I've not had much to say in the last few weeks because my lack of faith in the Obama juggernaut has been, it appears, heretical. I've not been feeling too welcome or encouraged to share my opinion. So a few snips aside, I've kept to myself. And fair enough, I understand that after the long years of George Bush, anything that isn't a complete waste of skin will seem like a glorious leader. But I just can't get over the disconnect of people in one breath hailing the conquering hero and appending their gushes of praise by noting that in reality Obama lies somewhere to the right of Steve Harper on the political spectrum. Hello? Anyone in there?
The grand transformation that is sweeping America this electoral season comes down to the ability of a black candidate to be seen as electable. Alas, in the year 2008 that is the great American step forward and it speaks volumes about the hidebound ignorance and undercurrents of racism that still underpin much of America. Both Islamic Pakistan and mostly Hindu India have had women as heads of state. America's great achievement and signal of progress is that one of their parties was willing to put forward either a woman or a black man as Presidential candidate. Forgive me not joining in the rapturous applause at the sight of the world's most well armed nation reluctantly joining the modern world.
Obama is an attractive, younger candidate with a sonorous voice and a charismatic presence. He has managed to propel his campaign on stirring platitudes and empty catch phrases and folks have eaten it up. "Yes we can!" Stuart Smalley would be so proud. Gosh darn it, he's good enough, he's smart enough and people like him. Thing is, every time I ask the obvious question, yes we can what? I get the worst of answers. More platitudes. For months I have asked the supposed progressives with whom I dialogue such questions. For months I haven't received compelling responses. I'm told that it is good enough that there is hope. Well hope is important and the power to engender hope is impressive. But I prefer a little specificity when it comes to my hopes and dreams. Blanket expressions of generalized hope are nothing more than wishful projection and that my friends is a sure recipe for disappointment. Therein lies my fear for the Obama presidency, should it come to pass.
As far as I can tell, the Republicans are taking a dive in this race. McCain is the sacrificial senior and Palin is the base feeding anchor that will help sink that campaign among the more rational of the right. I find it difficult to believe that the Republican machine that has been such a potent force for the last four decades would stumble this consistently and this often. It is as though they aren't even trying.
It was early afternoon on a Monday in late September, and we were the only two people at the phone bank. Damaged tables of prefabricated wood stood end to end around the drab office space. On the tables were phones and miniature white laptops.
A week earlier, I'd seen a flier calling for McCain volunteers. When I arrived at the headquarters, the local campaign chair, an affable, bearded man named Brian, showed me how the call system worked. Other than getting my name, phone number and address, he asked few questions.
An even more telling view of the apathy of the Republican campaign is available from Five Thirty Eight.
Offices in Troy, Ohio were closed on Saturday October 11. With perfect coincidental timing, two elderly women dropped by to volunteer but found the office shut. At Republican state headquarters in Columbus later the same day, one lonely dialer sat in a sea of unoccupied chairs. In Des Moines on September 25, another empty office. In Santa Fe on September 17, one dialer made calls while six chatted amongst themselves about how they didn't like Obama. In Raleigh this past Saturday, ten days before the election with early voting already open, two women dialed and a male staffer watched the Georgia-LSU game. In Durango, Colorado on September 20, the Republican office was locked and closed. Indiana didn't have McCain Victory offices when we were there in early October.
I doubt anyone bothered to tell McCain but he's been sent to sea on a raft and his only company is the crazy lady who's thinking about eating the old guy. For decade on decade the Republicans have built and refined a power grabbing machine and it is suddenly nowhere to be seen. My suspicious nature brings me to a truly tin foil worthy conclusion, the Republican party is throwing the election. They knowingly chose a candidate that didn't have support from the base. They knowingly chose a candidate who had made many enemies within the Republican corridors of control. They selected a guy whose ego and arrogance were matched only by his ambition, an ambition that blinded him to any and every reality around him. To gain the candidacy he had to abase himself before the party, the base and brokers. The capstone to the long career of a former hero was to have been his rise to ultimate power as President but that story, it seems, will not be told. The party has allowed McCain to flounder and they've saddled him with a freak show running mate. In one swift move they've thrown a sop to the wallet wielding maniacs that form the religious right, a promise toward future battles during a rebuilding time for the party. Palin is for the moment, a star shining bright in the retarded firmament of the zealots. Despite her rapacious ambition, she will be cast aside before the whole ugly cycle starts anew. But the fresh fundie dollars will roll on in.
