PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

January 30, 2008

Kucinich Out, Edwards Out: What Next?

The withdrawal of Dennis Kucinich, followed by today’s announcement of Edwards’ “suspension” of his campaign, forces progressives to assess our diminishing options in the Democratic presidential race. We have choices to make as individuals, and PDH has a choice to make as an organization. And the imperatives may not be the same.

So let me talk about the options facing PDH. Given my sense of opinion within our group, I can see 3 possible options:

1) Endorse Obama over Clinton;

2) Endorse voting for Kucinich, whose name WILL remain on the ballot for Feb. 19th;

3) Recognize there is no consensus, urge members to make their own commitments and remain focussed on other activities, such as a legislative agenda and planning for the upcoming state and county conventions.

Option #1: Endorse Obama.

My read on membership opinion, including the IRV ballots cast, is that Obama is favored over Clinton among PDH members. But I also sense a discomfort over being so “flexible” with our principles that we would endorse a candidate whose explicit positions are barely distinguishable from those of Clinton. Compromising our principles in the name of pragmatism in order to endorse Edwards had already required some adjustment in our thinking. Where Kucinich called for major changes across a wide range of policies, Edwards was still mired in conventional mainstream Democratic positions on too many issues. But on issues of “economic justice,” I think Edwards was doing a better job of articulating a clear progressive populist message, explicitly calling attention to corporate domination of our politics and economic life, which works to the detriment of working and middle class Americans and democracy itself.

Obama, on the other hand, appears to be running a campaign calculated to avoid taking strong stands on the major problems confronting us, preferring instead to evoke nebulous “feel good” imagery of “change” without committing to any specific TYPE of change. He promises to “transcend” traditional “partisan politics” which he decries as “divisive.” In 2006, liberals wisely rejected such language when it came from Joe Lieberman, or his local variant, Ed Case, but today many seem to have no problem accepting similar “circumlocutions” when they come from Obama.

I SUSPECT that the “real Obama”, currently obscured by his marketing strategy, is probably a decent man, with humane values, but I cannot in good conscience encourage PDH members to suspend their critical judgment and make an endorsement based upon such a leap of faith. I believe Obama is in a strong position to win more delegates in Hawaii than Clinton. And I think that is desirable. What is at issue is the margin of victory for Obama, not the victory itself.

Option #2: Endorse Kucinich.

Because the ballots for the Feb. 19 presidential preference poll have already been printed and sent out to the counties for distribution, both Edwards and Kucinich will have their names on on the ballot. At each precinct meeting, party members will be advised that both men have dropped their presidential bids. Nonetheless, party members WILL be free to vote for them should they choose to do so. If either of them were to receive over 15% of the votes cast in either congressional district, they would (I BELIEVE) be entitled to delegates to the national convention.

I call this the “Jeremy Bentham” strategy. (Look it up!). And it has been used before in Hawaii. In 2004, Howard Dean dropped out shortly before our caucuses and the leaders of his campaign asked his supporters to still vote for Dean in the caucuses. Most of his followers disagreed and either stayed home, or switched to another candidate, including many who voted for Kucinich. Dean received 333 votes, slightly over 8% of the votes cast statewide, falling way short of the 15% threshold necessary to receive any delegates. (Reviewing the vote count for this post, I believe a shift of a majority of those Dean votes to Kucinich would have probably meant an additional delegate slot shifting from the Kerry campaign to the Kucinich campaign. Because the Dean campaign insisted on asking their supporters to “go down with the ship.” those 333 votes were, in my opinion, wasted.)

In case the local Kucinich campaign is tempted to try the same thing, I would urge them to reflect before deciding. The Dean campaign in 2004 was extremely well-organized with a large influx of enthusiastic supporters. I doubt anyone with the current Hawaii Kucinich campaign would make that claim about their effort this year. Prior to Kucinich’s decision to drop out, it was my assessment that Dennis’s Hawaii support was close to the necessary 15% threshold necessary to win delegates. There were plans for Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth to return to Hawaii for a three-day, four-island barnstorming effort in February, just prior to the caucuses. Such an effort, I believe, would have boosted his tally statewide to the point where he might very well have placed second, well behind Obama, but marginally ahead of Clinton. And I thought that would be an effort worth joining. But without Kucinich’s return trip and WITH the announcement Kucinich has dropped out of the race, does it make any sense to recommend his supporters turn out and still vote for him in the caucuses?

