Bird that Sings

January 28, 2008

“That’s the Devil”—Giuliani in Florida

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 5:04 pm

Two weeks Markos Moulitsas made a plea for Michigan Democrats to vote in the Republican Primary for Mitt “Say anything” Romney.

Why? Certainly not because any Democrat, or anyone else for that matter, likes Romney. Mitt is possibly the most unlikable candidate to emerge in either party since Pat Robertson or Richard Nixon.

No, Kos wanted people to support Romney because John “Hundred Years War” McCain, who was Romney’s major opposition in Michigan, is a much more dangerous candidate for Democrats to run against.

Romney won Michigan but now after South Carolina, Democrats again face the possibility that McCain could win Florida and become the firm favorite in a Republican Field which up until now has resembled the three blind mice—and one crazy mouse.

Indeed the smart thing for Democrats to do at this point would appear to be supporting anyone who could stop McCain in Florida, but does that enemy of my enemy logic extend so far as lending tacit support to the candidacy of the former Mayor of New York City, Rudolph “Hide the children” Giuliani?

Giuliani of course has staked a lot on Florida and if the polls and press are any judge (you make the call) is about to bite the big one down there. Meanwhile, as in Michigan, McCain and Romney are in a very tight race. The conventional wisdom seems to be that a late up tick in support for Giuliani would draw votes from McCain.

Unlike Michigan, Florida is not an open primary, so unless you have Republican grand uncles and grand aunts—or ne’er do well land speculator cousins—living there, this is more in the realm of spectator sports than politics, still . . .

. . . Rudy is a guy who’s made Norman Podhoretz his unofficial foreign policy advisor. He supports bombing Iran for the hell of it. William Bratton, his first police commissioner, who designed the preventive policing program on whose—mixed success—Rudy made his reputation in New York, hates him. The Fireman’s Union of New York, on whose shoulders Rudy rose to National prominence, hates him. He grew up in Brooklyn but followed the Yankees. He’s a good friend of Donald Trump’s. His term in office was characterized by currying favor with the gilded age gentry of Wall Street while waging an undeclared war on black people, poor people and street artists that went by the name, “Giuliani Time.”

In a recent poll, two out of three Americans chose Rudy as the candidate most likely to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for a push-up bra and black lace underwear.

Do we, under sanction from heaven, dare wish Giuliani back in the race, in order only to stop John McCain?
That’s the devil . . .

January 25, 2008

It’s the System, stupid

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:59 am

I woke up this morning missing Molly Ivins. But there was no need. I soon realized that I could still hear her voice in my head, and she was calling out as if from a great distance

“It’s the system, stupid!” I believe she was saying.
And it is, too.

I know Hillary and Barack are all involved in the “horse race” or “dog fight” or whatever they want to call it, but if they were paying attention to the real situation, this is what they’d find.

The US: superpower and supermarket of the world, lies at the nexus of three collapsing systems. The first is our system of campaign finance and by extension, government itself.

When pushed by that pushy guy, John Edwards, in one of last summer’s debates, Hillary defended corporate lobbyists with the plaintive line, “lobbyists are people too.”

Technically this is true. We’re all people, but to be fair, corporate lobbyists are a special class of persons. Generally we label these kinds of people as “parasites.” This is because they not only live off the blood and money of the rest of us, but their parasitic engagement with the system ruins it, makes it ultimately inoperable for any purposes but their own.

Like their patron saint, Darth Vader, many corporate lobbyists were once your elected representatives working for—achievable—change in the system itself. They worked themselves to the bone trying to pass legislation to make the world —a little—better, while continually trying to raise money to get reelected, until they finally got worn down. Then they took the golden handshake and joined the other side. In retirement from public service many corporate lobbyists get very, very rich. And let’s be honest, given the opportunity you might well do the same.

The results of the lobbyists gaming the system with their campaign contributions, however, have been disastrous. Whether or not legislators can take the lobbyists money and still vote against them, the cost of campaigns has escalated in the past decade alone, even more than the cost of elite colleges. This has made most legislators slaves to campaign contributions and the lobbyists who provide the lion share of them.

The obvious answer is Public Financing of campaigns. And of course, most corporate lobbyists don’t want that because Public Financing would spell the end to their outsized power. The tightening nexus of media conglomerates also don’t want it, because they want to continue to be able to charge a fortune for campaign ads. You can see where this is going.

