May 08, 2007
Obama Will Win, But Probably Without My Vote

I continue to predict that our next President will be Barack Obama. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to vote for him.

It’ll Be a Democrat

I start from the premise that the country has moved to the left on many social issues during the Bush presidency, as measured by a recent Pew poll.

And it’s not just the war; Rovian divide-and-rule has pissed off a lot of folks. The wedge-issue strategy has indeed produced a surprising result — for the pundits, at least. Normal people understand that division doesn’t make numbers larger, it makes them smaller. Not long ago, the MSM was in awe of Karl’s plans for a permanent majority. Now they’re surprised, or at least pretending to be so, at the rapid demise of the once dominant. And they still can’t figure out why the blogosphere takes them so lightly…

The strategy of stepping on anyone who questions you is often employed by budding despots with success. This usually requires a society where power is highly concentrated, with a history of such power grabs, and it’s usually accompanied by a bloodbath. In a society where power is more widely distributed, like a republic, the bloodbath is hard to pull off, but not impossible as the Roman proscriptions showed.

Rove, however, is not a warrior, or even an ideologue, but a schemer, a liar, and a dirty-trickster. Instead of dead bodies in his wake, he leaves angry competitors and spurned former colleagues. As his power increased, so did the army of folks he’s wronged on the way up, from cheated opponents to families of dead soldiers.

As the system moves away from Rovian-style politics, the Republicans have to retool to fit the new conditions. That, plus the Iraq war, combines with a remarkably uninspiring field of Republican candidates to pretty much guarantee our next President will be a Democrat.

Why I Think He’ll Win

I predict it’ll be Obama, for several reasons.

First, there’s the race-gender stuff, as America decides whether it’s ready for a President who’s female or black or Hispanic. Certainly such a candidate would merit particular emphasis from the Secret Service; but in addition to immense resistance, Clinton and Obama, at least, also have significant constituencies pushing them forward — Richardson has yet to exhibit it.

Then there’s the question of opposition. Recent polls show all the leading Democrats beating all the leading Republicans, in most cases quite handily. From the current crop, will the Republicans nominate a warmonger, or a racist, or someone who doesn’t believe in evolution, or someone who’s against stem-cell research, or just a generic idiot? Unless the GOP finds a more attractive product (Newt Gingrich?? Please, nominate him!) than they have now, this year’s Democratic nomination process will be the equivalent of the last AFC Championship: whoever wins this round will win the next as well.

If that turns out to be true, then the current struggle for the soul of the Democratic party is even more important. The DLC is the wing most closely associated with the war. Its primary avatar, Clinton, continues to spend a lot of time trying to recover from her refusal to renounce her authorization vote, while Biden’s partitioning solution to the current conflict apparently struck no one as a good idea.

Thus I think we’ll see a left-right struggle inside the Democratic party. The right is typified by Clinton, and the left by Edwards. My sympathies are clearly on the left end; but I haven’t voted for a Democrat for President since Dukakis — I lived in Massachusetts while he was Governor, and he seemed okay; he wasn’t corrupt, at least, which is saying something in that environment. But the Democrats keep picking these Republican wannabes, who spend all their time “triangulating”, which looks to me like capitulating on the most important issues in order to get trivial things said.

So I expect the Democratic party, paying no more attention to my views than it ever has, will end up well to the right of a coalition that would generate massive popular support. This is The People against Big Business, and Big Business knows it. Most of The People don’t.

What people do realize, though, is that we need someone in the White House who’ll tell us the truth about the dangers we face, most of which are economic and social rather than military. I don’t think enough people trust Clinton to do that; she’s on the wrong side in that fight. This fits with the recent poll data, which showed Obama and Edwards beating most Republicans by larger margins than Clinton achieved. So the choice from the Big Business viewpoint looks like Edwards, the trial lawyer and populist, versus Obama, the centrist. Done deal: the DLC will spend unlimited amounts of money to make sure the Democratic wing of the Democratic party is marginalized.

Which is fine with me. That’s why I don’t vote Democratic.

Why I Won’t Vote For Him

When you’re voting for someone Robert Kagan likes, you ought to question your choice.

…last week a surprising new name joined the chorus of praise for the antiwar Obama — that of Robert Kagan, a leading neoconservative and co-founder of the Project for the New American Century in the late 1990s, which called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Kagan is an informal foreign policy adviser to the Republican senator John McCain, who remains the favoured neoconservative choice for the White House because of his backing for the troops in Iraq.

But in an article in the Washington Post, Kagan wrote approvingly that a keynote speech by Obama at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs was “pure John Kennedy”, a neocon hero of the cold war.