I believe a case CAN be made that some of Kucinich’s supporters will ONLY come out to the caucuses, get themselves elected as delegates to the convention and remain active in the Party if their choice to vote for Dennis is respectedT they not appreciate being lectured that they are “wasting their votes.” If no other candidate speaks to them, let them vote their consciences as a means of clearly expressing their progressive values. I certainly hope they will stick around and help the Party adopt Kucinich-like positions for our platform and resolutions.

Option #3: PDH Makes No Endorsement

Frankly, I think this option makes the most sense for PDH as an organization. Kucinich was clearly the first choice of our members. A majority of us were willing to “lower our standards” in order to vote for Edwards and still have a meaningful impact on the dynamics of the local race. A slightly smaller group MAY be willing to endorse Obama over Clinton, but with diminished enthusiasm and more doubt about the wisdom of doing so. Our endorsement will have minimal impact on the local race–perhaps helping Obama win another delegate that might have otherwise gone to Clinton. On the other hand, we risk alienating a sizable chunk of our membership (and periphery) with such a compromise. The “hidden Obama” may be fairly progressive, but the public Obama has positions offensive to enough of our members that we will gain little and risk a lot with such an endorsement.

Our endorsement policy has always been to guard against the inevitable divisiveness generated during the primary season. Dividing ourselves from others, based upon solid principles, is often necessary–even desirable. Dividing ourselves in service of diluted, ambiguous principles, strikes me as self-destructive. PDH has a role to play in facilitating the progressive debate at the convention over rules, resolutions and the platform, helping develop the practical political skills of our members in the process.

In some years, working with a progressive presidential campaign is a good way of making contact with progressive activists from across the state who are looking for a means of engaging in progressive politics that endures beyond an election cycle. At this point, in this cycle, those prospects seem closed off to us, but we have plenty of useful work to keep us engaged without threatening our unity or our effectiveness.

For these reasons, I would urge PDH as an organization to recognize our lack of internal consensus on the value of endorsing one of the remaining presidential candidates (or endorsing a candidate who has dropped out and has no prospects of winning any national delegates). Let’s respect that members hold differing views, wish each campaign “good luck” and continue to pursue our independent, progressive agenda. As we head into the convention, we certainly will be working with ALL progressives, regardless of their tactical presidential choices in this race.

15 Comments »

  1. I agree that “option #3” is the best one for PDH as an organization.

    I have commented to friends a few times this political season that it seems that by the time a candidate becomes “electable” to the nation, he/she must first move to a position where I lose most if not all respect for him/her. I think that is the case here. Kucinich clearly stood for the issues and principles that I would like to see advanced better than any other candidate. With him out, Edwards seemed an acceptable option. Now, I feel that Obama is better than Clinton, but am not willing to work very hard to give him an edge.

    To me, what this means to the big picture is that we have a lot more work to do to bring our issues/principles to the “mainstream.” I believe, for example, that a not-for-profit single-payer universal health care system would be preferred by a majority of Americans if they understood it. Yet with the fear of “socialism” so effectively thrust on us by the right-wingers, people aren’t willing to admit that “socialized” medicine might be a good thing. Let’s change that mindset.

