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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

American Dreaming - hard and soft power

Ron Fournier of the AP has an exceptionally good article that looks at the divides within the party, especially pertaining as to why insiders are eager to ditch Hillary.

Remember when I wrote about Governor Bill Richardson of new Mexico's stubborn refusal to endorse Hillary after originally campaigning hard and blatantly (and somewhat embarassingly I might add) to be her veep during the summer? Well, here's the quote of the week:
Some are folks who owe the Clintons a favor but still feel betrayed or taken for granted. Could that be why Bill Richardson, a former U.N. secretary and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, refused to endorse her even after an angry call from the former president? "What," Bill Clinton reportedly asked Richardson, "isn't two Cabinet posts enough?"
You think the left wing of the party, the Howard Dean supporters dislike Hillary? That's nothing compared to the people who were in power with the Clintons and resented being rode all over. It's because of this entitled attitude that you're supposed to jump through hoops to get to the inner circle and then fall on your sword if needs be, without nary a thank you.

Obama has won 23 of 35 contests, earning the majority of delegates awarded on the basis of election results. The remaining 796 delegates are elected officials and party leaders whose votes are not tied to state primaries or caucuses; thus, they are dubbed "superdelegates."

And they are not all super fans of the Clintons.

Some are labor leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda.

Some are social activists who lobbied unsuccessfully to get him to veto welfare reform legislation, a talking point for his 1996 re-election campaign.

Some served in Congress when the Clintons dismissed their advice on health care reform in 1993. Some called her a bully at the time.

Some are DNC members who saw the party committee weakened under the Clintons and watched President Bush use the White House to build up the Republican National Committee.

Some are senators who had to defend Clinton for lying to the country about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Some are allies of former Vice President Al Gore who still believe the Lewinsky scandal cost him the presidency in 2000.

Some are House members (or former House members) who still blame Clinton for Republicans seizing control of the House in 1994.

The list of grievances is long, and is partially a result of the single interest players in the game. It's also a reaction to the way that the Clinton machine uses and abuses people and states, throwing them away like dishrags. If you count the numbers, it gets increasingly hard for Hillary to even hold all the delgates who she has because ultimately they play machine politics - a politics of fear and retribution, carrots and large sticks. She is the ultimate transactional leader, one who pays to play, and who metes our harsh punishment for losses.

"I would make the assumption that the ... superdelegates she has now are the Clintons' loyal base. A superdelegate who is uncommitted today is clearly going to wait and see how this plays out. She's at her zenith now," Duffy said. "Whatever political capital or IOUs that exist, she's already collected."

Few Democrats want to cross the Clintons when they're on top. But how many are willing to stand by them when they're down?

Hillary just doesn't have the same charm as Bill - whereas if Bill were running for office again, Bill Richardson would have probably endorsed him, much of this is personality. And Obama has been gracious and classy throughout the cycle, bailing Senator Biden out of a tough spot at an Iowa debate, and Richardson before him. Obama strikes me as the type of guy who wants to win fair and square, and who has HONOR. That's who you live and die for, who you fight for, and who wins.

Obama wants to win on the merits and he does, and he's probably been told before that whatever he does, he has to work 10x harder than anyone else just to prove that he's equal, as some of my friends have. That in order to transcend the game, you have to not fall into the mud and the dirt.

It's also true that he's the perfect politician in that he serves as a mirror for everyone and anyone to their ideals and hopes. For white liberals, especially those who grew up in the 60s, he represents the flowering of King's dream and their rosy futures. For African Americans, he rebuts 300 years of toil and being told that "you're not good enough." For immigrants, he represents the American Dream. For hapas, he has successfully synthesized dual cultures, multiple cultures. For those who grew up poor, he also represents the American Dream. For those who never had a voice, or didn't think they had one, he is their megaphone. For cynics, he represents a chance to hope, for once, like some kind of punchdrunk love. For the media, he parlays all these stories and writes their stories, a rock star because he is easy to love, easy on the eyes and easy to write about. He confounds the jaded.

In many ways, one could look at him as a Messiah except that he continually reminds us that there is so much work to be done and that he is only one man. That in order for us to see the changes that we want, we have to take action. Obama is our organizer-in-chief, a transcendent leader who is also a superstar.

In some ways, the Clinton camp's feeling of unfairness is valid - how can she compete against a man who reflects the American experience to us, and both idealizes it while acknowledging that there is much work to be done?

And this is where McCain's argument fails - it is not merely a dream that Obama has and shares, it is an achievable future, one that he readily acknowledges necessitates sacrifice and work. Without this balance, Obama's vision and leadership would just be gossamer words. But the work ethic entailed, the positive vision, in the simple slogan "YES WE CAN" describes and unites all of our American Dreams.

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