Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[politics] Hillary and Obama

I've never been a Democrat until this year. As a liberal-progressive, I've almost always voted Democratic (except in 2000, when I voted for Nader), but that has more to do with the cancer that the GOP has been on the American body politic in my lifetime — malignant under Nixon, metastatic under Bush 43 — than with any deep commitment to party politics. I registered this year so I could vote for Obama in the Oregon primary.

Earlier in the election cycle I was undecided between the major Democratic contenders, but Hillary and Obama were always my favorites. I tended to lean away from Senator Clinton because of what I perceive as her electability issues. Simply put, the best possible candidate to stimulate Republican fund raising and voter turnout is Hillary — she has far more throw weight with the GOP base as a negative brand than any of their actual candidates, including the increasingly hapless McCain.

Is that her fault? Not that I can see. But it's still a factor.

Up until about this February, I still would have enthusastically supported her in the general. Then the primary season got rolling in earnest, and her expected coronation transformed into a slugfest, whereupon she turned all Rove on us. If I wanted moving goalposts, character assassination by proxy and endless machinations, I'd be a Republican. Win at any cost politics hasn't exactly done America, or the GOP, any favors.

For me, the great moment of this election cycle was when Edwards bowed out, and for the first time in American history, a major political party was not going to run a[n old] white dude for president. Hillary or Obama (and it was still a very open question), that was a huge win for American politics and culture. That's a victory both Senators Clinton and Obama can share in, for all that it is largely symbolic.

Now I want her to shut up and go back to the Senate. Pardon my bluntness, but Hillary's slash-and-burn campaign, coupled with her inability to lose gracefully, have soured me profoundly on her. That's not a comment on her fitness to govern had she prevailed in the primary process, it's a comment on her place in the process. She has worked diligently to poison millions of Democrats against Obama in hopes of reversing her decline of fortunes, feeding their sense of betrayal, of being cheated. I want to trust her to work just as diligently to repair that damage, but I don't. If she stays at the front of the national stage, I can't help but believe it will be to watch like a hawk for a major Obama stumble. Clintons don't give up, after all.

Hillary is the president who might have been, but she pissed away her place in history to game the primaries. Obama is the president who might well be, if his life isn't taken for being the wrong color, and if white America doesn't allow itself to be spooked out of voting for a black man with a funny name.

I am a Democrat now, because I want to see this potential sea change in American politics take hold and become real. Obama carries the political excitement of Reagan without the intellectual fraud of Reaganism. He carries the cultural fire of Kennedy without the mob ties and the speed freakery. I am excited to vote for the first time in my life.
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