Meanwhile the International Financial system is literally crumbling before our eyes. The business press has decided that the ongoing collapse of the financial system—though they don’t call it that, they call it “the recession”—is due to the “subprime mortgage meltdown.” While the bad, collateralized mortgage debt madly circulating through the financial system is certainly the initial cause of the credit crunch at the root of the current crisis, it is also a symptom of the larger malady.

The underlying sickness that plagues the country is the hegemony of the finance economy over all other aspects of society and the human political economy.

The finance economy rose with the decline of manufacturing in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In these years the Stock Market went on a run that ultimately increased the total of corporate investment and theoretically, worth, by over fifteen fold, from 1981 until today.

What made this massive increase in the size of the finance economy possible was the good old US consumer. Instead of buying American goods manufactured here, we now bought foreign goods—and domestic real estate— financed by a new homegrown American product, cheap commercial credit and debt, produced for us by American banks like good old Citicorp, J.P Morgan Chase and the rest of them.

In fact, even as most of our real incomes declined we bought—directly and indirectly—more debt than we could, collectively, ever afford to repay. Many of us bought the credit debt because we needed to, just to keep our heads above water. Others of us bought debt so we could live like “the Kings and Queens of antiquity,” all on a white-collar, wage-slave salary. Others bought the debt so they could speculate with it and try to game the system themselves. But we all bought it.

Not so strangely, what was going on among individual consumers was recapitulated on an enormous scale in the financial world at large. The names of the kinds of transactions changed over the years, from Leveraged buyouts to the more recent CDO’s—collateralized debt obligations, but it was all about the buying and selling of debt.

As it turned out, this was a very good business and led to the creation of a small, but not insignificant, new class of rich and super rich.

The enormous new pools of financial wealth also enabled the corporate financial elite to hire all those damn lobbyists. Typically, the actual work of these corporate lobbyists— when they are not busy eating away at the integrity of the legislative system itself—is advocating for a regime of less regulation in the markets.

There are many examples of their successes; the deregulation of power and electricity companies that led to the rise of Enron, is one.

In 2005, we saw the new anti-bankruptcy law, in which the Credit Card companies, while keeping their ability to charge usurious interests rates, took away the refuge of Chapter 11 bankruptcy from ordinary Americans.

In 1999, the Banking and Insurance industries, after years of campaigning against the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act which kept them out of the incredibly lucrative investment markets, finally got the so called “firewall” legislation removed.

Once the banks went into collusion with the big investment firms, it was Katie bar the door; anything could be turned to an investment security, or “instrument” as the industry referred to them. And so we got the dicing up and bundling of these impossible to “rate” mortgage securities that are the cause of the current panic.

Now, the chickens are coming home to roost. The Big Banks and Big Investment houses have lost billions upon billions of dollars. They need to re-capitalize and fast, so they are bringing in new investment from the so-called Sovereign Wealth Funds; government investment funds held by nations in Asia and the Middle East.

What the SWF’s have in common is that they represent countries that have actually been producing goods and materials while the US has been mostly been busy making debt. In many cases these countries have literally been subsidizing our debt orgy in order to keep us flush enough to keep buying their stuff. But now the gig’s up. The American Finance economy is running aground and the producing nations are being forced to tip toe in—to take us over.

Frankly, they don’t have a choice.

However, besides the loss of American national sovereignty, there is an even deeper problem endemic to the Finance economy.

This is because the third system in collapse is “the big one,” the ecological system of the planet itself.

Even when the market is functioning as it should, management still has to answer to shareholders whose main concern is maximizing their investment. In the case of public or private companies with a lot of leveraged debt—and there’s a lot of them— there is a certain desperation to the search for immediate profits. However from the standpoint of the planet and its survival, maximizing return is not the first issue that needs to be addressed.

We should be talking about these things. It is an election year after all, but I think we’re not talking about it, because there are certain politicians who must know that they are implicated in the looming crises that hover about us.

Exhibit Number one: The Clintons.
As President, Bill Clinton pushed trade deals like NAFTA that both shipped jobs out of the country and rewarded the new financiers for their support. He signed the Gramm-Leach-Briley law that repealed most provisions of the Glass-Steagall act. He presided over the deregulation of the power and electric industries. He actively encouraged corporate lobbying in exchange for campaign contributions.

It’s hard to say what goes in the mind of the Clintons’ so that Hillary feels she can blithely ignore this history, pretending she is a candidate of change when in fact she is the very embodiment of a malignant status quo.

