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…