    Comment by rachel — January 30, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

  2. option #1: not even an option in my opinion. whether obama might be progressive in reality means little to nothing if he cannot stand on those progressive principles (or really any principles for that matter) while running for president. about all we can be sure about is that he stands for ‘change’ and ‘ending partisanship.’ i honestly don’t know what either actually means. as such, i don’t believe this organization should even contemplate such an endorsement.

    option #2: if we want to endorse kucinich (which i’m not sure i’d be opposed to), we’d need to have a very frank discussion about what such an endorsement would mean, practically, and how such an endorsement by PDH would be perceived beyond our membership. i’m not sure the idea of an official endorsement is prudent, however, making a public statement endorsing no candidate, but ‘supporting’ kucinich might not be bad idea. again, i’m not sure myself where to stand on this issue and believe a lengthy discussion would be necessary before taking any such step.

    option #3: practically, i think this is the best option. i cannot stomach the idea of endorsing either of the remaining candidates and i personally don’t think we should even consider doing so. if we look at our SHIPS (+E) platform, neither obama or hilary score very well. what kind of signal would an endorsement for either send? it’s just a bad, bad, bad idea. again, no endorsement with qualifying ‘support’ for kucinich would be as far as i would go, and i’m not sure its worth even going that far.

    Comment by frosty — January 30, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

  3. The only truly progressive candidate in the race was Kucinich. Now that he’s out (and Edwards), we’re left with Obama vs. Clinton. To me, either would be an acceptable president, but the choice is clear: Clinton. Obama is a centrist with libertarian tendencies who is not nearly aggressive enough on environmental and scientific issues (the ones that concern me most). Clinton is more of a true liberal in terms of her politics. I am concerned that so many people jump on the Obama bandwagon just because he’s younger and “fresher” than the alternatives. His politics aren’t progressive at all.

    Comment by Brian Shiro — January 31, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

  4. I should add that a Clinton/Obama ticket would be very enticing in the election next fall since they would cover both the left (Clinton) and center (Obama). Additionally, Edwards would make an excellent Attorney General no matter who is elected President; he is better suited for that job than President anyway.

    Comment by Brian Shiro — January 31, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  5. I marvel at the fact my three esteemed friends above miss the forest for the trees with such over generalizations, and somewhat condescending arguments and portrayals. Americans for Democratic Action, the mother ship of liberal / progressive thought, gives Obama one its highest rankings, second to Kucinich on the totality of his voting record.

    Please let’s talk ideas, not spread innacurate over generalizations. PDH seems a little top heavy to me at the moment,
    and I welcome Bob Schacht’s post.

    We are talking about shades of difference between the two remaining candidates.
    I’d encourage PDH’rs to study both candidates’ position statements, and make up their
    minds accordingly. If progressive means forward thinking, we need to be realistic about who will
    implement the platform of peace.

    Comment by Karin Gill — January 31, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  6. It seems to me that PDH has spent an inordinate amount of time on deciding who to endorse. It’s hubris to think that PDH’s endorsement means a hell of a lot to most people. I wonder if it means a lot to even some of us PDH members. If I go to the caucases on Feb. 19th, I’m going to vote for whomever I want. No matter who PDH endorses.

    Judging by that vote we took at the last meeting, clearly there is a wide divergence of opinion. Why not respect that.

    Option 3.

    Of course.

    Comment by Joe O'Brien — January 31, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

  7. I thought we were going to have another vote? Since there is only 2 real candidates, a clear majority could be possible. I don’t think we should endorse Dennis as he dropped out and any votes he receives will probably be wasted. Just like for Howard Dean. While I have some questions about Obama, I am angry with Hillary as she voted for that Iranian resolution. I agree with Truthout:

    Obama, Clinton and the War
    By Robert Scheer
    Truthdig.com

    Tuesday 29 January 2008

    It should mean a great deal to progressives that in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination Sen. Ted Kennedy favors Sen. Barack Obama over two other colleagues he has worked with in the Senate. No one in the history of that institution has been a more consistent and effective fighter than Kennedy for an enlightened agenda, be it civil rights and liberty, gender equality, labor and immigrant justice, environmental protection, educational opportunity or opposing military adventures.

    Kennedy was a rare sane voice among the Democrats in strongly opposing the Iraq war, and it is no small tribute when he states: “We know the record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And let no one deny that truth.”

    But that is precisely the truth that Sen. Hillary Clinton has shamelessly sought to obscure. Her supporters have accepted Clinton’s refusal to repudiate her vote to authorize the war, an ignominious moment she shares with other Democrats, including presidential candidate John Edwards, who at least has made a point of regretting it. It was a vote that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, 3,940 U.S. service members-five more on Monday-and a debt in the trillions of dollars that will prevent the funding of needed domestic programs that Clinton claims to support. And it doesn’t end with Iraq. Clinton has been equally hawkish toward Iran and, in a Margaret Thatcher-like moment, even attacked Obama for ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden.