Molly Ivins saw it. In her January 20, 2006 column, she wrote:
“I’d like to make clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for President. Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. . . ”

From my perspective, which admittedly is not the perspective of most Democrats, John Edwards is probably both the most electable candidate and the one who attacks the predations of the system most directly.

As Russ Feingold pointed out last week, Edwards is a flawed candidate. However that doesn’t alter the fact that Edwards is currently the most eloquent spokesman we have against the influence of corporate money in politics and for the vanishing American Middle Class. He’s the only credible anti-corporate voice in the race.

The big problem with Edwards’ candidacy is it may no longer be viable. Edwards may be the most electable Democrat for a general election, but I don’t see how he gets from here to the nomination.

Nonetheless, I’ll be voting for John Edwards when my primary day arrives on February 5th. Edwards does take some votes from Obama, but I would submit that he takes more votes from Hillary and at this point, stopping Hillary is job one for Democrats.

January 18, 2008

Bringing back Michigan, baby

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 3:00 am


The campaign caravan has moved on and the national press is about to forget Michigan again until some new disaster in the Upper Midwest impresses itself on the national consciousness. Before we go though I’d just like to echo the words of commentator and former University of Detroit basketball coach and Athletic Director, Dick Vitale when he said; “’S’bout bringing back Michigan, baby!”

In the recent Republican Primary you had the two leading GOP contenders of the week, Mitt “say anything” Romney, and John “hundred years War” McCain, treating Michigan to their competing visions for the future of the state.

McCain gave them his “straight talk” about bringing green jobs to Michigan, since “the old jobs are gone, and they ain’t coming back.” Romney opposed McCain’s “defeatist talk” with a scheme of his own: massive government intervention to right the auto industry; a hazy twenty billion dollar plan marrying some sort of government bailout with talk of good old American entrepreneurial drive. While the specifics of the plan were rather nebulous, Romney’s larger point won the day and the primary: the point being that we, the American people, cannot let Michigan fail.

The Devil of course is in the details.

Romney’s right, the government is going to have to intervene in Michigan, but as the political class is fond of saying these days, it’s going to have to be “smart” intervention. Meanwhile McCain is also right, the future is in green collar jobs.

One two-part idea America might try is this. To begin with, the Federal Government would assume the health care and legacy retirement costs of US auto workers from GM, Ford and Chrysler. This would help the Big 3 get back on their feet and stabilize job loss in the upper Mid West. In other words, your basic corporate bailout—I’m sure Mitt would approve.
However at the same time that the government is bailing out the big auto companies, it would also underwrite the creation of a new, Public Automobile company based in Detroit— or Dearborn, or Flint. This Publicly owned, and what the hell, worker managed, company would utilize closed and abandoned GM and Ford plants. It would be dedicated to building stripped down, low cost, hybrid vehicles that would go for eight to ten thousand dollars a pop. These new vehicles would be like a green version of the original Model-T.

The great thing about “The Green T” is it could be built to environmental standards, not corporate ones. The “Green T” might be able to get 100 miles to the gallon as do some prototype hybrid vehicles now being tested at the University of California, Davis. Whatever the case we know one thing; these cars would sell, sell well enough to help underwrite the costs of the government’s legacy buyouts, pay good wages and make back the initial Public investment.

We also know that since the company will be worker managed, the Public commission overseeing the company will be able to make a deal with the UAW to let the workers adjust their own pay rates and working conditions.

Taken together these two proposals would not only address the collapse of manufacturing in Michigan and the Mid West as a whole, but also climate change and the taboo against public ownership of industry. Further, it would point the way for Detroit to once again achieve profitability. The future, after all, is Green.

Now I know it might take McCain and Romney a minute to digest these twin proposals, so while they’re digesting, let’s talk amongst ourselves for a moment.

The big problem with this plan is not that it wouldn’t work. The big problem with this plan is that it violates the taboo on public ownership of industry and anything smacking of government intervention in the market—even while the market is slowly collapsing, under the weight of its own greed and malfeasance, right before our eyes.

This final issue; the relationship of the public sphere and the private sphere is actually the key socio-economic issue of the historical moment. It should be a central issue in the coming election but the Republicans sure ain’t gonna raise it, and with corporate Democrats like Clinton and Obama currently leading the Democratic field, we know the Democrats won’t either.

