Brynn Craffey

I'd like to be convinced but remain wary...

Filed By Brynn Craffey | January 27, 2008 9:52 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Democrats, election 2008, election campaigns, presidency, primaries

So, Barack Obama has scored an incredible victory in South Carolina, receiving 55 percent of Democratic votes, to Clinton's 27 percent and Edwards's 18. According to exit polls, his margin of support was more than 4-to-1 among African American voters! (Story here.)

MSNBC reported that nearly twice as many Democrats turned out to vote in this primary, compared to 2004:

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, more than 532,000 votes had been tabulated in Barack Obama's commanding victory here. The returns easily eclipsed the 280,000 people who voted in the Democratic primary in 2004.

These numbers must be freaking the pants off Republican and Clinton strategists alike.

As for Obama, I wholeheartedly agree that he’s charismatic. The guy’s Hollywood handsome and possesses Cicero-like oratory skills. Even one of my best friends in Dublin, a no-nonsense sort of cynic when it comes to American and Irish politics, was gushing today about Obama’s ability to inspire. Obama’s victory speech last night touched eloquently on issues of the economy, healthcare, education, social injustice, diversity, and the fact that huge numbers of voters have been motivated by his campaign to engage in the political process, many for the first time. Moreover, I would love to participate in the historic election of the first African-American as president.

So why am I not jumping on the Obama bandwagon? Why does he inspire wariness and disappointment in me, rather than enthusiasm--nearly to the degree of antipathy, but not quite, I feel toward Hillary Clinton, the first woman with an historic chance to win the presidency?

Both Obama and Clinton highlight, I believe, how out-of-step I am with the average American voter. Far to the left of just about everyone I know, I was strongly against both Gulf wars from before their inceptions, I want the troops out now and the military budget cut drastically—those tax dollars we do spend on defense should go toward training, education and support of the actual troops and their families and not into the pockets of Haliburton, et al. I believe in same-sex marriage, not civil unions—it’s a clear-cut issue of equal rights and social justice.

I back single-payer universal healthcare along the lines of Medicare for all, support a woman’s right to chose as one of the most fundamental of all rights, and unabashedly call myself a feminist. I am in favor of raising corporate tax rates to levels they were in the 1960’s or higher, staunchly support immigrant rights and the notion that immigration benefits the US much more than it takes away, believe white collar crimes should be punished with stringent sentences served not in cushy country-club, low-security institutions but in the same prisons where we now send those convicted of non-violent drug offenses—make space for the CEOs by removing the drug addicts and getting them into proper treatment programs.

I could go on but I think you get the idea. To me, Obama comes across as a centrist at best and, more worrying, image over substance. He stresses the meme of change—which due to his success, has been picked up by every other presidential contender, be they Democrat or Republican. “Change, change, change!” we hear—code for NOT BUSH, upon which we can all agree. But where are the specifics on exactly what will be changed and, even more importantly, how?

The almost messianic-like devotion of Obama supporters scares me. I am wary of his emotional appeal in the same way I am wary of, say, commercials for Army recruiters or Shell Oil. I worry that he has insufficient political experience and political will to stick to his guns while navigating the powerful, avaricious and entrenched special interests that dominate Washington. I fear he will be eaten alive by slick lobbyists, the conservative media, “defense” industry reps and generals, and long-term members of Congress—whom he will be forced to negotiate with or rely upon if elected. And I don't like his tepid--or even non-existent--stand on LGBT issues.

Look at what Washington forces did to Bill Clinton during his eight years in office—and Bill by the time he became president had, IMO, more political experience than Obama. Don’t get me wrong, I am anything but a Hillary or Bill Clinton fan. In fact, other than the fact that both Hillary and Barack are centrists, Hillary strikes me as the direct opposite of Obama: cynical, entrenched in the establishment, and completely out of touch with the average American voter. If she ends up with the Democratic nomination, I’ll have to hold my nose to vote for her.