    Clinton’s apologists include Gloria Steinem and too many other feminists, who should know better than to betray the women’s movement’s commitment to peace in favor of simplistic gender politics. It is disturbing, not because they conclude that Clinton is the best candidate, but because they refuse to challenge their candidate to be better. Does it not matter that Clinton’s key foreign policy advisers are drawn heavily from the ranks of the neoliberals, who cheered as loudly for President Bush’s war as did the neoconservatives? Are they not concerned that Richard Holbrooke, who exploited his experience and access to secret information during the Clinton presidency to back Bush’s Iraq invasion, is a likely contender for secretary of state should she win?

    Sandy Berger, a key Clinton adviser, played a major role in convincing Kennedy’s congressman son, Patrick, to vote for the war authorization against what the younger Kennedy said was the advice of his father and his own better instincts. According to a Knight Ridder report at the time, “Patrick Kennedy said the most persuasive arguments for attacking Iraq came from members of the Clinton White House,” including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is often described as the foreign policy expert closest to Hillary. Patrick J. Kennedy refuses to be burned twice and now supports Obama.

    Yes, if Hillary Clinton is the candidate, she probably will be better than the Republican alternative and, as Ted Kennedy made clear, deserving of our support. But isn’t it troubling that she can’t hold a candle to Sen. John McCain when it comes to fighting Pentagon waste or pushing for campaign-finance reform to curtail the power of lobbyists? Isn’t it disturbing that Sen. Clinton has received more money than any other candidate of either party from the big defense contractors, according to a report on the Huffington Post? Why have the war profiteers given her twice the campaign contributions that they sent to McCain, if not for the expectation that she is on their side of the taxpayer rip-off that has seen the military budget rise to an all-time high? It’s for the same reason that the bankers, Wall Street traders and other swindlers who produced our economic meltdown fund Clinton.

    Hillary Clinton has made “experience” key to her claim to the presidency and tells us she will do the right thing from “day one.” The reality is that her extra four years in the U.S. Senate hardly provides better experience than Obama’s eight years in the Illinois state Senate battling for progress with the nation’s most hard-boiled politicians. And if she lays claim to her husband’s presidency, then she must also take responsibility for caving in to big media with the Telecommunications Act, selling out to the banks with the Financial Services Modernization Act, and killing the federal welfare program-a political gambit that deeply wounded millions of women and children. Her political career began with the Senate and she hit the ground running, but, as her craven support for Bush after 9/11 shows, it was in the wrong direction.

    Comment by Peter Ehrhorn — January 31, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

  8. How about considering endorsing Ron Paul?

    Of the people now running, other than Mike Gravel, isn’t he’s the only one pledged to end the war now?

    His position of the failed, War On Drugs, is outstanding, imho.

    There’s a great piece on truthout.org making the case for progressives to ally themselves with Dr. Paul.

    I’ve seen pieces on the web stating that Team Obama and Team Clinton, (with Zbig Breshinski endorsing Obama, his son being Obama’s Foreign Policy Advisor, plus Hillary’s advisor Mark Penn for example), look more like Team Bush/Cheney.

    Then, there’s mad dog McCain. Jeez.

    What if Democrats and other disinfranchised citizen constituencies joined forces supporting Ron Paul?

    Comment by Lionel — January 31, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

  9. Sorry, forgot to mention. Aren’t Kuchinich and Paul friends and often, political allies?

    Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich ticket?

    Comment by Lionel — January 31, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

  10. This just appeared in my inbox and I agree with it:

    IF YOU WERE OPPOSED TO THIS WAR BEFORE IT STARTED,
    THE CHOICE IS CLEAR–BARACK OBAMA GOT IT RIGHT!

