Tag Archives: campaign ’08

C’mon Nader, Not Now!

Nadar’s just announced plans for the presidency are just plain nuts. The annoucement was self-indulgent and arrogant, which is sad to see.

On the issues, Ralph Nader is as solid and on target as ever. His January 14, ’08 article “What the Candidates Avoid,” accurately sums up the limitations of even such progressive democratic candidates like Obama and Edwards (in January). Nader reminds us about the limitations of the two party system, corporate crime, and structural inequality. He reminds us that corporations have gained an unfair advantage not only over citizens but also over the government itself. He is right.

I was also pleased to see Nader support Edwards earlier this year. Reinforced my own support for Edwards.

I voted for Nader in 2000 from the safe haven of Massachusetts, and when the Supreme Court gave the election to Bush, I didn’t blame Nader for taking votes in Florida. It was clear that Gore had waged a lousy campaign, but had I been living in Florida in 2000, I would have voted for Gore. Sorry, Florida voters who voted for Nader in 2000, you blew it. You served up conditions for a coup that Jeb and his crew just couldn’t ignore.

Nader himself recently said he believed Gore won the election but that it had been “stolen from him… by the (Florida) Secretary of State and Jeb Bush.”

Even in 2000, it was clear that the Bush alternative was dangerous. And seven years later, it is clear we weren’t scared enough. Permanent war, recession, hallowed out government… The constitution is in shambles and corporations are running amuck with what’s left in a way that Naomi Klein captures well in Shock Doctrine.

Here’s the nugget. Politics is as much about judgment as about principle. Nader is great on principle, but lousy lousy on political judgment.

Ralph’s political judgment has always been impeded by righteousness, but his Meet the Press announcement Sunday was too much. Times are unimaginably different now than in 2000, making it plain to see the real difference and distinction between democrats and republicans. Abu Grahb, Gitmo, extraordinary renditions, the Patriot Act, Valerie Plame-gate, telecom immunity, all of which should be sufficient to make the point, but with the incumbent just scrapes the surface.

Now imagine Nader confusing Barack Obama with John McCain, who favors a hundred year war in Iraq, makes deranged Beach Boy jokes about bombing Iran, and has a well documented commitment to deregulation and penchant for corporate lobbyists.

Does he also confuse the incredible difference between having a possible Justice Laurence Tribe in an Obama Administration or a possible Justice Theodore Olsen in a McCain Administration. Stevens is 87, Kennedy is 71 and Ginsburg is 74. The new president will have an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the court or reinforce the current conservative trend. How many more deregulators does Nader want to see appointed to the Court over the next 4-8 years?

Hey Ralph, What’s up? Exactly how bad do things need to get?

Why not join progressive minded voters in holding Obama’s feet to the fire (he’ll need pressure from the left to force him to do many things he might otherwise not want to do), but join us!

Obama, Clinton last night on immigration.

Not much separates Obama and Clinton on the issues, including immigration, though, once again, there is a significant difference in emphasis.

Obama’s emphasis is immigrant rights, which includes his defense of the Dream Act as a policy he would vigorously pursue as president. It is worth noting that just yesterday, the Maryland state senate in Annapolis held hearings on SB 591 that would afford in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant high school graduates. Ten other states have enacted similar policies, but the Dream Act would establish a federal mandate and include financial aid.

Obama’s emphasis on rights is important because democrats haven’t emphasized immigrant rights issues for more than 20 years (not really since Mondale). It is important to reclaim this way of framing the issue on moral and political grounds as well as tactically for the fall campaign. By framing immigration within a constitutional rights context, an attack line against McCain emerges: Bush threw away the constitution post 911, McCain would leave it in the trash, but Obama would retrieve it, dust it off and return it to its revered place…

Clinton, on the other hand, emphasized the virtual fence, which she described as a friendly/ compassionate alternative to the bricks and mortar fences being constructed along the US-Mexico border.  So on the one hand, Clinton seeks a less punitive immigration enforcement policy than Bush/McCain, but it is important to see that her emphasis remains on enforcement rather than services or rights.

In addition, the virtual fence opens a Pandora’s box into a surveillance society that would intrude on everyone’s rights, immigrants and citizens. The virtual fence is part of a larger immigration control complex that includes SBInet, US-Visit and Real ID. These acronyms describe a fully integrative project that will endeavor to monitor and control immigrants, and in the case of Real ID– all drivers– throughout the country. I would wish each candidate spoke to this component of the issue.

To her credit, Clinton spoke about the need for the federal government to compensate states and local governments for immigrant services they provide. An important point because were this to happen, there would be less support for local anti-immigrant ordinances.

Both Clinton and Obama favored comprehensive reform, but Obama suggested there are different kinds of comprehensive reform. This attempt to go beneath the “comprehensive reform” buzzword shows his attention to policy details.

Both candidates also spoke to the need to help Mexico with its own economy. Once again there are different approaches here. Although the candidates didn’t make the linkages to free trade, they are evident; Hopefully, Obama would follow through on fair-trade substitutes for NAFTA, which would provide greater incentive for Mexican workers to stay in Mexican jobs, rather than crossing the border without papers in search of jobs in the States.