One thing she ain’t, though, is inexperienced or a political pushover. Say what you will, she has been tempered in the crucible of go-for-the-jugular presidential politics and remains standing. Surrounded by advisors like Terry McAuliffe whom I particularly detest for their test-the-wind refusal to take a moral stand on any issue, she is hooked in and skilled in the bloody arts of Washington politics. That huge scampering sound you’ve been hearing for the past several weeks are Clinton advisors scrambling to find a message that will convince American voters that Clinton is actually a candidate of change rather than the well-established political insider she really is.

Now that Kucinich has dropped out and Edwards is falling increasingly behind, I don’t like either of the choices the Democratic party and mainstream media are offering us. What it comes down to for me is that I am alienated from the American political process, which forces all candidates to the center or to the right and then compels them during their campaigns to remain vague on the nuts and bolts of their policies and instead employ code phrases and grandiose or vague political slogans—like “change,” which when you get right down to it, can be for worse as well as for better. GW Bush brought us “change”: in the form of a gutted Habeas Corpus, a trillion-dollar deficit, and the murder or dislocation of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan among other things.

It drives me mad that ill-informed American voters pick their presidents on the basis of whether or not they’d like to have a beer with them. Such an utterly insane process brought us the likes of the current occupant of the White House. And while I agree with much of what Obama says and believe that as a candidate or president, he will be an enormous improvement over GW Bush, I believe his campaign only continues the have-a-beer-with-him tradition, although with him it may be more “who would you like to date.” (Remember the swimsuit photo in People magazine?)

The last thing a Democratic candidate wants to do when being evaluated on such trivial and irrelevant terms is take a strong position on something controversial like same-sex marriage, raising taxes to fund social programs, or withdrawing the troops immediately from Iraq. Is it because few American voters want to discuss such topics while having a beer over the barbeque? Also, god forbid you might alienate a potential voter.

You notice I said “Democratic candidate.” Republicans, less afraid of controversy, often take stands that appeal to their rightwing, so-called Christian base. I think the Dems could learn a thing or two from Republicans, namely, risk a few principled stands to appeal to their leftwing base. Centrist voters might actually respect principled stands, especially if passionately and clearly explained.

And in the end, isn’t leading the way on such principled stands the very definition of “leadership”?


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Great post!

And I'm totally on board here... Yes, Obama has charisma-- even the Kennedy's are impressed-- but I'm wary and I'm not totally sold on either of them (Edwards, I was never sold on). At this point I'll just vote for the nom. (Very passive-aggressive of me, I know.)

Billary had best retool and think there stratagy or the Clintons will be left in the dust come the convention.I watched his speech which even impressed me and im a hard nosed moderate Republican. But remember this Billary will be in a for a nasty fight if she wins Senator Obama will not be in as much a one there are many hard core Republicans who will do and say anything to keep the Clintons out of the White House again.
My prime concern for Sentor Obama is his lack of understanding foreign policy and how to deal with other nations as lets face it there are folks who just dont like us and never will nomatter who sits in the White House.

Michael Bedwell | January 28, 2008 12:57 AM

I'm keeping hope alive that some snowfall of sanity will wake the sleeping from Obama's field of poppies.

Gay black civil rights giant Bayard Rustin once wrote of another man whom many were then eager to proclaim the new Messiah:

"We must resist the temptation...to elevate charisma to greatness." And about others,

"There is indeed profound truth in the observation that people who seek social change will, in the absence of real substantive victories, often seize upon stylistic substitutes as an outlet for their frustrations."

And, about those who would seek "refuge in psychological solutions to social questions" and sentimentality ["embracing"?] alone, quoted a exchange between Samuel Johnson and Boswell:

Boswell: "I have often blamed myself, Sir, for not feeling for others, as sensibly as many say they do."

Johnson: "Sir, don't be duped by them any more. You will find these very feeling people are not very ready to do you good. They pay you with feeling."

As for your worry that Obama "has insufficient political experience and political will to stick to his guns while navigating the powerful, avaricious and entrenched special interests that dominate Washington," black gay writer Rod 2.0 observed during McClurkingate—which occured less than a year after the last landslide in South Carolina when 78% of its voters changed their state constitution to ban gay marriage equality:

""He folded like a deck of cards. If he is going to fold on the campaign trail, why would we not think he'd fold in the Oval Office?"