    Dear Erick,

    PDA’s roots began in opposition to the Iraq War. PDA’s entire existence has been a daily fight to end a war that never should have been started. We all know that. And over the next few days, we have a chance to act in harmony with our antiwar roots.

    Here’s the essence of the situation: if Senator Obama can make it through next Tuesday in decent shape–or better–the electoral terrain in the rest of the month of February seems very favorable to his candidacy. But Senator Clinton is going for a knockout punch right now, this week, trying to dominate in places where PDA has some strength, states like California and Massachusetts.

    Why should PDA care? Well, since PDA’s top-ranked candidates–Kucinich and Edwards–have now withdrawn, PDA supporters who wanted to could still make a difference in the next few days for our third-ranked candidate, Barack Obama, especially in California and Massachusetts.

    PDA supporters who wanted to could still make a difference in the next few days, especially in CA & MA. We could email our personal lists, call our friends, blog our support online, volunteer, vote. We could, if we wanted to, choose to act.

    My own thoughts, as a lifelong antiwar activist, are pretty straightforward at this point. There are two main candidates left.

    One of them, Barack Obama, spoke out against the war in October of 2002, before it started. http://www.barackobama.com/2002/10/02/remarks_of_illinois_state_sen.php

    The other one, Hillary Clinton, voted to authorize that war only 8 days later.
    http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=233783

    Their speeches are worth reading. Obama got it right. Clinton got it wrong. I’m going to support the one that got it right.

    Yours in the movement,

    Steve Cobble
    PDA from Roxbury on,
    Formerly with Kucinich ’04 & ’08

    This message was not paid for or coordinated with any candidate or campaign.

    Comment by Peter Ehrhorn — January 31, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

  11. Aloha,

    Most of us would consider those who base political decisions on a candidate’s position on ‘right to life’ or ‘sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman’ hopelessly one dimensional and manipulated. Those people are just as sincere as us, just as sure they are working for justice as we are. I never thought I’d see the same political reasoning, looking at the universe through a straw, here at pdh.

    We selected five important points, and if a candidate doesn’t agree with us 100% on those specific issues, then he’s not progressive, is that right? I know I should try harder to understand, but it just seems nuts to me.

    I remember how strongly this group supported Senator Akaka, and how each of us did what we could to help him win. For my part, his vote against this illegal and unnecessary war won my support. If you remember that time, theirs was not a popular position. Senator Obama made that position known while running for his current office, which was even more courageous than our good Senator.

    You might not have read any of his speeches or read much that he’s written. These are as good a start as any: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe751kMBwms&feature=PlayList&p=B03F10C0072F4762&index=2
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqoFwZUp5vc
    http://www.barackobama.com/issues/

    Barack has my wholehearted support. I don’t agree with him on some important points, but I feel profoundly that he’s going to help bring this country back to sanity. The liberal/conservative thing, while based in reality, is so much bullshit sometimes- as if the right is in any sense conservative. Finding common ground is not just a tactic, it’s the truth about our interests as Americans. Lakoff had an interesting article about this today on Huffington Post:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-lakoff/what-counts-as-an-issue_b_84177.html

    ” This nomination campaign is about much more than the candidates. It about a major split within the Democratic party. The candidates are reflecting that split. Here are three of the major “issues” dividing Democrats.

    First, triangulation: moving to the right — adopting right-wing positions — to get more votes. Bill Clinton did it and Hillary believes in it. It is what she means by “bipartisanship.” Obama means the opposite by “bipartisanship.” To Obama, it is a recognition that central progressive moral principles are fundamental American principles. For him, bipartisanship means finding people who call themselves “conservatives” or “independents,” but who share those central American values with progressives. Obama thus doesn’t have to surrender or dilute his principles for the sake of “bipartisanship.”

    The second is incrementalism: Hillary believes in getting lots of small carefully crafted policies through, one at a time, step by small step, real but almost unnoticed. Obama believes in bold moves and the building of a movement in which the bold moves are demanded by the people and celebrated when they happen. This is the reason why Hillary talks about “I,” I,” “I” (the crafter of the policy) and Obama talks about “you” and “we” (the people who demand it and who jointly carry it out).