In his speech, Obama called for an increase in defence spending and an extra 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines to “stay on the offense” against terrorism and ensure America had “the strongest, best-equipped military in the world”. He talked about building democracies, stopping weapons of mass destruction and the right to take unilateral action to protect US “vital interests” if necessary, as well as the importance of building alliances.

“Personally, I liked it,” Kagan wrote.

Which should tell you something right there.

Apparently Republicans are starting to look for a possible winner, and since they have none in their own party they’re switching parties.

Matthew Dowd, Bush’s chief campaign strategist in 2004, announced last month that he was disillusioned with the war in Iraq and the president’s “my way or the highway” style of leadership — the first member of Bush’s inner circle to denounce the leader’s performance in office.

Although Dowd has yet to endorse a candidate, he said the only one he liked was Obama. “I think we should design campaigns that appeal, not to 51% of the people, but bring the country together as a whole,” Dowd said.

Good enough for dedicated neocons and former Bush staffers? Good enough for me.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at May 08, 2007 03:54 AM
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Obama isn't a centrist. He's the most liberal candidate. See the results of this analysis of the voting records:

He compromises, but not on principles.

Posted by: jb1125 on May 8, 2007 4:40 AM

Also for more background on his foreign policy, you should read this article:

Posted by: jb1125 on May 8, 2007 4:42 AM

I dunno Chuck. Seems quite early yet. Some of the media sure seems to be spinning that way, but I'm seeing a lot of propaganda from the media, same as always. I read the last item in your post and am not convinced it's the real deal-unlikely that it reflects a broad consensus.

Posted by: Buck on May 8, 2007 6:30 AM

To me it seems clear that Obama has long been a centrist. I'm not saying he's switched positions. I'm saying he's too far to the right, too comfortable with military solutions, Israel, and the DLC, for me. It's not just that he's voted with Clinton on all Iraq-related bills; it's also stuff like his unconscionable vote for the bankruptcy bill. I want someone from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. Would anyone maintain that he's from that wing?

He is a fantastic speaker, and he comes across as being less fake than most politicians. I very much like his rhetoric about bringing the country together rather than dividing it. The problem is, his votes seem to me to be doing what he says we shouldn't do.

Finally, I didn't claim that Obama was compromising his principles. What I do claim is that the DLC's philosophy compromises the principles of the Democratic party, because the DLC is basically a bunch of Republicans with semi-liberal social attitudes, and they're not really in it for the working class (read, for example Thomas Edsall's Building Red America for piles of data on who makes up the Democratic party nowadays, and which small section tends to set the agenda). Events could change my mind, but at this point it appears that Obama's principals don't match mine closely enough for me to vote for him.

As for the Republicans supposedly deserting to Obama, that seems to me to indicate the level of dissatisfaction with Republican candidates more than anything else. Players, like Dowd, need to be on or friendly with a team that has some kind of power. If they have to switch sides, so be it. Plus, Dowd's a pollster, so he can claim to be feeling the zeitgeist.

And if Republicans decide to desert, who are they likely to pick: Clinton? Edwards is too far to the left. They're looking for a winner. That's gonna be Obama. That doesn't mean they actually agree with Obama's policies or approaches.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on May 8, 2007 2:48 PM

Postscript to Obama supporters: if you believe he's liberal because he was against the war to begin with, how do you explain his current position on that issue?

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on May 8, 2007 3:24 PM

A note on the voting records the National Journal put together.

The scores do indeed place Obama as the most liberal Senator running for President. They also rank fifteen Senators, including such fine folks as Tom Harkin and John Kerry, as more liberal than Russ Feingold. Apparently their definition of "liberal" is quite different from mine.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on May 8, 2007 3:33 PM

Let's imagine for a moment that the majority of voters vote for policy rather than perception. Doing this, I think we ought to look at how Obama served the state of Illinois. After all, he wants to run and serve 50 of them at once, so he must have done real well for Illinois.
Let's find out.

Posted by: walt on May 8, 2007 9:15 PM

I'd like to clear something up. For a long time I thought Obama voted for the unconscionable bankruptcy bill, as Chuck calls it in these comments. Then one day, in connection with I don't remember what, I happened to check the roll call vote:

Obama in fact voted against the bill. After reading Chuck's comment, above, I ran another search, this time on mentions in the Bad Attitudes archive of Obama's bankruptcy vote. It looks as if my original misapprehension came from right here: both Chuck and Buck (the latter in a comment on a Wayne Uff post) have charged Obama in the past with voting for the bill.

And of course I got it wrong too, although as far as I can tell I never did so on the internet. So we all owe an apology to the junior senator from Illinois.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on May 8, 2007 11:56 PM

I'm glad to hear that Obama did not vote for the bankruptcy bill. I thought I'd heard Jerry say that, and I thought I'd read it too; but it appears we generated our very own echo chamber.