As we can see, bringing back Michigan won’t be easy. It can be done, but only over the dead bodies of the two major political parties, the ruling corporate oligarchy and their gatekeepers in the media.

But personally, I feel like one could profitably spend a lifetime just making good on Mitt Romney’s broken promises. And that’s a good enough reason for bringing back Michigan to me.

January 10, 2008

America’s black friend

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:34 am


Some years ago a friend of mine moved from Philadelphia out to the Bay Area. A mutual friend of ours had died in tragic circumstances several months before at the age of 21 and my friend, who we will call KC, felt he had to get away from Philly. In the Seventies, before gentrification and the exploding, prohibitive cost of housing kicked in, the Bay Area was a destination for black artist types, something like Paris must have been in the Forties, Fifties and early Sixties.

KC, who is a poet, said he felt the difference between Philly and the Bay Area almost immediately. In Philly, if you weren’t ready to fight when you left the house in the morning, it was probably best not to leave the house. In California, KC said, everyone was nice, or at least they were back then. The only problem was that sometimes they were too nice. He mentioned some young white people he had met who wanted him to be their black friend. Sometimes, he said, they seemed to want an excuse to shake his hand or even. . . touch him, and as you can imagine, it was weirding him out a little.

I can’t help noticing that since the Iowa caucuses, White America seems to want Barack Obama to be their black friend. I made this observation to my wife as we were watching the Democratic debate from New Hampshire Saturday night. She agreed but asked, “what’s wrong with that?” And I had to admit, there’s nothing really wrong with it, but it is weirding me out a little.

The problem with Barack Obama’s candidacy is not necessarily Barack Obama. Watching the debate the other night it struck me both how far Obama’s come in the course of the campaign as well as how unique and talented a politician he is. Apart from any policy or ideological considerations, Obama clearly appeared to be the most Presidential of the four candidates on the podium. Even besides the stentorian voice, it’s an unquantifiable thing Obama’s got. I think it was Norman Mailer in his famous “Superman goes to the Supermarket” piece about JFK who brought back the old Max Weber term “charisma” to describe Kennedy, and it certainly fits Obama as well.

You can see why people got so excited about Obama after his keynote speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and how that excitement has sort of fed on itself ever since.

I get it, but I just can’t get with it. God knows I’d prefer not to be a player hater, but it appears fate has fingered me for that role.

Which is to say that from where I sit, no matter how talented Obama is—and how smart David Axelrod and Obama’s handlers are—Obama is almost by definition a media candidate. The genius of Obama’s candidacy is supposed to be that Obama is not just talking about change, but symbolizing it. Obama is actually supposed to be the change everybody else is talking about. But to me, this is not really politics; this is a PR campaign.

Since Obama announced, the pundits have been talking about the “Rock star” quotient Obama brings to the table, but Obama is not the politician as a Rock star, Obama is the Pop star as a politician. Obama is not here to entertain or edify us; he’s here to be consumed, like the wine and the wafer. “Change” is Obama’s “brand.” It really doesn’t matter what kind of change he’s talking about.

When viewed in this context, Barack Obama, no matter what his actual politics are, can be seen to be the very antithesis of a “change candidate.” Obama is the ultimate cog in the corporate system’s machine, like a widget or an I-phone; a stylish accouterment of consumption.

Since Obama is not actually running as a politician but as a Pop Star, it might be instructive to compare him to the other current favorite, deep pop star, on college campuses and post collegiate scenes around the country. That would be the late reggae superstar, Bob Marley.

Recently, a college student stunned me with the remark that Bob Marley could be elected President of the United States on the strength of the youth vote if he was running today. After recovering myself, I replied that one, Marley was born in Jamaica, disqualifying him from ever being President of the US, and that two, he is dead, further disqualifying him.

I also offered my opinion that the reason Marley is so popular among youth is precisely because he is dead, because kids can make an icon of Marley, independent of who he actually he was and what he represented. Nevertheless the conversation got me thinking.

As it happens I think the thing I liked best about Marley when he was alive was his ability to symbolize the change he was singing about. Yes, the very thing that Obama is attempting. The differences are that one, Marley wasn’t running for President, and two he was attempting to negotiate the inherent conflict between being a pop star and an agent of change, not pretending it didn’t exist. And finally, there was the content of Marley’s songs themselves. Here’s the first verse of “Babylon System.”

