Saturday, February 02, 2008

Did you ever have to make up your mind, say yes to one and let the other one ride

Christopher Hayes, writing at The Nation, makes a tepid yet firm case for Obama:
If you've read his first book, the truly beautiful, honest and intellectually sophisticated Dreams From My Father, you have an inkling of what young Chicago progressives felt about Obama. He is one of us, and now he's in the Senate. We thought we'd elected our own Paul Wellstone. (Full disclosure: my brother is an organizer on the Obama campaign.)

That's not, alas, how things turned out. Almost immediately Obama--likely with an eye on national office--shaded himself toward the center. His rhetoric was cool, often timid, not the zealous advocacy on behalf of peace, justice and the dispossessed that had characterized Wellstone's tenure. His record places him squarely in the middle of Democratic senators, just slightly to Clinton's left on domestic issues (he voted against the bankruptcy bill, for example). As a presidential candidate, his domestic policy (with some notable exceptions on voting rights and technology policy) has been very close to that of his chief rivals, though sometimes, notably on healthcare, marginally less progressive.

The article finishes:
No Democratic presidential candidate is going to carry, say, Mississippi or Nebraska, but many Democrats in those states fear that the ingrained Clinton hatred would rally the GOP base and/or depress turnout, hurting down-ticket candidates. Over the past few weeks a series of prominent red-state Democrats, most notably Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, have endorsed Obama. When I asked a Democratic Congressional candidate in the Deep South who he preferred at the top of the ticket, he didn't hesitate: "Obama is absolutely the better candidate. Hillary brings a lot of sting; he takes some sting out of them."

Whoever is elected in November, progressives will probably find themselves feeling frustrated. Ultimately though, the future judgments and actions of the candidates are unknowable, obscured behind time's cloak. Who knew that the Bill Clinton of 1992 who campaigned with Nelson Mandela would later threaten to sanction South Africa when it passed a law allowing the production of low-cost generic AIDS drugs for its suffering population--or that the George W. Bush of 2000, an amiable "centrist" whose thin foreign-policy views shaded toward isolationism, would go on to become a self-justifying, delusional and messianic instrument of global war? In this sense, Bill Clinton is right: voting for and electing Barack Obama is a "roll of a dice." All elections are. But the candidacy of Barack Obama represents by far the left's best chance to, in Buchanan's immortal phrasing, take back the bigger half of the country. It's a chance we can't pass up.

Indeed. This articulates the frustration many of us on the Left have felt about Obama for some time now. At times his rhetoric, and even his words, seem to really strike a progressive chord in us. But then other words from him seem to sound too centrist, even conservative. If it's all calulation designed to woo centrist swing votes, then fine.

I mean, it can't be his true positions, he who was a community organizer and seemingly committed progressive. Regardless, he clearly seems the best choice now, especially since John Edwards has inexplicably dropped out before Super Tuesday.

Update: lyric title corrected by Pam