Hector J. Vila
(Hector J. Vila of New Haven is an assistant professor in writing at Middlebury College. )
I have entered into an agreement with my mother and one of her friends: If Hillary Clinton is the nominee of the Democratic Party we won't vote in the national election.
I have learned that these first feminists -- my mother is in her 80s -- on whose backs Hillary is trying to climb to the White House aren't happy with her. Ambition at any cost is the "me" generation Hillary and Bill helped define. And my mother and friends are unhappy with how this pantomime has become a substitute, very real, feminist struggle.
When Hillary voted for the war in Iraq -- and Obama didn't -- she made a political decision based on convenience. She went along with Bush's crude unilatirism because it fit her White House aspirations and sent thousands of those folks she says Obama is out of touch with into harm's way. With Bush, she is responsible for Iraq and its aftermath -- the deaths of thousands, the suffering of countless others, and the mushrooming debt and the economy's chaotic spiral.
This same level of convenient abdication of responsibility is what prompted Hillary to suggest that she landed in Bosnia under enemy gunfire. Sidestepping the truth is in the Clintons' DNA. Continuing down this road will drain us emotionally and spiritually. My mother, her friends and I are exhausted.
Politicians say that "you get what you pay for." During the last eight years Americans have paid for one of the crudest moments in our history: A mindless war for control of oil; a middle class that has not grown for the first time in American history -- some even dropping from this scale; and while confused and beleaguered in Iraq, over 100,000 Americans have been murdered within our borders since 9/11. This is what we paid for.
Hillary is asking voters to take a look at her baggage because the Republicans have attacked it and she has come through this test victorious. Indeed -- there is Whitewater and Travelgate and Filegate, and the circumstances around Vince Foster's death. A cloud hangs over Hillary. Old news, perhaps, but if we stop and take a closer look, we see a couple that has miraculously escaped condemnation, legal or otherwise.
Hillary claims that Obama is out of touch, an elite. But the Clintons have skirted reality -- our mounting debt and the fear that we are transitioning into a new age where America is no longer "top gun" but something else, lagging behind China and India. Neither Clinton nor Obama are addressing this reality. This and the war plague the American consciousness.
It's politics as usual with Clinton and Obama. Rather than face reality they are busy ripping each other apart. Obama has allowed himself to be caught in Clinton's venomous web. We thought he was smarter than that.
In the politics of bitterness, the American Dream -- hope and possibility for tomorrow -- suffers. It's often said that truth is the first casualty of war. We've seen this in Iraq. But truth is first and foremost the first casualty of politics.
Suddenly, as if we've passed through the looking glass, McCain looks good. The dark horse is the image of hope for many Americans -- Democrats and independents alike. How is this a turn away from Bush? A vote for Hillary Clinton is a return to the "me" generation that brought us here -- and that gave us Bush.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The Huffington Post
During the past week, Sen. Hillary Clinton has presented herself as a working class populist, the politician in touch with small town sentiments, compared to the elitism of her opponent, Sen. Barack Obama.
But a telling anecdote from her husband's administration shows Hillary Clinton's attitudes about the "lunch-bucket Democrats" are not exactly pristine.
In January 1995, as the Clintons were licking their wounds from the 1994 congressional elections, a debate emerged at a retreat at Camp David.
Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach.
"Screw 'em," she told her husband. "You don't owe them a thing, Bill. They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them."
The statement -- which author Benjamin Barber witnessed and wrote about in his book, "The Truth of Power: Intellectual Affairs in the Clinton White House" -- was prompted by another speaker raising the difficulties of reaching "Reagan Democrats."
It stands in stark contrast to the attitude the New York Democrat has recently taken on the campaign trail, in which she has presented herself as the one candidate who understands the working-class needs.
"I don't think [Obama] really gets it that people are looking for a president who stands up for you and not looks down on you," she said this week.
But those who were at the event say the 1995 episode fits into her larger political viewpoint. As Harry Boyte, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Democracy and Citizenship who was at the retreat, told The Huffington Post:
"[Hillary Clinton] sees herself as the champion of the oppressed, but there is always a kind of good guy versus bad guy mentality. The comment before that was that 'the Reagan Democrats are our enemies and they weren't on our side,' and she was agreeing with that comment. She said we should write them off: screw them."Perhaps even more telling than Hillary Clinton's "screw 'em" proclamation, however, were the words from her husband that followed. As reported by Barber, Clinton "stepped in, calm and judicious, not irritated, as if rehearsing an old but honorable debate he had been having with his wife for decades."
