Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Election Rant

Congratulations, California voters! Your retrograde, wistful memories of the 90s, those heady days of a boom economy that sought nothing short of sucking the world's resources dry, welfare cuts, and NAFTA has in all likelihood subjected us to a four or five month contest over whose dick is bigger, Hillary Clinton's or John McCain's. Good times. Let's at least hope that she'll be so busy proving to everybody she's as ready to blow up Iran or Syria as she is to pull troops out of Iraq that she won't have time to spontaneously cry on cue.

Seriously. This country's collective imagination is appalingly dim. Assuming Hillary wins the general election, America is seriously okay with two families churning out four presidents -- in less than a twenty-five year span? And don't give me any crap about Hillary representing sound ideas. She's winning elections because she's a Clinton, plain and simple. Clinton supporters love to give Obama supporters a hard time for the flimsy content of their candidate, and this criticism is fair; but, at least Obama's devotion is based on an infectious personality, not nostalgia. The difference is that Obama is selling himself, or some vision of himself as a community organizer, along with some vague, liberal messianic vision, and Clinton is selling a return to rearguard politics, where Democrats gleefully win their few petty victories, protect abortion with a Supreme Court appointment, etc. Me, I'll take the vague messianism ... because, as seen with Reagan, if people buy into it, it gains a force of its own, and it takes on a life of its own, and it motivates a foundational shift in our conception of politics that I think is necessary.

Now, I'm not saying Obama represents my ideals, nor do I care even to call him "progressive," as I only care about progress to the extent that it actively constructs a future -- not the moving toward a utopic end. His cries of "unity" and such are stirring rhetoric, but it must not be the ultimate purpose. More preferable is the unity of an ecosystem, with its separate parts & species, living and non-living, working together -- and not always in apparent harmony. But an active ecosystem is not one that simply survives; indeed, there may be no such thing. An active ecosystem is built on nothing less than creativity.

I support Obama, and indeed voted for him today, only because I think he is the only remaining candidate capable of constructing a space for a community from whom something genuinely creative might take place beyond (and, perhaps, in spite of) his presidency. Hillary's appeal is to her success, much of it nothing of consequence, as a hard-knuckle liberal who will go toe-to-toe with the dreaded conservatives. It has been fun, but time is running out on this cynical charade that is American politics. I don't realistically see it lasting in its present spectator-sport form another fifty years, and really see nothing to gain in the long-term from the battles. The whole experiment around which it is based, quite literally, is running out of gas.

My hope for a Obama presidency extends beyond what bi-partisan legislation he can ram through on health care. His policies, in all likelihood, would be nothing to write home about. The idea, though, is that all movements have a spark; and they all have a figure around which they initially rally or relate, even if often for no reason that can be rationally argued. In Obama, and at this point, only Obama, do I see a president that maybe, one can but dream, whose personality ignites a desire to re-learn how to build and participate in communities; and, relatedly, to re-train ourselves how to think beyond the material constraints of our resources and environment (these limits will become increasingly obvious, possibly even as early as the first term of the next presidency -- and they represent a reality that, I fear, both McCain and Hillary would rage against militarily); and, in spite of himself, a re-dedication by these communities to re-take & re-vitalize politics as a creative struggle that unites professed Democrats & Republicans only by virtue of extending the horizon of possibility beyond what either have to offer.

Maybe this means Obama, if he somehow won, would have ultimately to sacrifice himself as a politician -- i.e., for his followers to betray him, by believing in him. Maybe so. But, I'm okay with that.