    The third is interest group politics: Hillary looks at politics through interests and interest groups, seeking policies that satisfy the interests of such groups. Obama’s thinking emphasizes empathy over interest groups. He also sees empathy as central to the very idea of America. The result is a positive politics grounded in empathy and caring that is also patriotic and uplifting.

    For a great many Democrats, these are the real issues. These real differences between the candidates reflect real differences within the party. Whoever gets the nomination, these differences will remain.”

    I may have given a couple of Paul Rogat Loeb’s book, “Soul of a Citizen: How to Live with Conviction in a Cynical Time” to some of us here. Paul Loeb wrote a good article summing up his newfound support for Barack that you can read here: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/1/31/124418/149/483/446991

    As far as what pdh should do about endorsement, I think that’s a question for the membership. Since we can’t get everyone to a meeting, maybe a poll by email is the way to go. Probably since this is such a strong Kucinich team, we’ll end up with a majority that doesn’t want to endorse. As long as the process is open and fair I think you’re on solid ground.

    Peace.

    Comment by lauriebaron — February 1, 2008 @ 9:03 am

  12. I agree, somewhat reluctantly, with option 3. I firmly support Obama, and suspect he may reveal more progressive positions if/when he is actually president, rather than having to fight for every delegate possible. Kucinich may have had ideas and plans that are wonderful to contemplate, but they scare most people spitless, and if you can’t get elected you can’t put them into practice. I’m hoping Obama will surprise us at least a little if he has the power of the presidency, and even if he doesn’t, I believe he has the ability to refurbish our devastated reputation and negotiating power with the rest of the world. While I respect Ms. Clinton’s huge intelligence and ability, I fear the possibility of a divided White House, with her and Bill colliding more than cooperating, though I grant that this fear may be groundless. As a colleague said, they’ve been playing in each other’s back yards for decades. But I fear the possibility of Mr. Clinton wanting more influence over presidential actions and decisions than Ms. Clinton is willing to allow, which would cripple both in the monumental task of beginning to mop up the mess created by Bush and his creatures. While the idea of bringing our troops home on January 21 is glorious, the truth is that we have trashed Iraq and we cannot simply abandon those poor people without some attempt at creating a workable country and workable government. I believe Mr. Obama to be our best hope for uniting multiple factions both here and abroad and reaching solutions which might not be ideal, but which will enhance governmental functioning and go far toward dialing down the huge well of hatred in too many muslim hearts toward all non-muslims that has been created by Bush’s arrogant warmongering and total disrespect for the people, their religion, their culture and their history. I disagree with much of the muslim religion and political and social practices, but Bush’s attitude and actions have been stupefyingly offensive, and we need someone who will approach the whole Middle East with respect and an open mind, and the ability to negotiate reasonable settlements of the many problems there, both endemic and those caused by Bush’s war. If we alienate our PDH members by endorsing Obama, however, we may simply push them into either not voting at all or voting for Kucinich out of defiance as much as conviction. If we leave them free to vote as their hearts and heads both suggest, perhaps the one or two or a few delegates that will make the difference will be chosen for one of the two actual candidates.

    Comment by Judith Anderson — February 1, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

  13. Hi Laurie!

    Your post is well-written, well-reasoned and heartfelt. It may be the best thing I have seen written by an Obama supporter. I am unsure who you think is reluctant to support Obama because of a “single issue” approach to politics.

    As an individual, I am probably going to be voting for Obama in the caucus. I may even come to a point where I am willing to recommend to others that they do the same. But I think PDH as an organization has to ask whether it makes sense for the organization to make an endorsement of him. How would it help Obama’s campaign? What are the costs to the organization if we do so?

    Had we endorsed Edwards –and had Edwards remained at all viable– I think we may have helped push him over the 15% threshold in Hawaii. It may have also provided an opportunity to strengthen interpersonal ties with key leaders and staff at Local 5, a union that I regard as one of the most dynamic, progressive and strategic in Hawaii. Edwards, in my view, was running a fairly progressive campaign.

