Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Politics: The View from Harpenden, England

I sit here early Wednesday morning in Harpenden, England, looking out over the garden at my son's house, listening to the birds, and wondering if that gray sky will ever give way to blue. It rained, or drizzled, for a good part of the day yesterday and for me, a visitor now from my home in California, it was a pleasure to feel the moisture in the air and to feast the eyes on the dazzling green of the lawn and the multifarious greens of the trees.

First thing this morning, of course, I checked in online to update myself on the American political scene. We had been wondering all day yesterday what the results might be, but with the eight-hour time difference, were not eager enough to stay up until all hours to hear the results. Now I see that Obama has gathered enough elected delegates to convince those unelected superdelegates to announce for him, or to switch over to his side--including our own Los Angeles representative, Maxine Waters, long a loyal Clintonista.

Meanwhile, I see, our Hillary is still not ready to give up the fight. Ourselves in the Obama camp since the California primaries--and myself, since John Edwards's withdrawal--we have been surprised to meet many avid, even angry Clinton supporters on our travels. We have heard, frequently, the accusation of sexism leveled against Obama and his campaign team. The use of the word "shrill" to describe Hillary's behavior, in particular, has been picked out as one that identifies the worst of sexism on our side. For myself, while I realize how commonly the word is used offensively to stereotype women, I also believe that it's a word that carries a value and meaning other than that stereotype, and that Hillary has, in fact, slipped over into excess in language and in capitalizing on her victimhood.

Months back, I would have been elated to have had the chance to vote for a woman candidate; now, were she the Democratic Party's nominee, I would still vote for her without qualms, but with less enthusiasm. To those who say that Obama is untested, that he lacks experience, that all he has going for him is preachy rhetoric I would say: take a good look at the history of the two campaigns and compare them. Hillary, frankly, has made a hash of hers. She can't simply blame the media, blame sexism, blame others for the failure. She started out an easy frontrunner, with the full weight of the party machinery behind her. It was hers to lose, and she lost it. She cannot disclaim responsibility for the mismanagement that brought her to this point. By the same token, the Obama campaign has remained relatively dignified, has survived the worst of crises, has been even-keeled, efficient and well-managed throughout. I think the man can take some credit for that.

So looking at nothing more than the management of the campaigns, I say that Obama has proved himself the greater potential leader of the two--one who is capable of listening, stepping back, re-grouping, maintaining a dignified calm not only within himself but amongst his supporters, keeping on track and achieving the eventual goal with fortitude and imperturbable strength. I realize that others, those Clinton supporters who have still not accepted the alternative possibility will disagree with my assessment. It's just my view. I only hope, for the sake of the country, that sound reasoning will soon replace the current emotional posturing, and that neither one of the candidates will have sufficiently alienated the supporters of the other for the Democrats to lose the real battle of ideas and issues that must now take place between this moment and November.

And, yes, let's be ready for that October surprise. I put absolutely nothing past Bush and his team of incompetent ideologues, desperate to keep their hold on power. They will do anything to win. Hillary should have learned enough from the example of their political tactics to have resisted every opportunity to emulate them. She did not. And clearly the American voters have decided they want something different from their politicians than falsification and attack. Real strength is made of other qualities than these.


thailandchani said...

There are a lot of factors. For me, I got tired of Clinton's relentless self-promotion where Obama seems to promote ideas.

That was the delineating factor in all of it.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Excellent insights, Peter.

Mark said...

I agree.
I worry a lot now about what's next in this election. It seems like Obama has been put in a real position of pressure, but there isn't a lot he can do about it all. Clinton carries a group of voters who would vote for Obama over McCain, and I'm afraid that Obama needs that group to win the election. It feels like even though Obama won the nomination, Clinton is still in the driver's seat. She can either stop her campaign and allow Obama a safe victory for the good of the party and consequently America, or she can continue to run and gift wrap the presidency for McCain.

It's hard for me to watch because Clinton's character so far hasn't been such that I'm expecting her to fold. Her underhandedness and, as Chani said, "relentless self-promotion" makes me very afraid that she would rather bring Obama down with her than bow out respectfully. In which case, I have a question for you: How hard is it to make a life for yourself in a new country, Peter?

Doctor Noe said...

Is the possibility still there of an Edwards vice presidency? I could not stomach a Clinton one.

Bill Clinton, maybe. Might be fun.

But seriously, Obama-Edwards. Has a ring to it, n'est ce pas?

Mark said...

After I made my comment, I went to work and almost wept when I read the paper. Clinton is actually backing out of the race and supporting Obama. The road from here until November will still be long and difficult, I think. We'll see.