“We refuse to be what you wanted us to be
We are what we are
That’s the way it’s going to be.
You can’t educate us, for no equal opportunity
Talkin’ bout my freedom, talkin’ bout my freedom,
People, freedom and liberty . .”

If there was ever a more stark expression of both the black cultural nationalist and the anti-colonial mindset, I haven’t heard it. Even in death, Bob Marley cannot be consumed whole by the Babylon System he both reviled and was attracted to.

Barack Obama on the other hand, has more in common with Michael Jordan than Martin Luther King and from my point of view that’s a real shame. Obama is as naturally gifted a politician as we’ve seen in this country in a long time, and while his instincts may be suspect, I suspect his intelligence is not.

Hillary Clinton’s not right about much, but she is right about the problem with Obama; he is too inexperienced to be President. You could make the case that John Kennedy was about Obama’s age when he ran for President, but Kennedy had already been in the Senate for eight years and the House for six years when he was elected. He had also clearly been planning a run for the Presidency since at least the mid Fifties, and at the ’56 Democratic Convention, had launched an unsuccessful campaign to get himself on the ticket as Adlai Stevenson’s Vice Presidential running mate.

Obama by contrast, was not planning on running until he was more or less shanghaied into it by popular demand a year and half ago. It’s almost absurd that Obama’s running and that’s why he has to run this kind of pop campaign, reminiscent of the title character in VS Naipaul’s first novel, “The Mystic Masseur.” Obama simply doesn’t have another choice.

At this point the best argument for Obama is one he’s not making, that he’s all that stands between Hillary Clinton and the nomination. I still wouldn’t waste my vote on Obama in a primary (though I would of course vote for him in a general) but it’s a pretty good argument.

For one night in New Hampshire though, the argument was different, and not in a way anyone would have predicted. Like the women of New Hampshire I found myself rooting for Hillary, but not for the same reason. I was hoping Hillary would stop Obama; women in New Hampshire, incredibly enough, voted for Hillary because they felt sorry for her. For one night, Sisterhood was indeed powerful. I’m not a Hillary hater so much as I am a Clinton hater, but you can’t help thinking that’s a beautiful thing—as long as it stays in New Hampshire.

The truth about Hillary, as Obama said, is she’s not so bad. Hillary is obviously very smart and capable. It’s the company she keeps that’s the problem. If Hillary were not running explicitly (though my guess is the Clintonites have learned their tactical lesson in this regard) as an agent of the Clinton restoration, she might be able to see what’s happened in this country over the past twenty five years with fresh eyes. She might be able to take an honest look at the role of the Clinton administration in bringing to us to this desperate pass, instead blaming it all on Bush. She might be able to see things as her supposed hero Eleanor Roosevelt would have.

For now though, John Edwards is right, and Hillary is wrong. Hillary claims she is doer, not a talker, but what we see from the Clintons is that they talk like populists and do like corporate democrats. As Edwards says, no matter what the corporate Democrats say to get elected, once in power there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them and the corporate Republicans.

All the pundits of course tell us that Edwards is finished, and frankly on Tuesday morning, I kind of thought so myself. I thought Obama was going to take New Hampshire and sweep to the nomination. Ironically, now Obama needs Edwards in the race to keep all the hard core, white working class Democrats from going to Clinton. And Edwards probably should stay in the race, to deny Hillary the nomination if nothing else, even while hoping for lightning to strike with his own candidacy.

Whatever the case, it’s hard to say what will happen the rest of this political season. Already there is a witchy feeling to this year that reminds me somehow of 1968, and not necessarily in a good way.

All the candidates of both parties seem to be presupposing that the status quo; economic, social, political, even environmental will maintain from now through the election. I’m not sure of much, but I’m pretty sure that the status quo is not going to make it ‘til spring, let alone fall, and that the politics of the moment are going to radically shift because of it.

There is the sense that we are at the end of something, and perhaps about to experience the violent pangs attendant at the birth of something new. One thing we know about this year already; lightning will strike. Anything could happen.

January 3, 2008


Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — admin @ 1:05 pm

Hillary Clinton: Center-leftist?

In its recent Election ’08 issue, The Nation magazine offers this assessment, “Hillary Clinton has proven herself a dedicated centrist and when the center moves left, she has shown she can move too.”

The Nation is certainly not wrong about Hillary, but their evaluation brought to mind an encounter of my own from thirty-five years before.

