Monday, June 30, 2008

Disappointed in Obama

I hate to even write this post, because I hate the notion of having anyone be able to say "See? Even Obama's supporters are calling him a flip-flopper!"

So let me be clear. That's not what I'm doing here, and if I never hear the lazy, media-coined bullshit "flip flop" term again, I'll be ecstatic. I've been an Obama booster from fairly early on. I remain an Obama booster. But I am close to becoming an Obama booster in the same way as I was a Kerry booster, in a "Well, he's the better of two choices" way. I honestly believed that Obama was going to bring some real change to politics, not just a shift back to the Democratic policies that tend to sit better with me than Republican rule.

But it's becoming clear to me that, though he's an infinitely better choice than McCain, Obama may in fact be just a politician, the same way his opponents have been saying he is.

The first hint came when he opted out of public financing. This was a smart political move, because the 527s on the Republican side are going to hit him, and he needs money to fight back, and I can understand that this was sort of a "way the game is played" move. I was disappointed, but realistic.

But in the last few days, Obama has said or done three more things that increasingly disappointed me. I'm reminded of how I felt about Bill Clinton by the end of his term, where he was compromising so much that I felt like he might as well be a Republican. I'll still never entirely forgive him for failing to come out strongly for gay rights... at least Obama has gotten that right, talking in forceful language about repealing the asinine "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allowing for gay marriage.

Problem is, I don't know if I can believe his tough talk. Because for all his talk of change, he still voted for the FISA cave-in (along with the rest of the spineless Democratic party). Again, I'm sure it's a political thing, gaining favor, but it's not the change we were promised, and I don't think he's really doing the will of the people so much as the will of the corporations, and that just makes me angry. I've joined the Anti-FISA group on Obama's campaign website, and he still has time to reverse his decision. I hope (though I doubt) that he will.

Then Wesley Clark (my personal choice for VP) came out and blasted McCain, noting that maybe his war record didn't necessarily qualify him to be President. That maybe his experience, while perfectly noble and heroic, didn't really have any direct bearing on his potential role as Commander in Chief. It was well thought out, and it was a criticism that could only come from someone with as much military experience as Clark.

So what does Obama do? He publicly distances himself from that, and at the same time, blasts Move in a speech about his patriotism.

Look, I get it. Politics is all about having as many friends and as few enemies as possible, and doing what you feel is right comes a distant third or fourth, if it enters in at all. But seeing Obama kowtow to the right so much before he's gotten the Presidency doesn't give me any confidence that he's not going to fold his principles one almost every issue, just like Clinton did in his second term. And that's not what I want.

Then I see that he's talking about faith-based initiatives, and I get nervous. Because I know his faith is important to him, I know that only a Christian is going to get elected in America, as an atheist I've made my peace with that... but that doesn't mean I want my tax money going to the untaxeable churches, who are all too often getting involved in the political process. To quote George Carlin: "Tax them! Tax these motherfuckers! If they want to get involved in politics, let them pay the admission price just like everybody else!" And giving money to faith-based initiatives is such a Bush thing to do, it makes me nervous.

Again, I get it. Not all faith-based outreach is bad, in fact there's a lot of good done there. But I can't help thinking that some of that money is going to go to crazy people who shoot abortion doctors or threaten their families, who picket gay funerals, who push a scorched Earth policy of war and environmental callousness because they believe that God is going to take them all up and leave the heathens behind anyway.

It just... combines with the rest to make me nervous.

However, here's the thing: There's pretty much no way Obama can lose me. His positions on all of these things are less right-wing than John McCain, and most of his positions still line up with mine. However, I've given money to the campaign three times, and I'm less likely to do that again, unless there's a reversal of direction in the decisions he's making while he's still a Senator and Presidential candidate.

I'm disappointed that now that the general election race is gone, issues that matter to me like the economy, gas prices, the Iraq War and universal healthcare have been dropped out of the discussion to focus on whatever craziness the media or the Republican party have decided to make a talking point of the day. Once again, it looks like the Democrats are letting the enemy control the tone of the conversation, going on the defensive.

And I start to wonder, is this the reason why the Democrats lose so often? Is it because (like I'm doing here) we're willing to question our candidate rationally, to poke at his foibles and really examine if he's the right man for the job? Meanwhile, the Republicans basically get behind their candidate with a blinding devotion, promoting him as if he were ten feet tall and bullet-proof, and every crazy thing he says is completely rational and only a simpering liberal would debate it.

Maybe as liberals, our own self-analysis and intellectualism is getting in our way, and what winning politics requires is a little fanaticism and blind devotion.

Which is a terribly depressing thought, given what it says about politics and this country. But I'm not convinced I'm wrong here.

1 comment:

Dexter Morgan said...


The last two or three weeks have been infuriating to me as I've watched Obama "moving to the center" (i.e., the right) on the issues you cited, as well as others.

If you don't already read his articles I highly recommend Glenn Greenwald's column at He's one of those "far-left" folks holding Obama to the standards and principles he espoused during the Democratic primaries, but apparently no longer has any use for in the general election.