The news from the "Live Free or Die" state was bad. It was bad for peace and the anti-war movement (such as it is), and it was bad for progressives and progressive issues in general.
The two candidates who won, John McCain on the Republican side, and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, are both fervent supporters of the Iraq War and of American militarism. Clinton talks of permanent US bases in Iraq. McCain says the US will be in Iraq for a century. What could the voters in New Hampshire be thinking?
As for progressives and progressive issues, there are two problems. One is that Hillary Clinton is no progressive. Like her wayward husband Bill, she is a “triangulator” who will betray every item on the liberal Democratic agenda, in the unlikely event that she ends up in the White House. The whole Clintonian project has been to talk like a liberal while cutting deals with Republicans that destroy any prospects for progressive change. Healthcare reform? Keep it in the hands of the insurance industry. Crime? Build more prisons, keep the death penalty machine running, and make it harder for criminals to appeal their railroaded convictions. Abortion rights? Only if you have money and can pay for one yourself. Global warming? Tokenism and nuclear power. Jobs? Go back to school and retrain—we need free trade. International crisis? Bomb it.
Almost just as depressing is the fact that we are now going to have to endure almost two months, at least, of truly inane campaigning on the empty themes of “hope” and “change.”
I thought we’d seen the nadir of empty campaign sloganeering when I heard Gen. Wesley Clark announce his candidacy for the presidency back in 2003 in what sounded for all the world like a parody of a stupid candidate speech: We need to “move this country forward, not back”, “we’re going to march forward,” and “we’re moving out.”). But between Clinton and Obama, with their “change” and “hope” themes, we’ve reached an even greater depth of vacuity.
I actually heard one young voter tell a TV reporter that she had decided on her primary choice by going to an on-line site where she could select her positions on various issues, and be told which candidate best matched her preferences. On-line presidential candidate dating.
' The New Hampshire primary took place in unseasonable 65-degree heat, a reminder that there is a huge issue facing us, which the candidates aren’t even talking about. There’s also a brutal war on, but that, according to exit polls, wasn’t on New Hampshire primary voters’ minds either. Never mind that the $2 trillion already committed to that stupid and criminal conflict, and the trillions of dollars that is spent annually around the world on war and planning for war.
What was on their minds apparently was Hillary’s probably carefully scripted tearful moment and John McCain’s artfully manufactured and illusory image as a “straight talker.” (Listen to McCain snuggling up to Bush at the 2004 GOP Convention and say "straight talker" with a straight face.)
A fellow from Vermont, Dennis Morrisseau, wrote me yesterday to suggest that we should rewrite the Constitution (why not? It’s being ignored almost completely now anyhow) to make members of Congress, not elected, but rather drafted at random the way we choose juries. This sounds like a great idea to me. Juries are highly regarded for giving us good results and for exhibiting the wisdom of the common people. We could use some of that these days, and it’s painfully obvious that a random selection of 435 average American citizens would be a damn sight better at running the country than the group we elect through our current process of corporate-funded campaigns. But I’d go Morrisseau one further. We should also choose our presidents by random lottery. Those who are selected for all of these federal offices should be paid handsomely, and then, at the end of one term, whether in Congress or in the White House, they should be sent back home, maybe with a small pension, or with unemployment compensation that could run for a few years to let them put their old lives back together.
For now, we’re stuck with this dreadful election process, where the ability to raise corporate cash (private money, as Ron Paul has discovered, doesn’t count) determines whether you get corporate media coverage, and where voters seem to think they’re casting ballots for an American Idol winner, not someone to rule them and the country for the next four years.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net