I was sitting at a McDonald’s—eating a fish fillet—when a friend and fellow activist proposed “a game.” He wanted to create an absolute political scale from left to right and place various national and local political figures ideologically along its’ grid. The point of the game, according to my friend Roger, was to determine who was the most liberal politician, with the unspoken implication being, that the most liberal politician was “the best” politician. For those of you who didn’t live it, this was a real early 70’s state of mind.

I was about seventeen at the time but even then there was something about this exercise that struck me as wrongheaded. I may have even told my friend Roger, the erstwhile President of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Students Association, that I thought he was barking up the wrong tree.

I might have told him that there was no absolute political scale of Right to Left, and that “who was the most liberal” was the wrong question to ask. The better question, then as now, would have been “Which side are you on?”

It’s been a long time since this question has been relevant to any American election cycle, but remarkably, with so many candidates claiming the mantle of change, it has become so in this one. However, to understand who is the real candidate of change, it’s necessary to understand just what needs changing.

Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, as a new kind of Conservative, one who turned liberal politics on its head by proclaiming himself the heir of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. In Reagan’s world it was the Democrats who had betrayed FDR’s legacy, turning the latter’s party into a haven for appeasers, druggies and perhaps most damningly, elitists, out of touch with the lives and concerns of every day Americans.

The attack on the supposedly liberal elites, echoing older Republican attacks on the so-called “pointy headed liberals,” was the opening salvo of a broader attack in what came to be known as the culture wars.

In the Reagan years we got the War on Drugs and the rising influence of evangelical Christianity on American politics. We got Lynne Cheney, in her role as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, attacking new history textbooks of the period for supposedly over emphasizing slavery and genocide against Native Americans, while not sufficiently emphasizing “what was good about America.” We got the War against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the arming of death squads all through Central America as a bulwark against communist subversion in our hemisphere.

However perhaps more important than the cultural and political Reaction of the Reagan years was the rediscovery and aggressive application of the free market economic theories of University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman.

It was Friedman’s contention that if the government would just take the shackles (excessive regulation, trade protectionism, worker and union rights etc) off industry and business, then the gusher of ensuing economic growth would lift all of society’s boats together.

Under Reagan, Friedman’s principles were applied not just domestically, leading to the loosening or abandonment of regulation in most sectors of the economy, but internationally.
US development agencies together with the US controlled International Monetary Fund and World Bank began to link promises of aid with demands for the nation-states of the developing world to convert to Free Market principles. This forced economic conversion of the developing world, eerily paralleling the rise of Islam a millennium before, was called “structural adjustment.”

The application of Friedmanomics also coincided with the long-term decline of American manufacturing. With the rationalization of the world economy, it no longer made economic sense for manufacturing to be done in the high wage, developed world when it could be done more cheaply elsewhere.

The new economy of the developed world was instead supposed to be based on brains rather than brawn. The West and America in particular were now to be powered by the new technology revolution and by the rise of Wall Street and the Financial Markets, by the business of Money itself.

The totality and seamlessness of the Reagan Revolution led some exultant neo-right wingers to proclaim, and not for the last time, the beginning of a thousand year Republican Reich. However it was not to be.

It turned out that there was a key political contradiction between the Reaganite emphasis on values and its rationalizing economic engine. The decline of manufacturing was felt disproportionately by the “Reagan Democrats,” mostly blue collar and working class whites who had cheered on Reagan’s appropriation of the cultural mantle of FDR. These Democrats, the ones who had responded to Reagan’s evocation of the optimism of post World War II America, of the shining “city on the hill,” now saw their jobs being shipped overseas. They saw themselves being phased out, marginalized by the rise of the new technological and financial elites.

By 1988 the table had clearly been set for a Democrat to address the rising political- economic dislocation and inequality of Reagan’s America. Almost any Democrat could have won that election, but especially a Democrat with working class roots, who addressed the epic political-economic hypocrisy and dishonesty of the Reagan regime.

Instead we got Michael Dukakis who stressed “leadership and management.”

When a Democrat finally was elected in 1992, in response to the economic failures of the first Bush administration, there was hope that there might finally be a pushback, politically, economically and culturally, against the excesses of what still was (and truthfully, still is) the Reagan era.

Instead we got William Jefferson Clinton, a sort of Rabellaisian figure, Michael Dukakis on steroids.

Chief among the failures of the Clinton years, beyond his seeming inability to keep his thing in his pants, was the failure to address the legacy of Reagan and Reaganism. Rather, in the economic sphere, Clinton, through his extraordinarily able Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, furthered the Reagonian rationalization of the economy. The success of the Clinton era economy is often looked back on now as his great achievement but its long-term consequences for the country and the world have proved disastrous.

