When, on my mailing list some months ago, I expressed a preference for Barack Obama in the Democratic selection process, I received an email which read, ”Oh, I see. You’d support a black man but not a white woman.”
That kind of fucked-up paralogia seemed to infect the entire Clinton campaign, reaching its perverse crescendo when she trumpeted her support among uneducated white folks. Her press ops, as one wag pointed out, stopped just short of her being photographed taking a shit in an outhouse.
There’s a case to be made that the core of her campaign’s failure was that she was running against John McCain for the justplainfolks vote, instead of running against Obama and his “politics of joy” (a term I, not he, lift from one-time Dem hopeful Hubert Humphrey). There may be a better case to be made for her campaign simply being a shambolic display of entitlement and two-faced political hackery. The actual numbers don’t really speak to the genuine disgust her tactics raised in many people, hardening and broadening the schism between pro-Obama and pro-Clinton in the Democratic base.
On the Clinton side, of course, there remains a certainty that Obama is “all talk,” and untested in national politics of any kind — that there’s more to a leader than talk. Certainly he makes interesting counterprogramming to McCain, who is unafraid of mentioning that he ate water rats in Viet Nam for 18 years at any opportunity and has been in politics since Ben Franklin was a boy.
This is the point at which I get interested. As longtime readers will recall with tiredness, I’m fascinated by American Presidential elections, and over the last twenty years I have a flawless scorecard for picking the winner. This, I’m not ready to predict yet.
I want to see how he does against McCain on the stump. He’ll cut a better figure, and that gift for rhetoric will soar — but Obama doesn’t have the same advantages going in that, say, Bill Clinton had against Bush Senior. Clinton played the debate hall like a rock-star king, but he also had working experience as a governor that he brought into play brilliantly. The test of Obama will be how he behaves when McCain puts him into a corner.
I imagine the Republican machine isn’t completely happy today. They have the ”experience” card, but they really wanted Hillary Clinton. They’ve been waiting for Hillary Clinton. They know how to run against her. Some of them have been licking their lips in anticipation of the most sickening public political evisceration in decades. Remember when Hillary declared she and Bill were under siege by a massive right-wing conspiracy? A UK newspaper did some digging, and found it. Interviewed them and everything. And those people didn’t suddenly go out and get hobbies. Obama is a different animal, and harder to run against in many ways.
I like what I know of Barack Obama. I’m glad it’s him. I have concerns — about the strength and breadth of his platform, and, frankly, about his safety, in a country where supporting a black man over a white woman is apparently worth confronting someone in email over — and I distrust the messianic Obamania I see here and there. I understand the sentiment and its roots, but I don’t like it: it invites the universe to fuck with your life. But, from my perspective over here in Britain, he has something America needs in a leader right now.
It would also be nice, really, if Americans abroad could have some dignity and respect returned to them.