Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thanks for the candidates

I watched the last Democratic debates in Iowa before the primaries and caucuses, and I have to say that overall, I am pretty damn impressed by our candidates. We have an African American man who is the frontrunner, the first woman frontrunner, a credible Latino candidate who could very well be picked for veep, and a really strong field all around. Senators Biden and Dodd are two guys who know their stuff, and Edwards is fighting the good fight for the oppressed. (And yeah, I believe it's possible to remember your roots when you make it big, so no, I don't find it incongruous that he lives in a big house even though he's fighting for the little guy. I do think it provides for easy fodder though.) Our candidates are strong, knowledgeable, and ready to serve, despite the personal, political and family pressures of campaigning. I admire that.

What struck me is the tone of camaraderie that the candidates shared - they blunted attacks and Obama even defended Joe Biden, of the infamous "so clean, so fresh" appellation. Someone on dailykos wrote that it was the classiest moment of the debates, and I think that is accurate. (Btw, I'm also glad to have heard a different Biden - esp. at the end when he said that his New Year's Resolution is to remember where he came from. It was a really heartfelt and touching moment, not scripted, just penitent. So I'm glad to have a new, increased respect for Biden, because it's easy to just categorize people as one sentence uttered out of 6 million in their lifetimes.) So I want to thank our candidates for having the courage, chutzpah, dream, passion, fire, and dedication to undertake the crazy endeavor of running for president. It's a damn hard thing to do.

A lot of the reporters said that this was a boring debate, but actually I found it quite comforting that no one pulled out their big missiles, and I was cheered by the lack of daylight on policy issues. I mean, when you get down into the nitty gritty details, they would implement these reforms differently, but everybody agreed about what has to be changed, for the most part.

I'm pretty impressed that Obama has for the most part not gone negative, when that seems to be Team Hillary's instinctual approach, and I think that she kinda can't help but do that given all the assaults she has weathered. When Obama was languishing for months, and donors and supporters were asking, "Why can't you take a harder-hitting stance? Hit below the belt for once?" Obama for the most part - with the exception of the failed "Hillary Clinton (D-Pakistan)" gambit, has played it clean, and kudos to him for that. It makes me think that as a President, he might not get overly corrupted by power. More than that, it gives me hope.

I think it's true that so many Americans just want to believe, for once, in an elected official. And I think it is easy if you happen to be a progressive with some knowledge of trying to hold some squirming, long-toothed, beady-eyed rat of a politician accountable - well, you soon develop a disgust and distaste for the breed in general.

It's easy to fall into the holier-than-thou trap, to have reservations. Because you've seen so many different faces that all blur into one promising you change, promising you a new start, but all they do is slap a fresh coat of paint on that tired 1984 Chevy, and tell you that she'll run like a beaut. There are, after all, only so many times that you can get suckered before you learn to run far in the opposite direction when you see the huckster coming.

We on the left have such high standards. It's one of our eternal lights and biggest strategic flaws. We dream big and blame the world for not seeing our vision, when there's 66 million of us running around with our own unique perfect. And it's always a future perfect.

So we never see it when it's standing right there in front of us, in our lifetimes.

Me, my perfect would be the antithesis of the modelminority running for president, someone who had worked in the fields or factories, who had really and truly struggled, and appreciates that just because yellow is close to white doesn't mean you get to ignore black and brown. It's someone a lot like Mike Honda with the biography of Hubert Vo. Someone who didn't dream of being a politician their whole lives, but who has lived, and found a way of serving people in other, more meaningful ways.

I'm not sure if I'll ever see an Asian American perfect someone like that run for president - if there was someone like that, they'd probably be too smart to run for national office. But it's nice to hope, and to have someone show you and tell you how to hope again. But at the end of the day, you still have to take that very dangerous leap of faith.

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