Archive for ‘Politics’

May 23, 2008

“The Fall of American Conservatism”

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” Eric Hoffer as quoted n the article that gave this post its title. The article is long, informative, and most readable. Written by George Packer, it can be found in the New Yorker at the link below.

The fate Republican Party of 2008 looks to be the fate of the Democratic Party of 1968. Click here for the article, “The Fall of American Conservatism.”

April 28, 2008

The shouting in and about the Obama and Clinton campaigns continues, but the basic context remains and the quest for the Democratic presidential nomination unfolds within it. All the tactical decisions, the evaluations of those decisions, all the campaign ads, all the surrogates’s advocacy, etc., are subordinate to the larger question of whether a cultural and political shift is occurring – one that as some commentators have noted is at least as profound as the one that gave Ronald Reagan his greatest role.

I continue to espouse that this is the case. The shift, as I noted in an earlier post, is from the everyman and everywoman for his/herself ethos of the greed is good halcyon days of the 80’s to Obama’s gyral return to the cultural ground of “I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper.”

Why do I think this remains the case? Because Hillary’s campaign has indeed thrown the kitchen sink at her opponent, hit him with the garbage disposal, and it has made no difference. Take the Pennsylvania primary, for example. With the flap about Rev. Wright taking stage center in the attack of the sink, the polls (on average and courtesy of showed Obama moving from 6 points down to 7. By the time of the election, he was back at 6 points down. He lost by 10 (after having been 20 points down a month before). In the elections thus far where he has started far behind, e.g., Ohio, he has closed the gap and then lost by an additional 4 percent as the late deciders voted for Hillary.

So the net effect of hurling the sink was zero. The rest of the campaign will, I do believe, play out as it has been with Obama getting the nomination on the basis of more superdelegates breaking for what they see as the future rather than the past. The times they are, again, a-changin’.

(As I write this, Rev. Wright is again making news as he defends his career. I predict that the inevitable attacks on Obama will have no lasting impact on his campaign. Time, of course, gets the last word.)

February 29, 2008

Ralph, I Like the Lyrics, but the Melody Lingers Not

Ralph Nader is back running for president. I do not begrudge him taking another shot. I believe in democracy. Let 10,000 flowers (candidates) bloom. And yes, restructure ballot requirements for federal offices making access easier and uniform.

But at this stage of the game, he will have less electoral support than ever. We’re not going to support, let alone follow, a scold. His mood is too dark for our times. And the music of mood is always more persuasive than the lyrics of political proposals — one reason for the Obama phenomenon.

Click here to listen to Ralph on today’s KQED Forum program.

February 28, 2008

Emotions and Politics, Take 2

This video pretty much speaks for itself. Clinton is prone to resentment, and while resentment may feel “good” to the one who expresses it, it rarely seduces anyone other than fellow sufferers. First up is Obama setting the levels, so to speak. Watch what happens to the audience responses as Clinton speaks. The video is from SlateV.

February 24, 2008

It’s All Over but the Counting

After the Texas debate with Hilary testing a gracious exit from her hopes of the presidency, not to mention the delegate totals and the virtual impossibility of her catching Obama, it’s all over but the counting. I predict that Obama will win the Democratic nomination and then the general election.

What’s happening here? The pundits for the most part don’t get it. Obama’s constituency, I believe, does though most could not articulate it in terms other than “hope,” “inspiration,” “change,” with some elaboration.

What we have is a rare moment in American history. Obama’s “mere words” are regenerating an American cultural solidarity not seen since Martin Luther King, Jr.* Forty years after King’s death, his legacy appears in secular form in Obama. This solidarity is, of course, not all encompassing, but it does indicate a major rejection of the predominant social Darwinism of the past 20 plus years.

My first inkling of this arose when Obama starting reprising, “I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.” A line, a concern, a commitment that could not have been uttered even two years ago. But after almost thirty years of the politics and economics of individual and corporate greed (by both major political parties), we hear again the historical call that the most fundamental, most human ground for society is not economic “rationality,” but, ala King, Christian charity (or Buddhist compassion, or…).

Another sign of the return of the commons.

*For an illuminating and thoroughgoing account of cultural solidarity (and more), see Disclosing New Worlds by Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores and Hubert Dreyfus.

January 27, 2008

Emotions and Politics

We talk about positions and policies and experience, but what matters most about candidates and their political narratives are the emotions they evoke — and it is emotion that propels us to action. Could what we see below in a video from Slate Video called “Hillary’s Inner Tracy Flick” contribute to Hillary Clinton’s high and steady negatives in the polls? Slate introduces it with

Don’t you just hate when some upstart comes along and threatens your best-laid plans? We were struck by how well one of Reese Witherspoon’s monologues from the film Election fits the narrative of Campaign 2008.

January 21, 2008

Watching the Political Discourse Change

More than 20 years ago Ronald Reagan shifted the dominant political discourse in America. Today it looks like it may be Obama’s time. His campaign for president continues on a visionary path. Odd it is to see a communitarian vision poised against the backdrop of the every capitalist for himself theater of the past 20 plus years.

The latest signpost on the what may turn out to be the history road is Obama’s oration At Martin Luther King, Jr.’s old church yesterday marking the anniversary of King’s assassination. The video is below.

As for my political predictions: Wrong on New Hampshire, silent on Nevada, foreseeing an Obama victory in South Carolina. Also predicting that Bill Clinton won’t be able to keep himself (not that I know that he wants to) from another smear (lie) a day or so before the South Carolina vote. It’s the only politics he’s known.

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January 5, 2008

Politics and Presence

After 20 years in the wilderness, political, that is, it’s good to have called an election, even if it’s only the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Obama won. Given the size of his victory and his flourishing rhetorical skills (see the video below) I predict victory for him in New Hampshire.

In regard to the title of this post, I quote the Wall Street Journal in article posted today

Despite attempting to soften her image, Sen. Clinton left some Iowans feeling cold. She swung through Des Moines’s Lovejoy Elementary School Thursday night to greet caucus-goers. After she shook hands with Rob Moyers and moved on, he remarked: “I looked into Obama’s eyes and he seemed sincere. Now, that looked mechanical. She’s like a robot.”

Click here for the full article.

As for the video, it’s Obama’s victory speech to his supporters the night of the caucuses.

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December 6, 2007

Women for Obama

Another video. This one is by the Obama campaign and is designed for women. It’s “long,” 20 minutes. But with the soundtrack, the editing, and overall production, it’s also easy to watch.

The video is instructive in a couple of ways. One goes to the question of how does a male candidate run against a female candidate and appeal to women. Another is a demonstration of the use of longer videos as campaign “literature.” Good campaign videos create compelling and influential narratives.

As we (or, perhaps better, our children and grandchildren) come increasingly to watch television on computers*, they’ll become increasingly frequent and important to candidates and their campaigns.

Enjoy. It’s quite good.

*Or as TV and computers merge

September 20, 2007

Global Retribalization and the Balkanization of Everywhere

Let’s see, we (America) are trying to keep together an artificial, European invented, multi-ethnic and religious state in Iraq while Belgium is splitting apart along cultural and linguistic lines. What, as the phrase goes, is wrong with this picture? The title of this post comes from the work of Marshall McLuhan.

“There are two extremes, some screaming that Belgium will last forever and others saying that we are standing at the edge of a ravine,” said Caroline Sägesser, a Belgian political analyst at Crisp, a socio-political research organization in Brussels. “I don’t believe Belgium is about to split up right now. But in my lifetime? I’d be surprised if I were to die in Belgium.”

For what’s happening in Belgium (the future countries of Flanders and Wallonia), click here.