Why the shock?

So Barack Obama has chosen to have Rick Warren speak at his inauguration, and this has caused a huge amount of shock and outrage among those who voted and campaigned for him. I really don’t understand this.

Obama is, and campaigned as, a right-of-centre conservative. This is someone who’s said he’s against gay marriage, for extending the death penalty to crimes other than murder, who voted for immunity for the telecom companies who were aiding in illegal wiretaps against US citizens, and who, while he wants to end the illegal and unwinnable war in Iraq, wants to put more effort into winning the equally unwinnable war in Afghanistan. These are the positions he stated, long before his election. So why the shock?

I would have voted for Obama too, were I a USian, at least in the actual presidential election, because he has a number of qualities that make him vastly preferable to McCain – he appears intelligent, articulate, and competent, and he seems the kind of person who’s open to persuasion. And I was as happy as anyone that Obama won, if only because I cannot see anything worse for the world than another four or eight years of kleptocratic misrule by the Republican party.

But Obama has never been a progressive. He’s another Clinton or Blair – moderately less horrible than the alternative, but far from being actually *good*. I was glad when Blair won, too, but never felt the betrayal others on the left felt – he did nothing that surprised me in the slightest (and I’m glad to say I never voted for his party – I’ve voted Lib Dem at every election I’ve voted in except one Green protest vote in a council election seven years ago where my vote wouldn’t make a difference).

The problem is, people *NEED* to learn that you’re never, *EVER* going to get what you want if you vote for the ‘electable’ alternative. In an election like the US presidential election or a General Election, where you have essentially to pick one of two candidates (for there are very, very few three-way races in British electoral politics) then hold your nose and vote for the least-worst of the two options you have open to you. But you have a choice as to who those options are – and in general your vote counts *more* at that stage than it does in the election.

There were at least two candidates in the Democratic primaries – Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards – whose politics were closer to those of the people now complaining than Obama’s were. And in the early stages there was Bill Richardson, a more moderate Democrat but still to the left of Obama on crucial issues like gay rights. But people didn’t vote for them, because they were ‘unelectable’. *Someone is only unelectable if you don’t vote for them!*

Once the Democratic primaries became a two-horse race, then Obama was the logical choice, but until then there were other options. As far as I can see the reason they weren’t taken is because rather than look at the candidates’ actual stated policy positions and see which candidate was closest to their opinions, voters chose to compromise early on, when they could have made a difference, then later on to be swept up in a messianic fervour which no politician could live up to.

Vote with your brains, not with your hearts, people, and then maybe we won’t keep getting into messes like this…

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8 Responses to Why the shock?

  1. Jennie says:

    Mike Gravel, dude! But yeah. This is the kind of thing that needs to be posted to a wider audience…

    * goes to do some nagging *

  2. Andrew Hickey says:

    I’d not looked at Mike Gravel’s stand on the issues before, having heard little about his candidacy. But you’re right – he’d have been the best candidate by a *long* way… astonishing to see someone with so many of the right ideas in a mainstream USian party…

  3. I align best with Kucinich, but he’s scarcely – so far as I know – credible; I’m still willling to give Obama the benfit of the doubt here, insofar as it appears an extension of his consensus-building (80% approval ratings, but then Blair had that and more in his first few months) from the centre.

    I reject the majority of Warren’s preachings outright, but then – the fact is, he’s an immensely popular figure in the USA, and doing so, not discussing these things with opposing perspectives, well, maybe it achieves a bit but maybe there’s a smoother road with everyone, most people around the table involved and articulating their positions.

  4. David says:

    The line between cynicism and realism is quite hard to detect in politics, isn’t it? Like, with Obama — dude’s waaay to the right of me, but I’m trying to keep my (semi-detached & very Scottish) reservations in balance. Which is to say: I want to be aware of what kind of politician Obama is without giving in to the “fuck politics” cynicism that comes so easily with it.

    Seems to me that a sense of possibility is what’s key here.

    “Someone is only unelectable if you don’t vote for them!” — that’s a simple truth that comes hard to some people (myself included!), because the story around British/American politics seems so pre-defined most of the time.

    So, with Obama’s election, you’ve got a fair jolt of very valid excitement, because — hey! — it is now officially possible for a black man to be president of the United states, and — hey! — the slide into neo-con madness isn’t quite as inevitable as it might have seemed. None of this means he’s going to be an amazing president, but I have hopes that he’ll at least be competent, based on how he comes off and how he ran his campaign.

    Not that this makes some of the more messianic rhetoric that’s surrounded Obama more defensible – you’re just setting yourself up for a fall when you get into that kind’ve talk, but…

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that an over-reliance on your heart can lead to two kinds of heartbreak*. You can get hyped up from the come down, sure, but it’s also way to easy to convince yourself that what you want in politics is “unrealistic”.

    For example, I’m not 100% convinced by the SNP myself, but I still felt kinda charged when they took the last election from Labour in Scotland. And not because it means that Labour can’t take this turf quite so much for granted anymore, but rather because I hoped it would give people a sense that this shit is slightly less inevitable than it sometimes seems.

    I’m probably just stating the obvious here, but sometimes you’ve got to think through these things.

    Thanks for nudging my brain in this direction…

    *And the more I think about this the more I think I’m just mucking up what you’ve already said, rather than adding anything to it, but so be it.

  5. Andrew Hickey says:

    “And the more I think about this the more I think I’m just mucking up what you’ve already said, rather than adding anything to it, but so be it.”

    Far from it – the ‘two kinds of heartbreak’ line is one I wish I’d thought of myself…

  6. David says:

    Thanks Andrew!

    Also: I was trying to say “hyped up for the comedown” in my last comment, but I hope that was obvious from the context…

    Perils of commenting from work, I guess.

  7. Hexar says:

    As I said on your LJ, the Democrats have figured out that if they are going to win elections, they need the Christians. Since the rest of us (except the Jews) seem to scare the Christians, we have to sit in the back and keep quiet.

    None of this is surprising, just disappointing.

  8. It still sucks and so smacks of Tony Blair-that messaih like complex. ‘I know what’s best’.

    I dunno, I feel he could’ve played this fairer, i.e NOT give this guy a headline role in the inaugaration. The way he touted the gay vote was for want of a better word, deeply deceitful.

    Anyway, it’s an eye opener and lets see how this plays out. The gays are peeved, as well as the progressives. And I feel as a black president in a very racist world, me not think tis right to bite the hand that feeds…OR elected..!

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