Barack Obama did it again!
He told the truth. Jesus Christ, when is somebody gonna get to this guy and teach him the rules of American politics?
Dude, it goes like this: We’re bringing democracy to the Middle East. Tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy are to stimulate the economy. George Bush is more patriotic than Al Gore. Our government is there to serve the people. America is always a force for good in the world. There is a god, he is a nice fatherly-looking Caucasian fellow with a big snowy beard (if the resemblance to the god of American children – Santa Claus – doesn’t by itself tell you everything you need to know about religion, you’re still not paying attention!). And he’s quite angry at Muslims and other people who didn’t get the memo on who to worship.
You have to say these things – and a whole lot more sheer nonsense – in American politics if you want to have any hope of winning. When a Milquetoast punk like John Kerry defines the port-side limit to what American voters are willing to hear, while any lunatic freak gone way to starboard – like Coulter or Falwell – can blurt out the most outrageous defamations, and any two-bit thief named Bush can actually be handed the nuclear trigger, you know how ridiculously deluded we are. By the time you get done thinking about what can’t be said in this country, you have to wonder what the fuss concerning the First Amendment is all about. Who cares about freedom of speech if you’re not going to actually use it?
Mind you, Barack Obama could be a lot more honest in his discussions of our many national maladies. And he could be a lot more vociferous in expressing the outrage which they all deserve. But he’s running for president, and it ain’t some quixotic Nader campaign, either. He aims to win – and let’s be honest – you can’t be honest and do that. I cut the guy some slack there, because I’m more interested in him winning than I am in him making me feel good and finally vindicated. That guy – the feel-good guy – was on the ballot. His name is Kucinich. Bless him, indeed, for what he does, but take note of where it got him.
Moreover, Obama pretty much does get it right when he talks about Iraq. Or when he calls out the special interest vampires who are draining the life-blood from the commonwealth. I’ve heard him preach sometimes, such as in the following example, where I’m not sure I would change two words of what he said, even if it weren’t a speech from the campaign trail:
We can’t keep playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and somehow expect a different result, because it’s a game that ordinary Americans are losing. We are going to put this game to an end.
It’s a game where lobbyists write check after check and Exxon turns record profits, while you pay the price at the pump and our planet is put at risk. That’s what happens when lobbyists set the agenda, and that’s why they won’t drown out your voices anymore when I am president of the United States of America.
It’s a game where trade deals, like NAFTA, ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with their teenagers to work for minimum wages at the local fast-food joint or at Wal-Mart.
It’s a game where Democrats and Republicans fail to come together year after year after year, while another mother goes without health care for her sick child. That’s why we have to put an end to the divisions and distractions in Washington so that we can unite this nation around a common purpose, around a higher purpose.
It’s a game where the only way for Democrats to look tough on national security is by talking, and acting, and voting like Bush-McCain Republicans, while our troops are sent to fight tour after tour of duty in a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged.
That’s what happens when we use 9/11 to scare up votes instead of bringing together the people around a common purpose. And that’s why we need to do more than end the war; we need to end the mindset that got us into war.
Seriously, where does one go to the left of this without sounding like Lenin? Seriously, even if we weren’t living in the Age of Bush, do we progressives really feel the need to demand more from a candidate than this before we will support him?
And then, of course, there was his speech on race, perhaps the highpoint of American politics in a full generation’s time. Admittedly, that’s not necessarily saying much in this era of Clintons, Bushes, Reagans, Daschles and Reids. I don’t mean to damn the speech with faint praise. It was an astonishing piece of work – because of its content, because of its honesty, and yes, because most everything else on the landscape pales by comparison. But mostly, because of the sophistication which it demanded from its listeners. For once, there was a politician not talking down to us, not portraying the world as some two-dimensional cartoon.
Of course, that turned the right absolutely apoplectic. You can argue with them about tax cuts (which were really tax transfers) and they’ll just call you stupid. You can dispute with them about the faux war on terror, and they’ll merely label you naive. You can point out the breathtaking stupidity of Iraq, and they’ll only question your patriotism. But undermine the whole stupidity-industrial-complex upon which they’re fully dependent, and watch them shake with fear and storm in desperation. They know full well that – were Americans ever to elevate their political discourse above a level that wouldn’t embarrass your fifth-grader’s civics class – the entire premise of the regressive agenda would unravel faster than a yarn store staffed by cats. You’d be able to count the entire national vote for the GOP presidential nominee on two hands and maybe a couple toes. You could fill Guantánamo sixteen times over with all the criminals in and around the Republican Party. And you’d be happy to do it, too.