Thursday, October 30, 2008

The End Of Campaign Blues

The electoral campaigns, which seem to have been running for my entire adult life, will be over soon, & one form of stress will be replaced by another. The pre-election stress is of a type that is shared by, probably, all who read this essay: it is the fear, & this is literal, not hyperbolic fear, that the McCain – Palin ticket will through some maliferous miracle prevail to lead America into a worse state than we suffer now. There is much to fear on this score.

First, these are not the most intellectually gifted politicians around. The debates, as redundant & tedious as they were, exposed McCain as a man of little scope or depth beyond the single issue of national security, & even here there is much to concern us. On all other issues he was a debater in search of an argument. On health care, on the economy, he was & remains like a traveling salesman with an empty case: he has no product line to sell, so he can only tell us why we shouldn’t buy Obama’s. This is why his ads are so desperately negative. Obama is so clearly the superior candidate that McCain & Palin must try to paint him as a fellow traveler of terrorists or the apostate acolyte of Jeremiah Wright who is, by the way, a much better man than the public has been led to believe.

Governor Palin’s problem is that she doesn’t know anything. Her well advertised executive experience consists of less than two years managing a staff of fifty, & she added a position so that she could delegate most of her management duties. I certainly am not one to believe that our Presidents must be white male career politicians, but what on earth does the incredibly annoying Gov. Palin have to offer? She shows no signs of having even studied for this test. Worse, she is hard headed, ill informed, & representative of the most bigoted, reactionary & jingoistic tendencies in American politics, a very dangerous combination. Even reasoned people of the right are damning this ticket because of her.

Which brings me to fear # 2: McCain is seventy-two years old, & his cancer has not been in remission for ten years. It is altogether possible that Pres. McCain will croak in office & leave us with Pres. Palin. The world shudders at the prospect. I’m sorry, but this prospect is too grotesque to apply my imagination to. I would have to compose my death poem & slit my wrists.

Fear # 3 has to do with the policies that McCain would apply during his administration. Any reforms of Wall Street will be minimal & short-lived. The man has never read Keynes or he would know that the financial cannibalism that has broken the economy is the predictable result of deregulation. An engine with greed as its power source needs a governor to keep from burning itself up.

Under McCain we can expect the military to consume an even greater portion of the budget than the nearly half that it already owns. The excesses of the Patriot Act would increase. The environment would get little attention, & the number of people without health care would increase. These are near certainties.

Fear # 4 concerns the fact that Obama will undoubtedly break my heart several times as President. I fear that he might actually be the centrist that he advertises himself to be when the world needs a more radical direction. I do not expect him to be as left as I, but I do hope that he proves to be at the left end of liberal. Indeed, the term “liberal” seems to slide more & more to the right every year. For example, the Supreme Court Justices, Stevens, Ginsburg et al who are described as “liberal” or even “left” in the press are really mainstream moderates by American standards. I am not even comparing them to European liberals & certainly not to the European left, but to such of their predecessors as Marshall & Black. The Supreme Court needs strong progressive libertarians in a time when social mores can be pushed forward or backwards in ways that they never have been pushed before. The prevailing far right on Court cannot be balanced by centrists, whom I fear Obama will appoint.

Will Obama advocate for economically viable borders for the state of Palestine against the force of Israel’s Biblical revanchism? Almost certainly he will not. Will he seek a way to end the distortion of the federal budget by reducing military spending, thereby increasing allocations for progressive causes? Not a chance. Will he adopt the model of F. D. R. & undertake true reform of the financial system & initiate massive programs of much needed public works & social welfare? Possibly. The fact is that he will have to make some awful compromises in order to govern. We already see him sliding to the right on issues like off-shore drilling, which he always has opposed, incursions into our personal liberties under the Patriot Act, & the military budget. Still they try to red-bait him by calling him “Marxist” or “socialist”. Only people who never have read Marx & don’t know anyone who has could utter this.

Still, that might be greatness that we see shining out of the man, & these times demand greatness. Bush certainly has left him enough shit to shovel to fill two very accomplished terms. If the promised Democratic majorities attain, the possibilities are there, but it will require more discipline & creativity than we’ve seen the party show since Lyndon Johnson. As I wrote earlier, the fact that two parties must house all of the divergent, even contradictory interests that need a voice in American politics means that too many of us have to submit to powerful interests that rise to dominance. It also leads to the stultifying consensus that the middle course is wisest. The only group that defies this principle is the far right, which quite happily would dictate to the rest of us if they could.

& so, one week from this entry I will file my vote for Obama in my attempt to ensure that the District of Columbia’s one Electoral College vote goes to the best candidate in many, many years. In my heart there will be conflicting fears that, on the one hand the Republican vote theft machine will steal yet another election &, on the other hand, that Obama will be inhibited in office to such a degree that the change that is needed won’t get out of the garage.

I wish that I still drank.

A. B. Spellman

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