But then the first thing I hear come out of Candidate Obama's mouth is how narcissistic Boomers and their partisan politics are harshin' his buzz. This is Progressivism? It's a critique of local radio formats.
This is acceptable in someone who's twenty-six, but in a middle-aged man, born on the 196th of Kennedy's Thousand Days, it's a campaign pander. Senator Obama was old enough to make a decision in the Carter-Reagan campaign of 1980. He's old enough to have seen what happened since. He was at Columbia (a political science major!) and at Harvard Law in those days, and after that in Chicago's wards. He has to know the nature of the "excessive" partisanship of the last twenty-five years, and he should be keenly aware of the damage caused by the Democratic party leadership's decision to accentuate the Loyal and ignore the Opposition (that, too, sounded like good soundbite politics at the time). He may, indeed, now be forgiven if he feels some schadenfreude at the treatment of Bill Clinton's presidency, but that does not excuse a clear-eyed look at just who has controlled the partisan timbre of the last quarter-century, and who has been holding on, trying to protect the environment, social justice, and those other excesses of the Sixties.
We don't count him out yet, any more than we dismiss his potential as President to do what he refuses to say as Candidate. And we certainly agree with jabs at Bill Clinton. Okay, except this:
But, trust me, to the thousands of committed progressives who supported him when he really needed it, who went to the mat for him at his moment of (largely self-inflicted) crisis but who now happen to be supporting someone other than his wife, he's done himself a tremendous amount of damage.
since at our age we're weary of everyone with a keyboard speaking for Thousands of Us, and we're still functioning well enough cognitively to recall "going to the mat" in opposition to naked, lyin', thievin', and yes, fascist power grabs by the Right, not as a political calculation that anything a centrist Democrat did was worth defending. And we also recall that some of the most anti-Clinton sentiments we heard during that whole politically benighted decade came from the Left. Rightly.
We're sorry, but then we didn't do it. The man has run a poor campaign, and we suggest he's done so at the service of a political calculation, namely, that looking and sounding like you'd win a reality-show competition for President was enough to clinch the real thing without trifling about specifics. He held course until November, daring to exasperate Maureen Dowd, then joined in pummeling Hillary. This was another horrid miscalculation, as Thousands of Us saw it as unfair piling on in cooperation with Tim Russert and Brian Williams. That whole "do they dare pick on a Girl" routine had been played out for months, while Obama and Edwards and the rest of the field lost debate after debate to Senator Clinton. He sat through months of debates like he was running for Mahatma, and when his numbers didn't improve and the clock started ticking he pounced. This works only if you're a puma.
Obama seemed to think that the anti-war vote was in his pocket, based on that 2002 speech everyone kept pointing at, and without regard for what he and the United States Senate has done about the war in the past three years, and he seems to imagine that whomever takes the fewest actual positions on the campaign trail wins by acclamation.
So, again, sorry. There's still time for him to come out swinging, but now he looks calculating when he does; these are the basic math skills of campaigning, and it would have been much better for him if, several months ago, his supporters had demanded to see his work. They can cry in their beer now, and blame the Clintons. We'd join 'em but we're busy pining for McGovern. And we think real Progressivism values issues over personalities, and bears the scars of old and bitter fights that still inform us today. We honor the incredible bravery of generations of miners and foundry workers who fought against slave wages and sixteen-hour days and unsafe working conditions; we remember that it was church secretaries and truck farmers and school teachers and students--and not just one charismatic preacher--who spit in Death's eye and brought down Jim Crow. Thousands of Us would as soon honor the memory of Herbert Hoover, J.P. Morgan, or Allan Pinkerton as Ronald Reagan.
And personally, a President who won't appoint three more wingnuts to the Supreme Court, threaten tenth-rate military powers with nuclear annihilation just to win votes, and eliminate what's left of taxes on the wealthiest 5% on the grounds they have better things to do with their money, is a President who won't keep me awake nights. If it's Progressivism you want, work for a Progressive Democratic party, and stop hoping a President will make it all better. Because in case you haven't actually looked at the Democratic Congress lately, even after seven years of Bush we're still a lot closer to eliminating Ugly Partisanship by crushing what's left of Progressivism than by ushering in an era when everyone else admits it was right all along.