    On the other hand, I see very little gain for Obama if PDH endorses him. From talking to members of the Obama campaign, I know you folks are nervous about the potential strength of the Old Guard mobilization on the 19th. How many people will respond to Senator Inouye’s call for a “Last Hurrah” of the old machine? Dunno, but it gets smaller and smaller each year. HGEA will call on its members to turnout as well, and that probably will result in some significant numbers.

    I have said from the beginning that Obama will win decisively in Hawaii on the 19th. Several months ago in one of the very first news stories about the upcoming presidential campaign, I was quoted in the Advertiser as saying the only question left to be decided was who would come in second. I think Obama has incredible “home court advantages” and I am confident that the local Obama camapaign is able to mobilize those resources. God knows they have tapped into the Punahou Alumni network for great effect in their fundraising. (That is not an unfounded generalization–I have looked at the FEC filings and recognize a lot of the names.) And I am confident they will be able to turnout lots and lots of people on the 19th.

    Now a cheap shot: If they’ve got the Punahou Alumni Association, why do they need PDH? They don’t.

    It is common to accuse Hillary of “triangulating,” but what does that mean? Being a fan of Stephen Colbert, I have learned to respect Wikipedia as THE source for knowledge, so here is their definition:

    “Triangulation is the act of a candidate presenting his or her ideology as being “above” and “between” the left and right sides of the political spectrum. It involves adopting for oneself some of the ideas of one’s political opponent. The logic behind it is that it both takes credit for the opponent’s ideas, and insulates the triangulator from attacks on that particular issue.”

    Y’know, that sounds suspiciously a heckuva lot like what Obama is trying to do with his talk of rising above the historical fights from the Sixties and moving beyond the bitter “partisanship” that is crippling political discourse.

    If we mean that Hillary “panders”, or that her statements are calculated to win support, I don’t see Obama’s approach as being superior to hers. I see his campaign strategy as one that allows voters to make assumptions about what kind of man he is and make assumptions about what kind of policies he might pursue, without committing himself to anything. His talk of “unity” provides him an opportunity to avoid alienating any potential base of support. Obama fans find this refreshing and “transcendent.” Possibly even “transformative.” I don’t. I think it is slick and vacuous and STILL recommend that people watch the old Robert Redford movie, “The Candidate.” (Maybe I should get a copy and do a showing. Folks, let me know if you are interested in coming and I’ll find a space. Or we can do it at my house.)

    I am reminded of Jerry Brown confiding to someone that he planned to confuse observers by moving to the left and to the right at the same time. (Sorry, I can’t find the exact quote.)

    Obama fans (I’m sorry, but the infatuation many people have with Obama strikes me as extremely similar to the non-rational feelings kids had for the Monkees when I was in intermediate school). Obama fans like to emphasize Obama’s opposition to the war from the beginning. That is preferable to Clinton’s refusal to admit that she was wrong to vote for the “Authorization to Use Force” against Iraq. But let’s strip off the blinders. Obama consciously and deliberately laid low on the war in Iraq at a time when courage was needed. Yeah, he was brave trying to harness anti-war sentiment in Chicago as a means to win the Democratic primary, but once the primary was over, he removed his anti-war rhetoric from his website as he went into the General. And, once elected he consciously and deliberately did not make “anti-war” speeches in the Senate AT A TIME WHEN IT TOOK COURAGE. As public opinion eventually moved against the war, and as it became clear that this would be a MAJOR issue for the “Democratic base” in the primary, Obama re-emerged to make speeches against the war and to speak of having always opposed it. Since the JFK comparison is being played so deliberately by the Obama camps, I gotta point out that this was no “Profile in Courage” performance at a time that needed such courage and leadership. No, Obama hid when the moment called for him to show courage.

    Both Obama and Hillary support building more nuclear power plants “as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” This is VERY troubling. I think the environment-friendly segment of the US population has been asleep as the nuclear industry has been laying the groundwork for a MAJOR expansion of nuclear power in the US. The current climate change debate in the political arena is being framed in such a manner that nuclear will be promoted as an acceptable solution to the climate change crisis. When we finally wake up, it will be a “done deal.” At the risk of seeming “single issue” in my approach, Obama’s pro-nuke stance, and the corresponding campaign contributions, cause me great concern.