I know how you feel. I understand Hillary's sense of outrage. It makes me mad too. Sure, we lost our base in the South; our boys voted for Gingrich. But let me tell you something. I know these boys. I grew up with them. Hardworking, poor, white boys, who feel left out, feel that our reforms always come at their expense. Think about it, every progressive advance our country has made since the Civil War has been on their backs. They're the ones asked to pay the price of progress. Now, we are the party of progress, but let me tell you, until we find a way to include these boys in our programs, until we stop making them pay the whole price of liberty for others, we are never going to unite our party, never really going to have change that sticks.If the tone and tenor of the above sounds familiar, it's because the message, Boyte says, is remarkably similar to what Obama was trying to convey in his now controversial remarks about small town America.
"Well, yeah, absolutely," said Boyte, when asked if Obama and Bill Clinton were expressing the same political viewpoint (Boyte said he and his organization are neutral in the presidential race). "I think Obama's better-or-worse versions of this have always been that people are complicated. It comes from an organizing perceptive. You don't write off people, everyone is complicated. It just depends on the issue. And that's what Bill Clinton was saying. He was a sentimental populist."
Not to be lost in all this, as Boyte notes, is that Hillary Clinton has consistently been a "champion for the people who were helpless and powerless." But there is a political component to the mindset. "Hillary Clinton has a very strong customer view: the citizen is the customer and the government the vender," said Boyte. "You can see it in Mark Penn's frame. In fact, last Christmas she had an ad of herself writing checks to different groups."
The Clinton campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
From The Guardian UK, article by Suzanne Goldenberg
Barack Obama, fighting off charges from Hillary Clinton of being out of touch with the working class, today found a powerful new champion in the man who wrote the anthem to the blighted towns of America: Bruce Springsteen.
The endorsement from Springsteen, revered far beyond the rust belt for songs such as Born in the USA, was a coup for Obama who has been struggling to end a damaging controversy ahead of Pennsylvania's primary next Tuesday.
The nod from The Boss - as Springsteen is known to his fans - could prove especially important to Obama's support among white working-class males. The Democratic frontrunner was also endorsed by a Pittsburgh newspaper.
The expressions of support could help Obama fight off a relentless barrage from Clinton and on cable television shows for a recent comment that small town voters channelled their economic frustrations into God, guns and bigotry.
In a posting to his website, Springsteen called the row a distraction from more important issues. "Like most of you, I've been following the campaign and I have now seen and heard enough to know where I stand. Senator Obama, in my view, is head and shoulders above the rest."
The posting added: "He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years."
The endorsement from Springsteen could help Obama get back to narrowing the gap with Clinton in Pennsylvania - a trend that was disrupted by a furore over his remarks at a San Francisco fundraiser.
In his comments to California supporters, Obama had attributed the economic frustrations of small town life to his performance in rural areas. "It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them," he said.
Clinton had pounced on Obama's comments - knocking back a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser in a bar to show her working class credentials and waxing nostalgic about girlhood duck hunting outings with her father.
She aired a new television ad with Pennsylvania voters accusing Obama of being insulting and out of touch. After news broke of the Springsteen endorsement, she moved to further shore up her own working class credentials with an endorsement from a building trades union.
Obama, rather than disown his remarks, has hit back with two new television ads of his own. Yesterday, he wore a flag pin in his lapel again; Obama has said he removed the patriotic emblem after the Iraq war.
One of the ads opens with footage of a crowd in Pittsburgh jeering Clinton when she tries to capitalise on the controversy in her speech. "The same old Washington politics won't lower the price of gas or help our struggling economy," the ad says.
The candidates have also put out duelling ads on lobbyists.
But Obama's decision to keep the row alive does appear to have hurt his chances of catching up to Clinton in Pennsylvania.
Preliminary polls show that Obama's recent gains against Clinton have stalled.
That could leave Clinton with the big win in Pennsylvania that she hopes will turn around her campaign.
However, even if Clinton takes Pennsylvania as anticipated, it could prove an empty victory.
A Washington Post-ABC News opinion polls today showed Clinton's overall support in the Democratic race continues to crumble. Some 51% of Democrats would now prefer to see Obama as the party's nominee against 41% for Clinton.
Even more worrying for Clinton, Democrats now consider Obama to be more electable than her by a 2-1 margin. Her unfavourable ratings have also risen -- up to 54% among Democrats and nearly 60% among independents.