Thursday, January 31, 2008

Letter from Wall Street/Gruff Weighs In

My fellow Bloggers:
Because my current place of business does not allow my to access Betty and Bimbo (no, this is not a joke), I've been reduced to submitting my thoughts via email to Jasen. I've heard through the grapevine that there's been some bickering about which candidate, if any, "real democrats" should support. Let me put my cards on the table: I am supporting Barack Obama. I agree with my brothers and with this ( very smart blogger that he is the clear progressive choice. But I do not particularly agree that Hillary is not a democrat: quite the contrary, she is the democrat. Maybe in 1992 she and Bill represented a fringe of the party (a democrat executing Ricky Ray Rector? A democrat for Welfare to Work? A democrat pronouncing the left dead?), but this is, obviously, no longer the case.

In any event, there are democrats with all sorts of different beliefs--and that's fine. Actually, it's probably a good thing. I have no problem with making room for the so-called "new domocrats" of the party. Hell, I'm even excited about Al Franken, who worships the clintons like demi-gods. But, even if you're a moderate democrat, I still have trouble understanding why you'd want to bring the Clinton drama back to the center of our party and our nation. The article in the NYT today about Clintons sleazy dealings should serve as a reminder of the '90s, when such articles popped up more than infrequently. And it's not only the sleazy backroom dealing that turns me off. How about Bill's behavior in New Hampshire. I don't know anyone who didn't squirm when Bill made that loathsome Jesse Jackson comment. Is Bill a racist? Probably not. But he and Hillary are very opportunistic, and they were clearly--clearly--trying (as Dick Morris predicted days before) to "blacken" Obama and thereby pick up more white vote. And if you believe Hillary wasn't in on that--well, then you must be one of those people who thinks she didn't know about Monica, or Gennifer, etc etc. What's more, I am the only one disturbed by how anxious Bill is to get back into the white house? Is that appropriate? I tend to think not.

Finally, I don't think there's any way Hillary can win. Her negatives are just too high. And, after the way she's acted, I think it'll be nearly impossible for her to rally the African American community.

In other words, it's fine not to vote for Obama. But the Clintons again? Really? Those of you not content with Obama should consider supporting Nader. If Hillary wins, I hear he's definitely running.

Very truly yours,

the gruff australian


Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

Thanks for your comments, Gruff. I just want to say that you don't have to be a "moderate Democrat" or a "new Democrat" to like Clinton. I don't consider myself either. I like her because she fights like hell.

Nancy D., Girl Detective said...

I'm going to post again because I think this raises an important point. It's bothered me that people have been making assumptions about why people vote for Clinton. Millions of people have, and they all presumably have different reasons.

I took an online quiz from Minnesota Public Radio or some place like that that was supposed to tell you who you should vote for based on your response to various policy questions. The quiz told me I should vote for Dennis Kucinich.

Now, you probably already know this, but I wouldn't consider voting for Kucinich (though I actually did vote for him once during DC's 2004 non-binding primary, but that's another story, especially since my vote DIDN'T COUNT). Anyway, my point is that I don't vote purely based on a candidate's positions. This used to be my tendency in voting, but now I try to judge candidates more on what I think they will do and be able to do. A candidate can have the most wonderful set of principles and represent me so perfectly that it's like looking in a mirror, but if they're not able to enact those policies it doesn't matter.

Now, I should say that I agree with Betty that Clinton and Obama are pretty darn similar in their positions. I should also iterate, since I haven't before, that I actually like Obama. The Obama side on this blog is pretty vitriolic about Clinton, but this Clintonite thinks Obama could be a good thing. It really bothered me when Jasen invited Betty and I to come up with accusations against Obama that matched what he called Clinton's "trickery." Is this really the way we debate about politics, by dragging other candidates through the mud? Clinton is an aggressive campaigner and she's ambitious, and sometimes she crosses the line, but I don't think she's guilty of "trickery" and I also admire her ambition. She has an incredibly tough line to walk in how she presents herself, with all the different expectations people have about her. I think Obama has crossed the line during this campaign, too, frankly, but I have no desire to accuse him of trickery.

I hear what everyone is saying about how Bill Clinton’s presidency represented the Democratic party moving to the middle. Even if in some ways the Clintons are more moderate than I would like or have made compromises I don’t like, given the current climate, I don’t think it matters. Bush has moved the country so far to the right that we need to fight our way back. I generally like where Hillary Clinton stands on what I consider the central issues: taxation, health care, the environment, civil liberties, and foreign policy. Furthermore, I think she will fight harder and get us farther on these major issues than any other candidate. I used to work at a health care non-profit, and it has got to be one of the most confused categories of policies with so many powerful stakeholders. When I ask myself who I want fighting for a health care, the answer is Clinton, hands down. I think her experience during the 90s, disastrous though it was, will help her now, and I think she understands the complexity of the issues and can communicate with the stakeholders. She will know when to push and when to compromise.

I want to explain a little more what I mean about the difference between positions and political realities. I believe we should have a national, single-payer health care system. However, it doesn’t bother me that neither Clinton nor Obama advocate this. I don’t think a single payer system is in the cards right now, given how powerful the health insurance industry is, but I do think that if we arrive at a compromise that gets more Americans insured, it could be a step toward a national health care system, even if no one will say so. The more Americans we get into the system and the more we give them affordable choices about their coverage, the more political will will build for a more comprehensive plan.

Here’s another example: compared to his Republican compatriots, George W. Bush is fairly liberal on immigration. I’m not saying he’s a star in this department, but he certainly ran in 2000 under a compassionate stance, and he is less punitive on the matter than some of his colleagues. (Before you jump on me, let me say my other non-profit job was at an immigrant rights group, I don’t advocate Bush’s policies, but I do think he’s positioned himself as a bit more open-minded than the close-the-borders types.) Anyway, my point is that his position doesn’t matter because he wasn’t able to get it through. So frankly I don’t care that he is more open-minded on immigration, since it hasn’t translated into policy.

So some comment Clinton made on abstinence-only education has no impact on how I will vote. Frankly, I think that is more of a politically expedient position than something that reflects her true opinions, and though we might deplore that, all the candidates do it, as I made the point in their stances on gay marriage.

I could go on and on, but you get my drift. It took me a while to choose between the candidates, but again and again, my gut points toward Clinton. I don’t buy the assertion that Obama is more electable. There are a lot of things that disreputable Republicans have to use against him. One in particular that I think could be particularly damaging is the fact that he belongs to an Afro-centric church, which the right will use to raise fears about race. Again, I don’t think this is a reason not vote for him. But in a sense I feel more secure knowing that everything about the Clintons is already on the table. It’s hard to imagine what else someone could drag up. I also have to say that I long ago abandoned “electability” as a reason to vote for someone in the primary. The first presidential campaign I voted in was the 2000 race. I voted for Bill Bradley in the primary, and I can’t tell you how many people told me I should vote for Gore because he was more electable. Well, he was nominated and look what happened. Yes, the election was a fiasco and he probably should have won, but it was also a disgrace that he couldn’t secure a decisive victory and it came down to 500 votes in Florida.

Anyway, I am cheered that we have two candidates I am happy about, and also awed that we will have either the first woman or first African-American on the ticket of a major party. That’s something the Democratic party can be proud of.

Jasen said...

Fair enough Nancy. Check out this new article about Hillary and union-busting at Wal-Mart that Gruff sent me just now. I think it speaks for itself...