In sum, a different narrative is at work in the two campaigns. Obama’s narrative more closely adheres to the story of American democracy adhering to constitutional rights. Obama here shows how language really does make a difference. By emphasizing the need to stop demonizing immigrants, he makes this compelling foundation for comprehensive immigration reform.

Clinton’s narrative is more a patchwork of micro policy, like a series of short stories, with allusions to personal anecdotes patched together in wonk-like fashion. It may come together but you don’t lose yourself in it.  Clearly, Clinton’s immigration policy would benefit from being more integrative and with a stronger master narrative.

Once people lose themselves in Obama’s words, he’s got their vote.

I Know Populists: Hillary is no Populist

Hillary a populist? Won’t float.

I went to school in Madison, Wisconsin. I know progressive populists. Hillary is no progressive populist.

Clinton’s latest pre-March 4 strategy has her tacking to the left of Obama with a populist progressive message that might well resonate in Ohio. And she is hitting Obama with an “all hat/no cattle” version of Mondale’s 1984 “where’s the beef” taunt of Gary Hart to appeal to the longhorns in Texas.

Neither strategy is likely to be effective overall. Here’e why. The populist pitch is a too obvious play for an Edwards endorsement and rust belt Ohio votes. It runs afoul of the many links out there to Hillary’s corporate donors– as compared to Obama– in oil, pharmaceutical, and credit card industries. She will likely drop this pitch like a lead ballon should Edwards endorse Barack. She’ll certainly drop it should she win Ohio and Texas and suddenly become viable again.

On a related front, Hillary’s populist appeal is being undercut by Marc Penn’s insistance that there is no difference between super and elected delegates. It is difficult for a populist to credibly pin her hopes for the nomination on unelected delegates. And pushing to change rules she had agreed on in Florida and Michigan doesn’t help her to counter questions about her commitment to electoral fairness.

I also think it is difficult for a populist Clinton campaign to defend its absence a couple evenings ago from the telecom immunity vote in the Senate. Hillary was in DC at the time; perhaps she just didn’t want to offend her populist telecom donors?

Similarly difficult to attach an ‘all hat-no cattle’ Bush reference, on the intellectual heavyweight Obama. Any implict comparison between Obama and Bush works to Obama’s favor, even in Texas. Bush has done more to dumb-down America’s view of Texans than anyone since Yosemite Sam. Obama should invite the comparison and then poetically swat it away.

Hillary is not even the populist within her family. Bill is the Clinton populist. Bill’s “bubba factor” back in ’92 appealed to crossover voters, who happen to be voting now for Obama.

Potomac Primary Makes Clinton Toast?

Here in Baltimore, you’d think Obama had already won the nomination. On Monday, about 11,000 people cut school and cut out of work to see Obama at the First Mariner Arena. Obama was 2 1/2 hours late which meant that many folks who parked cars at a meter, found their cars had been towed. But they didn’t mind much, which is my point, given the Obama experience they had just witnessed.

On Tuesday, these and many more folks braved the rain and icy roads to give Obama 60% of the vote to Clinton’s 37%.

Perhaps the Clinton camp already sees the writing on the wall. They seemed to have conceded the Potomac primary in the days leading to the vote, even tho they needed a virginia win and needed Maryland to be close.

Consider as perhaps indicative that there was no big pre-primary ‘fire up the troops’ rally for Clinton in Baltimore or College Park, Fredrick or anywhere elsin MD. Sure, Chelsea was spotted at Baltimore’s Belvedere Square Market (which has amazing homemade soups and breads) and Hillary addressed workers at a White Marsh factory, but not much else, and Bill was disappointingly quiet.

Perhaps no firing up because Clinton is already toast.

I think the Potomac Primaries will go down in the political history books for the 08 campaign as marking the beginning of the end for Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions.

As of this morning, she faces a delegate and financial crunch. And given the blogosphere’s persuasive demands for transparency this primary season, the Clinton chore wrestling superdelegates (behind closed doors) away from a clear Obama mandate will be closely scrutinized and documented. And the Clintons probably do not want to be remembered for playing Bush to Obama’s Gore. Thus an all the more urgent situation for Hillary since she must now win about 57% of all the remaining delegates.

The potomic primaries might also be remarkable for signalling a progressive resurgence that actually and finally reaches the levers of power.

In addition to Obama, Donna Edwards victory in Maryland’s 4th CD is a victory, according to Kos, not only for “more democrats” but “better democrats.” Donna Edwards beat a democratic incumbent by telling voters in PG county that he was not progressive enough and was too far to the right of the dem party, and it worked. A similar message failed in 2006 when Edwards lost in her first run against Albert Wynn. The times are a changin.

Yep. 2008 seems different. Obama’s “yes we can” bromide is suddenly being felt in people’s bones (and up chris mathews leg). i never would have guessed.