The difference between Clinton, Reagan and for that matter, the Bushes, was that under Clinton, we were actually told us that yes, we were going to lose our manufacturing jobs, but it was going to be alright. In the future, they told us, we would all be going to college to get better jobs in the new economy, and jobs that paid more to boot.

A full economic cycle later we can see that this was not the case. The jobs that replaced the lost manufacturing work were largely service jobs, shit jobs, non-union jobs. We see that the only way many Americans are able to keep their heads above water is by going so deeply into debt they never expect to get out of it. And we begin to sense that Ross Perot was right and Robert Rubin was wrong, that a great power cannot survive the loss of it’s manufacturing base.

Meanwhile the financial, business and tech sectors of the economy continue to boom, creating not only a two-tier economy, but a level of class stratification previously unknown in modern America.

The failure of the Clintonites to address the rise of debt as the engine of American prosperity set the template for the speculative frenzy that has ultimately led the country and the world to the brink of a catastrophic financial collapse. Further, their inclination to allow Wall Street financial empires to dictate government economic policy has created a de-facto permanent government; an interface of the large Investment houses and the State complete with a well known cast of characters—like Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson—continually passing through the revolving door from one branch of the permanent government to the other.

The final failure of the Clintonites to roll back the Reagan legacy is perhaps the most damning. It was the acceptance of the commodification of every day life; what the kids see when they watch “The Matrix.” It’s what happened to us in the 70’s and 80’s when the market realized it could sell anything to anyone; that the only bad drugs were the ones that made us not want to shop. It was and remains the real deal death of values that the Christian value voters never seem to address: the concept that nothing has an inherent value of its own, only what it can fetch on the market. It’s the primacy of style over content where all the best stuff has a continual if impermanent sheen.

It is within this world without memory that the current election cycle takes place. In this world we are told that all the problems of America are the fault of the second George Bush, the stupid one, who actually believed that Jesus was going to bail out his sorry ass.

This is certainly the dominant narrative of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Get rid of Bush, we get rid of the plague that is sickening America and we can all go back to business as usual. And Bush has been the worst President that I can remember, probably the worst of the modern era. But Bush didn’t create the current structural problems of the country.

Getting rid of Bush will be a good and great thing, but it doesn’t make the case for Hillary Clinton as President. The problem with Hillary is that she doesn’t really fit the political moment. Hillary’s politics are essentially an enlightened business-as-usual and it’s not clear the world can survive too much more of that. It also appears as though Hillary feels she is the carrier of her husband’s legacy and as we have seen, that legacy is part of the problem.

The final element of “the problem with Hillary” is that, as many others have said, she might not be electable, even against a Republican field that ranges from laughable to delusional. Can a Batman villain like Rudy Giuliani actually get elected? Can a John McCain, who thinks we are winning the war in Iraq—a war that wouldn’t exist if we weren’t in it—actually get a day pass out of the asylum where he must spend the nights? It’s hard to say, but certainly any Republican’s chances—or for that matter Michael Bloomberg’s chances—are greatly enhanced by a projected match up against Hillary.

As contrasted to Hillary, Barack Obama does fit the political moment but not in a good way. The problem with Obama’s politics is that they are, like the culture, cosmetic. Rather than run as an actual change candidate, Obama has chosen to run as a symbolic change candidate, a charismatic young bi-racial man as a symbol of change. However it’s hard to say what change Obama actually represents beyond his assurances of it.

And then there’s John Edwards. Edwards is not a perfect candidate, but Edwards is running a transformational political campaign, and in doing so, is addressing the real issues and challenges we face as a people and a species. Edwards is attacking the collusion of the investment banks, the insurance companies and your government. He’s calling those trade deals rammed through by the last Democratic President what they are, a sell out of the American working class to international Capital. Edwards is naming the system, the first viable Democrat in a Presidential campaign to do so in a long, long time.

If this election is really to be about change, the question for Hillary, Obama and Edwards becomes, who’s willing to take a stand against the system? Who’s willing to take a risk on behalf of people who’ve been locked out or left behind; people without influence, people who might not even show up to vote? If this election is really to be about change, the question for Hillary, Obama and Edwards is “Which side are you on?” By that measure, I think the candidate of change is fairly obvious.

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