So I'm happy to apologize to Obama and his supporters for my error. I'll be more careful in the future. (Oh, for Jay McInerny in the fact-checking department!)

The correct information does improve my feeling about Obama. But I'm still put off by the speech that got Kagan hot, in which Obama proposes to increase defense spending and add over 90,000 troops to the US military so that we can "stay on the offense" against terrorism and ensure ourselves of "the strongest, best-equipped military in the world". Hello? We already spend more on "defense" than the rest of the world put together; how will we know when we're strong enough? I can imagine a worse idea; but the worst thing I can think of is basically extending the Obama proposals further, and militarizing society as well as the economy. The twin economic evils of militarization and financialization are destroying the country.

Militarism is the worst disease we (the world in general, but specifically the US) suffer from in the present. Denial, which causes global warming, will give us more problems in the future. But if we don't mend our militaristic ways, we'll be left behind in the next two to three decades as China passes us in everything from military power to financial solidity, because (1) we'll be universally despised, and (2) we'll owe everything we have, mostly to our competitors. Look at China building relationships in Africa and central Asia, while we bomb the crap out of anyone who has something we want. You got some oil to get rid of, who you gonna call?

The end of the empire is near. What we're left with will depend on what we choose to do now and in the near future.

We need a President who will take a different route altogether from the one we've been following. As Bob Kerrey said in another context, we don't need a little more of the same thing. We need a lot more of something completely different.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on May 9, 2007 12:51 AM

Don't apologize too much just yet, Jerry. The following was written in Harpers magazine in November 2006.
"In one of his earliest votes, Obama joined a bloc of mostly conservative and moderate Senate Democrats who helped pass a G.O.P.-driven class-action “reform” bill. The bill had been long sought by a coalition of business groups and was lobbied for aggressively by financial firms, which constitute Obama’s second biggest single bloc of donors.

Although The Bond Market Association didn’t lobby directly on the legislation, Williams took note of Obama’s vote. “He’s a Democrat, and some people thought he’d do whatever the trial lawyers wanted, but he didn’t do that,” he said. “That’s a testament to his character.” Obama has voted on one bill that was of keen interest to Williams’s members: last year’s hotly contested bankruptcy bill, which made filing for bankruptcy more difficult and gives creditors more recourse to recover debts. Obama voted against the bill, but Williams was pleased that he did side with The Bond Market Association position on a number of provisions. Most were minor technical matters, but he also opposed an important amendment, which was defeated, that would have capped credit-card interest rates at 30 percent. “He studied the issue,” Williams said. “Some assumed he would just go along with consumer advocates, but he voted with us on several points. He understood the issue. He wasn’t closed-minded. A lot of people found that very refreshing.”

I got it wrong too because it was widely reported that way at the time, but I don't think we were totally wrong, just partly wrong about that bill.

Posted by: Buck on May 9, 2007 10:08 AM

Hmm, so Obama split the difference. Standard procedure, sure, but not a good sign.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on May 9, 2007 11:13 AM

Barack Hussein Obama is not a viable candidate. Nobody with a name like that has the remotest possibility of being nominated by a major U.S. party, let alone being elected. Barry is currently angling for a VP spot; Gore/Obama may be a winning ticket.

Posted by: Weniger Gottquatsch on May 9, 2007 2:06 PM

I agree America will have to deal with the underlying issues of Woman? Non-White? etc

And ok,I'm cynical, but regardless of inclination. Americans will externalize their OWN doubts about race and sex, and "play it safe" and come up with a white southerner -- John Edwards,
who will win and who will be just fine.

There's a reason that he's beeing chipped away at, slandered and trashed -- he is NOT A FRIEND of large corporations, and now that we live in a political situation of national Socialism (i.e., merger between govt and corporations with the corporations setting the agenda -- aka Fascism) the big tough corporate bullies are scared that they won't get their special treatment any more, that they'll have to bow to the "special interests" (meaning women, gay people, people of color, people of non-mainstream religions, labor, teachers, in fact everyone but corporate execs are "Special Interests" -- in other words the people of Aemrica are special interests so far as they're concerned )and that the American public might get to have a say in how our country plays out.

First up -- baby boomers passing 60 years old -- universal health care and social security will catch up with something almost as good as is offered in France. European MPG standards will need to be met. OIn other words, the corporate guys will FINALLY have to play on a socially-conscious level playing field.

So, out of the bias wil lcome some good.

Posted by: Saintperle on May 9, 2007 2:48 PM

What Saintperle said! That's why they hit Edwards, they're afraid of what might happen to their control if he won. That would indicate a new sheriff in town.

I can't fit everything into a comment, so I'll put it in a post.

Great comments, folks! Thanks for the education.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on May 9, 2007 9:10 PM
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