democrats, not purist vanity/protest voters. But Obama isn’t a dedicated Democrat. He’s a dedicated Obamacrat, and to use another word from his generation, that sucks.
The evidence is in, as it was after New Hampshire, that Obama has to answer the call to seize the progressive mantle. If he can stop gazing at the mirror (or is it Ronald Reagan’s picture?) for a couple of minutes, he might notice that there is an energized progressive movement just waiting for someone to take them to the Promised Land.
Of course, the Kool-Aid drinkers in the Obama Fan Base think that we’re asking him to rip a picture of the Pope or something. But we’re just asking for him to run as a Democrat in a time when Democrat is by far the preferred brand.
How do you run as a Democrat? You present yourself as a proud representative of the party of ideas that work, that are sane, and that are humane. You point out that the other party hotwired America, went on a bender, and left it a smoking wreck. You’ve got the Jaws of Life, just like FDR did, and you’re going to save us from that wreck and build a better, alternative-energy car like Kennedy built a moonship.