But the fact remains that none of them are progressive, none of them will come close to the "transformative change" we actually need to "heal this country."
Obama, in addition to gaining momentum by the day, has been cast as the progressive candidate. Clinton is the establishment candidate for the Democrats. I am still scratching my head over what is so progressive about Obama and his policy proposals. I can believe he has private, progressive ideals--Clinton probably has some of those, too. But publicly he's nothing but feel good maxims, a chain of well-delivered aphorisms and affirmations and promises. He's got the celebrities in his corner--Will.I.Am and Scarlett Johansson, for starters, not to mention the hot "crush on Obama" woman. But everyone who's getting behind him, all the young, well-educated, pro-change people who make up my peer group ... don't ever give me any insight into what is precisely appealing about his candidacy in terms of the changes they want to see happen. I know: "Obama is the future, the new, the change, the shit, the hope, the audacity of that very hope cuz he sticks it to The Man, and to top it off, perhaps he's even the messiah [thanks Tram]." The problem is that The Man, an image, a metaphor, is actually very real, whereas Obama's assault on the same social powers that people sometimes group (really or jokingly) as The Man is purely or almost purely symbolic.
What I am curious about, and have not yet tried to find out about, is how the Latino (esp. Mexican/Chicano) communities feel about Obama--who isn't getting the Latino vote, as commentators dutifully inform us--using "Yes, we can!"/"Sí, se puede" as a slogan. The hard work of organizing and demonstrating that Latinos and other immigrant groups have put into the struggle against "illegal alien" crackdowns is now appropriated by a candidate whose first point in his plan for immigration is to secure the borders.
* * *
Provided she is on the ballot in November, I plan on voting for a black, Southern woman--Cynthia McKinney. I am not trying to play the card of authenticity, as though she's "realer" than Obama, than Clinton, more black, more feminist. I am not trying to facilitate a rupture between these communities, so that I or people like myself can spew codedly racist or misogynist criticisms against the mainstream candidates and defensively console ourselves because we support a black woman politician ("so we can't be racist!"). My goal in this case is not to help divide & conquer disempowered groups on the illusory basis of supporting their less mainstream elements in a bid for appropriated authenticity.
It is not that the Green Party is my ideal of ideals, either, but insofar as my third-party protest vote will mean anything, I want it to mean that I endorse a shift leftward towards the equitable, more ecologically sound, anti-racist, anti-sexist, queer-embracing limits of the system I'm voting in. One doesn't "vote" for revolution, changes in the mode of production, or revolutionary wealth distribution parties, right? But one can cast a vote for social democracy, environmentalism, certain checks on corporate power, certain policies for urban renewal and reform--reform, and life, not murder--for immigration. I do not think our system can be reformed, but this does not mean I oppose the limited but real, and helpful, reforms that are sometimes offered by the system.
The system will kill us, and it is dying itself in its slow destructive symbiosis with the thing we call industrial civilization. But while it approaches its destructive obsolescence, some of its tools are still worth using, and some of those tools--political and electoral tools--may still reap benefits for the communities it is harming most deeply, and the generations to come who will pay for our and our parents' mistakes.
This is why I'll be voting for McKinney, and why I urge people to do the same.
* * *
I cannot express how viscerally frustrating it is to me to see so many people I know and respect, allies and comrades, who are taking the kool-aid and jumping on Obama's bandwagon.
I am not referring to people who will vote for Obama. I am not referring to people who would compaign for Obama. If I were living in a swing state, I'd think long and hard and might end up doing both, myself. My issue is not with casting a vote, even casting some optimism, Obama's way. My issue is with the wholesale buying of the image, casting even pragmatism itself aside and pretending that this is the ideal candidate, whose actions will deliver us from the nightmare that liberals delude themselves into thinking is purely the result of Reagan and the two Bushes. (This all applies to Clinton-supporters too, but since Obama is the "progressive" one, the "youth" one, I think it applies more comprehensively to him and his side.) Obama, the man with a trigger-finger on Pakistan (Clinton has Iran) is going to be our savior? And speaking of the savior to our national nightmares, one pithy essay from Qlipoth makes for fascinating reading and expresses some of what I wanted to say better than I'm able to.
But to question the Obama machine sometimes invokes fierce retorts from his supporters, as though the very idea that asking for anything more progressive might be desirable is unfathomable. Or as though the idea of anything more progressive in existence could be unfathomable. I've been dressed down before for it, and I've stomached enough of the mainstream, tunnel vision Democrat blogs to know how things operate in those communities, where huffing & puffing about "effecting change" is best put into action when US policy sees bombing Afghanistan and Iraq as a form of "humanitarian" and "feminist" liberation.
Barack Obama's an inspiring orator, true. But even his 2004 Democratic National Convention address was not, if you ask me, the highlight of that event. That was Al Sharpton--and I don't care if he's supposed to be "crooked" or "shady," when it comes to policies and pragmatic change within the system, Sharpton's realism is up there with Kucinich's hard work as one of the few--very few--buoyant aspects of the Democratic Party en toto. About "the black vote," which has favored Obama so mightly in '08, Sharpton said this:
Mr. President, as I close, Mr. President, I heard you say Friday that you had questions for voters, particularly African-American voters. And you asked the question: Did the Democratic Party take us for granted? Well, I have raised questions. But let me answer your question.
You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule.
That's where the argument, to this day, of reparations starts. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres.
We didn't get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us.
Insofar as we can constitute 'the black vote' as a demographic monolith, black voters will end up choosing whoever they think is right for them, for America, for any number of things. Just like any other discernible voting bloc. But it is imperative that we talk to each other about the ways in which are asked not only to hedge our bets for pragmatic reasons, but are encouraged to rip out the hedges for wholly idealist illusions. Not everyone sees, has seen, Obama as the one worth supporting for change. And not all of us will float along in the course of this election in a subdued manner.
However faintly visible the struggle may be in the media (broadly defined), we still have the option to pass over one type of candidate ...
... for another ...
(H/t to the folks at Qlipoth, again, for the McKinney video. Forty minutes long, but worth it.)