Amen.


Bill Perdue | January 28, 2008 1:39 AM

Brynn, give me back my thunder! Right now!

Seriously that was an excellent post. The only thing you're off beam about is your belief that you're far to the left. That’s true but things are changing. A general radicalization, especially among youth, and especially among GLBT youth, is underway. Given the inability of the Democrats and Republicans to solve the problems facing Americans the radicalization guaranteed to deepen.

The recent series of betrayals by the Democrats and their Republican cousins against our GLBT communities, the antiwar movement, unionists and minorities will rebound on them when they repeat them after the elections. In the meantime the labor movement is building (sigh, ever so slowly) the US Labor Party. The anti war movement is poised to go ballistic when the war turns ugly. Our own communities are being united in a far more militant GLBT movement centered on United ENDA. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the AFL-CIO’s largest constituent group is pushing for independent black political action. Unions have launched an impressive organizing drive.

The Democrats tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of corporate predators has sabotaged our standard of living. There's no way to predict the lag time between the economic decline and its effect on the radicalization but you can be sure it'll occur. When the unions radicalize it'll mean that the heavy infantry of change are on the battlefield.

Brynn, keep in mind that the plurality if not the majority in many US elections are people who vote for left wing parties, stay at home or vote for 'None of the above' or 'None of these candidates'. That options’ been on the ballots here in Nevada since 1975. I’ll be voting that way on the first Tuesday of November. For many of us it’s just a little reminder for HilnBil, Pelosi, Reed, Fienstein and Obama and and their Republican Coursins that we don’t take kindly to being stabbed in the back every time we turn around.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 28, 2008 1:53 AM

Bill, I wish we had "None of the above" in California....I'm back in the state now. Recouperating from a tough six months in Ireland before I left but eventually will be looking around for ways to get involved in the anti-war movement.

Right on, Brynn!

I'm so right here with you on this. Barack's message is change, and, yeah, any person is going to be a change from what we currently have. The policy he's proposed so far isn't all that far to the left, I wouldn't even call it "centrist" because most Americans are to the left of where he is on major issues.

But it's a change in personality, and that's the main thing he's running on: personality. I think that's why some of his supporters are so scary to me, it's all about supporting him, not their vision of America, not good policy, but the tone and image embodied in one person.

And I think anyone familiar with the way some Latin American countries have run their "elections" in the 20th century would be wary of Obama's campaign. not enough to vote against it because of the lack of viable alternative, but still be aware that he isn't the Second Coming.

At this point, I can not say that I am a supporter of Senator Obama, but he has already brought about change. Over 250,000 additional voters participated in the election process that didn't vote before. People who were either disenfranchised recently or felt they had no real choices even if they were allowed to vote, felt empowered by the Senator's being in the primaries.

Although we heard the same message of trying to bring us together from the current incumbent, Senator Obama appears to be genuinely committed to at least make a genuine effort to work together with Republican members of Congress rather than make them out to be enemies.

Maybe he can, and maybe he can't, but I hope he would be a President that could stop making many Americans so comfortable with their prejudices. I believe this was exacerbated over the last seven years, and this trend needs to be reversed.

There is bitter and deep-seated division in this country. While rhetoric alone will not solve all of the nation's problems, toning it down and lowering the volume of the discourse just might bring about dialogue instead of unproductive bitter squabbling. This country desperately needs a time of healing.

I agree with this post and am glad to have some validation of what I have been thinking. Obama is a centrist, and all this lofty talk about hope and change is just the same old same old. Even more, I think he is a bit of a fraud. New tone in politics? I don't see it- he is as opportunistic and mud slinging as the rest, just more polished about it. His positions on LGBT issues are the same as the other candidates, but his refusal to support marriage equality is even more disappointing because its not consistent with his rhetoric about hope and justice. If hope made all these impossible things happen, per his stump speech, than why not hope for this? On marriage equality more than any other issue, he demonstrates his play it safe, politics as usual stripes.

