Super Tuesday today. Did you vote? I haven’t talked much about the primary race. The point of my blog is to discuss principles, not politics per se. But today, why not? Here’s my take on the current field.
It should come as no surprise that I am not particularly fond of any of the Republican candidates. I’ve come to the conclusion that Mitt Romney is probably the worst of the bunch. His economic views clearly and unsurprisingly favor the interests of executives over workers. From defending the spurious War on Terror and even the use of torture, to engaging in religious discrimination against Muslims, to blurring the Church-State division in his ballyhooed speech, to his “plague” of illegal immigration, to misrepresenting the doctrine of our faith, I find Mitt’s campaign embarrassing. Some claim he hasn’t truly drunk the conservative kool-aid, but is merely pandering to the base of his party in an effort to win. In my opinion, neither possibility impresses me.
I voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries. At the time, I was impressed by his integrity. He recognized the corruption which tends to become rampant when big money becomes entrenched in electoral politics. He fought against pork from both parties. He understood the need to protect the public from corporate interests. He seemed to take environmental issues seriously. He spoke out against the way the agenda religious right dominated the Republican party. His conduct since 2000 is less admirable. I was disenchanted when he chose to kiss Jerry Falwell’s signet and by his shamelessly grandstanding 2004 Republican convention speech. Absolutely nauseated by the belligerence that has marked the U.S. political landscape since 9/11, I find the strong hawkishness of his foreign policy views very tiresome (however, Bob Scheer strongly insisted on the most recent Left, Right, and Center that McCain had done more than any other individual to tame defense spending and prevent even more rampant militarism over the past few decades). All in all, I’m no longer so convinced of his maverick integrity as I once was.
For much of his campaign, Huckabee was probably the least odious of the leading Republicans. He seems to take social justice more seriously than most Republicans. His talk of a more “humble” foreign policy sounds closer to a moral international road. I warmed to his candidacy. Then he had to go all Pat Robertson in his campaign, talking about amending the Constitution to fit God’s standard. Sigh.
For what it’s worth, I could be reasonably happy with Ron Paul. I’m not a libertarian, but I think radical libertarianism would be a lot better than the current corporatism and militarism suffusing the Right. Too bad Paul forgets that libertarianism includes support for the Church-State separation and reduced government interference in social issues.
Then there is the Democratic side. The candidate I truly want is Dennis Kucinich. This is a man who stands for strong liberal principles, and who has a long record of integrity. Alas, he is no longer an option. Watching his vain efforts only reconfirms my belief in the need for multiple parties and my 2000 support for Ralph Nader. Kucinich’s campaigns the past couple elections prove that it is impossible for liberals to get traction in the Democratic party. As long as they work within the party, they will be marginalized and ignored, their perspective unheard. By running outside the two-party system, Nader was able to make a liberal agenda part of the national discussion.
The Democratic race is a historic race, which will end with either our first woman nominee or our first black nominee for president in any major party. But just because either candidate would be historic does not mean that either one would be equally acceptable. I want real change in Washington. Clinton is tightly bound to corporate America. She has proven herself just as willing to play the hawk as any Republican. She never hesitated to believe the lies about Iraq while it was politically expedient to do so, and continues to adopt a conservative tough cop attitude towards Iran. For crying out loud, Ann Coulter has insisted she might endorse Clinton. Does this sound like change to you? Yes, a Clinton administration would be better than what we have now. But let us not kid ourselves—that is not a high bar. With ever escalating world tensions, a precarious economy, and a society increasingly stratified between those who have raked in the rewards of our economic structures and those who are bear the costs, we need something more than a return to the Nineties, a time when the president from the putatively liberal party frequently compromised the public interest for the sake of corporate patronage.
That leaves Obama. I’ve tried to avoid getting caught up in the Obama hype. There has been no doubt since I first heard him speak during the 2004 Democratic Convention that this is a dynamic speaker, a man with incredible charisma. But I’m wary. Bill Clinton was a charmer as well (remember the sax on Arsenio?). It takes more than charm to make a great leader. Do his words mean anything, or are they simply empty promises? Will he stand for the convictions of which he speaks? When he talks about bringing people together, does he truly mean developing a shared vision, or is he talking about polling and triangulating to determine the most politically opportune path? His short political career cuts both ways; we don’t see any real skeletons in his closet, but neither do we see proof of his commitment to principle.
Ultimately, I have to trust my instincts. I get the sense that Obama is sincere, and while his platform is not as liberal as I’d like, he represents the best chance for a move toward a morally sound platform of any of the candidates.