    And finally, the “single issue” that always causes trouble– well, in my opinion it OUGHT to always cause trouble– the Israel-Palestine conflict. Hillary was once fairly “good” on the issue, calling for US recognition of the Palestinian “right to statehood” at a time when such talk was verboten. (Nowadays, everyone can talk about “Palestinian statehood,” so long as they don’t propose anything viable, contiguous, with access to the outside world, and the basic national right to self-defense. A more accurate word would be “bantustan”, but that has not caught on, despite hints from Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela himself.)

    Obama was once “quite good” at recognizing basic human rights for Palestinians. He regularly attended the annual dinners of groups supportive of Palestinian rights as a rising politician tied into Chicago’s “progressive” community. As he has positioned himself to run for President, he has moved more and more into a position of uncritical support for Israel’s hardliners. He might be excused this, as every “viable” candidate has traveled this same path. Hillary made the transit as she positioned herself to run for the Senate from New York. Howard Dean had not properly adjusted his thinking when he began his run for President in 2003, but was essentially beaten into submission on the campaign trail by AIPAC and the rest of the “Israel Lobby.” At one point, in response to a question from the audience on the Middle East, Dean had said that a Dean administration would have a more “evenhanded policy” in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Israel Lobby fell upon him like a ton of bricks and were not happy until he took his hat in hand and announced publicly, on-stage, that he would never again use the word “evenhanded” in speaking of desirable US policy toward the area. (Nice use of “never again!”)

    In Obama’s defense, Neil Abercrombie is one of the strongest advocates for Palestinian rights in the US House and Neil is one of the strongest Obama supporters in Hawaii. And maybe in Congress, for that matter. Another area where we may need to rely upon “hope.”

    So we are left with questions of which candidate do we “trust” more, or “like” more. Which candidate are we willing to HOPE will provide better leadership, or perhaps a leadership of a different, more benign type. On that score, Obama wins. While I have not learned to trust Obama, I actively DISTRUST Hillary.

    At this point, with both Kucinich and Edwards out of the race, PDH is scheduled to revote on a possible endorsement. That is the primary question posed in my post above. I might be persuaded to cast an individual vote for Obama in the caucus. I might even send out an email to friends advising them to do the same. But I see no benefit to PDH for doing so.

    BTW- there is a similar discussion going on among self-described “centrists” over which candidate is more “moderate”, Obama or Hillary? It is sometimes instructive to walk in someone else’s “moccasins” in order to recognize patterns in our own behavior. Here is a link to the Donklephant Blog

    Further to the right, we can imagine a debate over which of the two is more “neo-con.” Oh, we don’t have to imagine? Well, one half of that discussion is available from noted neo-con “theorist”/apologist, Robert Kagan,
    here in the Washington Post.

    I think PDH should stay clear and stay clean. Let’s make our compromises (or not) as individual voters. I change out of my good clothes and into my slightly grungier work clothes when I show up at the jobsite. I may be willing to vote for Obama in the caucus, but I will change out of any PDH shirt and take off any PDH ballcap before casting the vote.

    Good luck to all of us in this,

    Bart

    Comment by bartman — February 1, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

  14. I wish I had the time to rise to the level of scholarship and well reasoned argument exemplified by Bart above but I don’t. I do believe in paradigm shifts, and by their friends, you shall know them.

    I am presently very concerned by a story that ran in the NY Times on 1/30, front page, detailing Bill Clinton’s trip to Kazakhztan in 2005 with two of the main contributors to the Clinton Institute. It seems they were arranging insider deals for the purchase of uranium futures. If any of you have further information regarding this, please circulate it. This story remarkably has not been picked up by Buzzflash.

    Comment by Karin — February 1, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  15. Thanks Bart, as much as I’d like to take credit for Lakoff, I can’t. I did put it in quotes but don’t have the formatting down to make the fancy footwork more clearly not my own. But I’ll take the compliment anyway. Aloha.

    Comment by Lauriebaron — February 1, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

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