Michael Bedwell | January 28, 2008 10:02 AM

"that's the main thing he's running on: personality. I think that's why some of his supporters are so scary to me, it's all about supporting him, not their vision of America, not good policy, but the tone and image embodied in one person."

"His positions on LGBT issues are the same as the other candidates, but his refusal to support marriage equality is even more disappointing because its not consistent with his rhetoric about hope and justice."

Praise fill-in-the-blank!!!

Is that a little bit of refreshing snow I feel on my face? Will enough fall in time to cover all the red poppies and red Donnie McClurkin-inspired "STAND for Change" signs? Is there a chance the ones without a brain will wake up?

"With the thoughts I been thinkin
He could be another Lincoln."

"If you only had a brain!"

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 28, 2008 11:37 AM

make a genuine effort to work together with Republican members of Congress rather than make them out to be enemies.

Shakay, I appreciate your frustration with the non-productive and bitter fighting between the two major political parties. But while the mainstream media likes to paint a picture of mutual hostility between Democrats and Republicans, in reality the major animus and dirty tricks generates mostly from right to left. For Democrats in Congress to become any more accommodating to Republicans, they would have to switch their party affiliation. Thus, a successful end to the “unproductive bitter squabbling” will require a significant change on the part of Republicans, not a more obliging Democrat as president.

Michael Bedwell | January 28, 2008 1:51 PM

As much as I loathe them, and I do, I do, one has to give the Republicans credit for the miraculous ways they have brainwashed even non-Republicans.
Some of Sen. Clinton's opponents, most of the mainstream media [Eric Alterman's 2003 book, "WHAT Liberal Media?" is a must read. Samples at http://www.whatliberalmedia.com/bk_descript.htm] are, so far, giving the Republican hit squad a vacation as they take over the Republican Play Book against her, or should I say, "Billary"?

And, more to this thread's discussion, they have turned "partisan" from a virture to a vice, that is, when it's involves someone other than themselves.

Remember fighters against the Nazis in occupied countries during WWI, or against the Italian Fascists, were called "partisans." And, even in nonarmed political "wars" those who most believe in their cause should be admired not vilified. Does one become a Republican only to get into a country club? [well, some do, of course]. Or become a Democrat only because you're more likely to meet hot gay men or women? [well, some do, of course] The majority affiliate with a political party because they have determined that it shares more of their beliefs that the other parties.

That's the ignominy of fake "independents" like the widely syndicated Chris Crain, former editor of "The Washington Blade." He's one of the "All Hate HRC [both the group and the Presidential candidate from NY] All the Time" and constantly brays about how the Human Rights Campaign should be "bipartisan" by which he actually means "stop endorsing so many Democrats at the expense of the Massa." NO, it should support those who support its members' goals, and Crain knows perfectly well that 90% of the time those happen to be Democrats.

And, to be fair, there are those who flame HRC on the RARE occasions when they think supporting a Republican candidate is appropriate.

I am of the practical school which says that, all other things being relatively equal, helping a less-awful Republican get elected only increases the collective power of that party controlled by theocratic demagogues. E.g., Gray Davis versus Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Brynn is right. I don't know WHAT the F Obama's smoking, but "bringing people together in Washingto" is going to require a hell of a lot more than positive thinking and tea parties.

May I backtrack on a comment I made previously(number 7)?

Perhaps it is asking too much for any President to be a unifier, but surely he/she can stop being antagonistically devisive. Many of the policies and political nominations of the current incumbent were extremely divisive. With our system of checks and balances, there will always be some measure of divisiveness, but far too often it resulted in bitter personal exchanges on the floors of Congress. I could recall a time when people of differing viewpoints would exchange them in debate, and go out for a drink together after the session. Few do that any more.

Who can judge the sincerity of Senator Obama remarks that there aren't just Democrats or Republicans, but that we are all Americans first?
It sounds good, and having that viewpoint may dispell some of the antagonism, but I believe that will have to be an early priority of the next President. There's way too much shouting and not enough quiet dialogue. The country will be better off for it if they can do it.