Is Clinton toast?

According to the Potomac, the toaster is plugged in, fired up and ready to go!!

Barack, Beware the Wave

President Gary Hart would tell you, beware the wave!
Hart, the 1984 candidate of “new ideas,” rode the crest of popular, new generational appeal. After four years of Reagan, Hart offered something new against the establishment candidate Walter Mondale. He offered “new ideas,” however vague.

Keep in mind, after Hart rode high during primary season, Mondale came away with the nomination by hording supedelegates, and by asking a simple question– “where’s the beef?” that appealed to the public’s lingering doubts about Hart’s “new ideas.” (Hart later came away with Donna Rice).

Lesson for Barack? Beware the overconfidence that can follow sudden “rock star” status on the eve of what looks to be another big primary night. Beware cocky arrogance that will turn a now fawning press against you–instantly– and beware the clinton version of the mondale question that will no doubt be asked in some upcoming debate, “where’s the beef?” For Mondale, that question was all it took to reclaim the lead and for the Hart campaign to unravel quickly and unglamorously.

Should Edwards Endorse?

from comment I added on firedoglake post

As a former Edwards supporter, I now support Obama, so an Edwards endorsement wouldn’t affect my vote.
I do think an endorsement of Obama helps further solidify Obama’s progressive change credentials; a Clinton endorsement might seem opportunistic.

I also think that Edwards’ support is fragmented among at least three candidates: his progressive change message to Obama; his economic populism message– which crosses party lines to include some white conservative huckabee-like populists split between obama and clinton, and some even going to Huck. Finally, folks concerned about the details of Edwards health care policy are likely to go to Clinton, because their proposals almost match. The issue of mandates here is likely to scrape some edwards supporters away from obama.

should he endorse? sure. the obama wave is continuing to swell and edwards would do well by his message, supporters and himself to going with this flow.

I join the chorus that believes edwards would make a terrific AG!

waddya think? leave comments below

Republicans and Immigration: All Smoke, No Flame

Immigration is one of those issues in the ’08 campaign that is all smoke and no flame. Conservatives are voicing some pretty ugly xenophobic rhetoric about immigrants but they haven’t voted for the xenophobic and nativist candidates. All the same, the smoke suffocates rational discourse about immigration. Were the issue truly incendiary, Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo, perhaps even Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee. The remaining smoke, however, also screens out the practical advantages of having every driver get a license and insurance not to mention also concealing discussion about the militarization and privatization of immigration control.

It is too bad that presidential candidates aren’t discussing the positive role immigrant businesses, entrepreneurs, engineers, and others could and do play in slowing economic recession; or the continuing racism and discrimination in society that expands well beyond “illegal aliens” but lately has focused on them; or the constitutional issues (due process; privacy; free speech) that affect everyone regardless of immigration status.

The smoke is piped in by conservative radio and cable talk hosts (Rush, O’Reilly; Beck; Coulter; Dobbs…) and right wing anti-immigrant policy centers (FAIR CIS), which energize conservative mobs with red meat claims of alien hordes and terrorists.

But no flame. Folks aren’t voting their anti-immigrant rhetoric. For all the ranting against immigrants according to primary state exit polls, Republican voters have failed to cast votes (decisively, at least) based on their anti-immigrant opinions, settling instead on the least anti-immigrant Republican in the field–John McCain.

Briefly here’s why:
1) The immigration issue has no first-order constituency. When it comes right to it, anti-immigrant xenophobes hate a lot of other things as much or even more than they dislike immigrants. Over the years, opinion pools have shown that americans may not be in favor of immigration (in the abstract) but they like the real individual immigrant neighbor down the street or in the office. Thus, small towns around bigger cities where necomers often first reside, may rail against immigration but few would actually take up arms (figuratively), or call ICE to report their colleague, friend, neighbor, babysitter, landscaper or painter (real human beings with families). Anti-immigrant rhetoric thus becomes less salient in the voting booth because few voters have been harmed by actual immigrants (the system perhaps, immigrants, no). The same cannot be said about Iraq, lob layoffs, sub-prime mortgages, lack of health insurance, poorly funded public schools and so forth which create real tangible harm for most people. These are the issues that generate acutal votes when the voting booth curtain closes.

2) Dominent interests inside and outside government have financial claim on perpetuating a perceived problem with “illegal immigration.” Immigration agencies within the DHS have been hollowed out almost as much as have other DHS agencies during the Bush years. As Naomi Klein argues in Shock Doctrine, this is no isolated occurrence. It is part of a much larger globalization movement towards free market neo-liberalism; The larger point here is that the demonization of immigrants helps efforts to privatize and militarize immigration control, which in turn benefits a wide assortment of security management firms which have donated a great deal of money to Bush brother and current Repub. campaigns, and which get incredibly lucrative DHS contracts in return.

Republican contenders this year stand to gain ideologically and some financially by puffing smoke at immigrants and generating the growth of the immigrant industrial complex at the borders and thoughout the country. Within this system, voting hardly matters.