If I am wrong and this is the very best effort of the vaunted Republican machine, then I stand in awe of the nearly complete failure of their proven apparatus to gather and horde power, to massage and control the media and the message. Yes Obama is good and yes the Democratic party has done a good job but the Republicans just aren't this inept, disorganized and disinterested. The only thing that makes sense to me is that this is a fix. The wheels of state are coming off. Two long and failing wars in difficult and unpopular terrains have broken the armed forces, emptied the treasure vaults and stripped America of influence and moral persuasion around the globe. Thousands of American families are living in tent cities in the wake of a mortgage scam that has collapsed a good deal of the economy and caused massive instability in markets world wide. The repercussions are still being felt and the implications are dire for many in the middle class. America is a nation in crisis and it will surely get worse before it gets better and while hopes and dreams are a pleasant salve in the short term, a Band-aid on a sucking chest wound is not a cure.
The next President will have to negotiate and navigate the processes that extract American forces from the sink hole they have been consigned to in Iraq. Many of those same broken and demoralized forces will need to be redeployed to the failure of Afghanistan, if there is to be any chance of righting that debacle at this late date. The full weight of the trauma of returning veterans will begin to be felt on the grossly under-equipped and under-funded resources of the Veterans Administration. Where will the funds come from to care for the valiant souls whose bodies and minds were spent with so little care? What sources will fund the rebuilding of the American might after so much materiel has been spent and destroyed on these foolish missions? And with the current administration making increasing incursions into the territory of Pakistan there is every possibility that a President Obama could face a new and far more deadly battle ground, should the passions and outrage of Pakistan ignite. Let's not even touch on the recent American assault across the border of Iraq into Syria, the result of which has been for the Syrians to pull their forces away from protecting the border. It is as though the Bush administration were using their waning days in power to sow unrest and seek instability as a perverse parting gift to the world.
The upshot as I reckon is this, you don't need to be a genius to see the avalanche of shit heading toward the American state and gathering momentum. The rumble of the collected disasters are becoming deafening. Should the Republicans go down to defeat as all signs indicates they will, then the entirety of the damage, distress and disaster will land at the feet of a Democratic Congress, Senate and President. The difficult decisions needed to start righting the ship of state will be forced upon this new government. I don't see how any progress can be made without raising taxes, cutting away the fat and making some very harsh and unpopular decisions. And should those decisions be made, there will be the Republicans waving from the sidelines of power, cooing 'told ya so' to the public and blowing kisses to the base. They will effectively have slipped responsibility for the filthy mess they made while in power and left the ugly work of cleaning up to the other guys. Any farmer will tell you that you have to shovel up all the shit in the yard, it needs to be done but nobody wants to give you a hug right after. Obama and the Democrats are going to end up owning the rotten mess that Bush and the right wing have left festering in their crooked wake. And it isn't as though the Democrats aren't at least partially complicit in making that mess.
If Obama were a progressive minded politician, if he were putting forward an agenda that radically shifted the balance of power back toward that which the framers intended, he would face an intractable obstacle within his own party. Spineless jackals like Harry Reid aren't about to sprout ethical standards any sooner than they are wings. Nancy Pelosi is not about to turn on her true constituents in corporate America. The conservative Democrats in both houses have more than enough clout to stall and quell any effort to truly turn the tide of American politics. They are just as deep into the pockets of the corporate gangsters as the Republicans. The same executive over reach that galled them in opposition will be a bludgeon they relish using once in power. And that is where hopes and dreams falter. Your hopes don't count, your dreams aren't coming true and while yes you can elect a different guy, you're pretty much deluded to think that the different guy will echo your voice in the halls of power in this day's America. The change you can believe in is a change of brand and a new logo. I wait to be proven wrong on issues that matter, like habeas corpus, extraordinary rendition, black site prisons, balancing security against constitutional rights and the disturbing accumulation of power in the executive. Bring on some justice for the war criminals and their accomplices and I'll be the first to admit the error of my doubts.
So enjoy the day tomorrow, eat the popcorn, pop the bubblies and celebrate to the full. You've earned every moment of a day's fete. Let every celebrity endorsement, no matter how foul the source, ring out from your keyboards and Youtubes. Sing the songs and dance the dances but understand this, if America is truly to be transformed, it will not be because one man, regardless of colour, takes office. The American transformation will only come through the concerted effort of American citizens to hold that man and his fellows to task. And again, forgive me my doubts but the real majority of Americans don't believe in the need for change. By which I mean the real change, of policy and the sacrifice, needed to achieve a better, more just society. They are too well trained, too well indoctrinated into the myth of exceptionalism and I predict that the sort of change they will need is the exact sort of change they will fight against tooth and nail. So until I am proven wrong, I will continue to advocate for Canadians drawing back from American influence and control. No to deep integration. No to further "free" trade. No to common defence. No to American control over our security in the fallacious war against terror. No to the sharing of our personal and/or biometric data with a deeply corrupt police state. No under Bush, no under Obama. No.
As for my fellow Canadians, I look forward to your renewed commitment, wit and wisdom once the Kool-Aid binge wears off.