Hillery obtained her notoriety and her seat in congress because she was First Lady and has a two timing %$%^&^ for a husband. There are a lot of women who sympathize with her and would vote for her for that reason.

With the latest endorsements for Obama the race on the democratic side could see another causality before the second Super Tuesday. It would certainly be nice to see a woman in the Oval Office however i think we need one with more experience and one that perhaps not an ex Goldwater girl.

Sue

Michael Bedwell | January 28, 2008 7:25 PM

With all due respect, Sue, I find it disgusting that you're echoing the sexist smear spewed by Chris Matthews several days ago! I think there are several male voters across the state of New York, not to mention all the women voters you just trivialized, who might want to speak to you. If they knew you existed.

Also, if you're going to audition as a "hit woman" for the Obama Mafia, you might want to avoid simply rethrowing someone's else's shit.

Harvey Milk was a Goldwater supporter, too. Shall we start villifying him because of it?

Bill Perdue | January 28, 2008 9:26 PM

Bedwell sounds more like Leland every day, including the ham-fisted doses of abuse he slaps on anyone not suitably self loathing enough to join him in congratulating the Clintons for their long history of backstabbing. Bedwell, and Leland too for that matter, should be warned that authentic GLBT activists like those who post here will not take kindly to lies about our motivations. Calling us Republicans, sexists etc. will get you ignored.

Now, with that guttersnipe business out of the way, let’s talk politics.

Obama and HilnBil share the same politics. All that clap trap about ‘bring us together’ is just hype. They both oppose socialized medicine, repeal of NAFTA and other union busting law and immediate withdrawal. In fact they both agree that the troops will have to stay until at least 2013. Their differences on the war are tactical – Obama wants to attack Pakistan and Clinton agrees with Bush that the attack should be directed against Iran.
It’s true that Obama is a pigheaded opponent of samesex marriage equality but the Clintons are worse. They worked closely with their Republican bedmates to ram through bigot bills like DOMA and DADT and their campaign director Barney scuttled the hate crimes bill and ENDA sop they wouldn’t be an issue in the elections.

Obama does indeed pander to bigots but self loathing Rev. Donnie McClurkin and Mary Mary are chump change bigots compared to the ones who love Hillary Clinton. They include bible study bedmates like former Senators Santorum and Brownback, loonies like Pat Robertson and menacing figures Rupert Murdoch, fuehrer of the Faux News empire.

The problem Leland and Bedwell face is that their candidate is not particularly different from Obama. The Clintons have just been at it longer and are heartily detested for it.

Michael that is my own feelings, i am not echoing anybody.

Please don't take the comment so seriously.
I have a right to my opinion just as you do.
when Bill Clinton ran for president i voted Green.


Also, if you're going to audition as a "hit woman" for the Obama Mafia, you might want to avoid simply rethrowing someone's else's shit.

I can think for myself thank you.
with all the bashing of other political groups that goes on here I thought everyone would be just as polite about things.
I guess there are double standards.
Oh well I guess being Lesbian doesn't allow me to have an opinion without being attacked.

Sue

Correct me but Sue werent you singing the praises of Ron Paul? Several postings back? Sits back and watchs the rest of the postings.

Yes Cathy I was and still do.
Hey he can almost walk on water. :)

I still pay attention to what the others say and watch the elections.
Having my mind made up doesn't preclude comment on other candidates. After all if a Spy Satellite falls on Ron Paul, I need to have my alternates lined up.

Take care
Sue

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 29, 2008 2:10 AM

After all if a Spy Satellite falls on Ron Paul, I need to have my alternates lined up.

LOL!!!

News Flash for those happyaly ignoring the Republicans dueling it out in Florida.We McCain supporters are the new Liberal wing of the Republican party so sayith the likes of Mitt the Huckster and the great Rudy!Gee I guess that makes me a Republican Liberal what ever the heck that means?Scarey aint it!

And you thoguht only you Democrats had Liberals.

From the New Left
Cathy

Cathy
Nothing surprises me any more in politics.

Sue