Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Barack Obama For President

New York's primary in the 2008 presidential election cycle is part of "Super Duper Tuesday" on February 5. After much consideration, I have finally decided to cast my vote for Barack Obama on the Democratic Party ticket, and I urge readers to do the same.

It must be said right off that the Democratic Party is twin partner to the Republican Party, and as long as Americans are shackled to the good-cop-bad-cop routine with which these two corrupt bastions of American imperialism have enforced the will of the mlitary-industrial complex for the greater part of this country's history, we will be repeating an endless cycle of tragedy and disappointment, leading, eventually, to some disastrous collapse of self-avowed democracy to dictatorial despotism. However, someone will win the 2008 elections, and, however sad the fact might be, that person will not be cast up from the ranks of the righteous. That person will not even be a radical reformist in the mold of congressman Dennis Kucinich, nor a third-party critic like former Democrat Cynthia McKinney. That person will be a Democrat or Republican, and I believe that we are all better off--especially given the future composition of the Supreme Court--that that person be a Democrat. In a field of Democrats I believe the best choice is Senator Obama.

Barack Obama is not perfect. As for the global dominance of American capitalism and imperialism, from foreign interventionism including unquestioned bolstering of the State of Israel, to the ridiculous privatization of health and government services, to the tragic repressive waste that is so-called war on drugs, Obama's allegiance to the status quo is writ plainly and clearly. I do not argue that he is a revolutionary, nor even on the order of social heroes of the past who likewise shared a commitment to American capitalism despite their heroic challenges to the worst of American excess like the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.

Sadly many of the reasons to vote for Obama are negatives. The biggest of these is to deter NY Senator and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. At this writing Clinton and Obama are engaged in a somewhat bizarre LBJ vs MLK role-playing exercise. If Obama is no MLK, Clinton is unfortunately all too LBJ-like, and that should concern anyone whose priority is the swift removal of US troops from Iraq. The ugly race-baiting spectacle, complete with rambling threats by the former president Clinton himself and somewhat bizarre faux-folksy calls for solidarity with the Clintons from millionaire founder of BET Bob Johnson, reminds me, for one, of the worst of the Clinton years. Having suffered through America's self-inflicted Bushite nightmare I worry we have remembered only the good parts of Clinton's era and not the bad.

Speaking of millionaires, born-again populist, former senator and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards also represents an acceptable alternative to four more years of the Clintons or Republicans, but currently it seems unlikely that his trajectory is anything other than downward.

As everybody knows Barack Hussein Obama is the child of a white American woman and black man from Kenya. His upbringing was anything but typical (for non-Hawaiians or non-Indonesians that is): growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He is a lawyer, and a veteran of something he calls community organizing in Chicago. While not in national office at the time, he vocally opposed the US attack on Iraq from the beginning. He can be an inspiring speaker. His calls for change and hope do seem genuine and refreshing, and while I'm not particularly interested in building bridges with Republicans, his promise to unify and heal the sectarianism of the recent past feels like something more than just another election-year political bromide.

Obama does not support gay marriage, and handled the appearance by gospel singer and arguably anti-gay preacher Donnie McClurkin at a campaign event clumsily. But at his appearance at that ground-breaking candidates forum sponsored by Logo months back, I felt what he did say in support of gay civil rights was heartfelt and less equivocal than Clinton.

Obama seems to genuinely oppose the war in Iraq, and seems to raise questions about the whole idea of the "war on terror." But he clearly does not oppose American intervention abroad. His critique of the war is not as solid as that of say, Kucinich, or even perhaps the now-dropped out of the race Eeyore candidate Governor Bill Richardson. But his opposition to the war seems much clearer than that of Senator Clinton, who I believe would prolong and deepen it, much like LBJ did back in the 1960s.

It's widely reported that African-Americans are concerned that Barack Obama is setting himself up for assassination. It's hard to argue with that. The deep deep racism of many white Americans would seem to virtually guarantee that Obama would become a target of violence at some point. One can only pray--and I guess I mean that literally!--that such a fear doesn't come to pass. But it's because of that racism that I think Obama offers the most hope for me.

Harold Washington was Chicago's first--and only, so far--African-American mayor. Chicago was and is segregated in ugly ugly ways. But Washington's tenure, cut short by a heart attack, changed Chicago, and changed Chicagoans, for the better, in ways both subtle and dramatic. While Condoleeza Rice proves there's nothing inherently better about having black faces in government, I believe that Obama offers us the kind of opportunity for fundamental change in attitude, a fundamental blow against racism, that Harold Washington wound up being in Chicago. Jesse Jackson was a flawed candidate, though I worked on his presidential campaign back in the 1980s; my first political steps outside the tiny world of sectarian socialism. Jackson proved to be too complex a figure, too unable to transcend his personal baggage. Al Sharpton was a flawed candidate, and despite the knee-jerk racist reaction he is met with by most white Americans, he made many principled and admirable stands; but his campaign never transcended that of an outsider, like today's Kucinich or Gravel. Racism didn't end with Harold Washington, and it won't end with Obama. Indeed the backlash will likely be ugly. But the hour is late, and every we step we take as a nation so dyed in the wool of racism out of this ugly caldron is a step toward our redemption.

It is unnecessary, I think, to engage in the fruitless argument over whether women or African-Americans have suffered more or are more deserving of fronting our attack against the Republican monstrosity. Let us look to the individuals offering to lead the charge and this time, the man of mixed racial heritage is my choice.

For the Republican machine must be defeated. Huckabee, a likable opponent of scientific reality, a gregarious foe of gays and non-Christians, as ignorant about foreign affairs as he is committed to his religious faith, offers the logical extension of Bush's evangelical champions and must be defeated. Giuliani, a dislikable bully and opportunist, is a would-be dictator, a fear-monger, and deeply, deeply corrupt, must be defeated. Romney, a slimy, corrupt and disengenuous opportunist, must be defeated. McCain, a doddering militarist, a veteran war criminal, and lapdog of the Republican establishment, must be defeated.

For all these reasons, you can hold your nose, you can cross your fingers, you can apply for an immigration visa to the country of your choice, you can stockpile arms in preparation for civil war, you can redouble your commitment to revolution or to spiritual purity, but the only choice for now, for this dismal reality, is to vote for Barack Obama for president. May God have mercy.

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