09 June 2008

Why Clinton Lost and why Obama won

The media have been going to town on Barack Obama's clinching of the US Democratic Party's nomination as presidential candidate.

The South African media, in their usual racist fashion, have concentrated on the superficialities -- the colour of Obama's skin. That says more about South African society than it does about the US presidential election -- it shows that nearly 15 years after the end of apartheid, we are still obsessed with race, to the exclusion of other considerations.

Very few have have mentioned what could be Obama's downfall -- his attitude satirised in the song:

The working class can kiss my arse
I've got the foreman's job at last

in his sudden back-tracking on peace by announcing that he wouldn't talk to Hamas, showing that the "change you can believe in" hype was just that - hype, and that underneath, once he had secured the nomination, he was reverting to the same old image of the warmongering USA, bully boy of the world.

But these pieces give a different view, which the mainstram media seem to have missed:

ZNet - Why Clinton Lost:
Yesterday, brought another effort: Newsweek's Jonathan Alter offers 'Five Reasons Obama Won. Five Reasons Clinton Lost.' Those latter five, which in places echo the Journal, boil down to 'No Respect for the Voters,' 'Poor Strategy,' 'Weak Management,' 'Arrogance,' and 'Entitlement.'

Both of these pieces offer smart insights about why Clinton lost, and it's hard to dispute the salience of any of these factors. But neither the Journal nor Alter give significant consideration to an additional factor that may have been more important than any other: Clinton's vote to go to war in Iraq.

Even before this latest batch of stories, the media's efforts to explain Clinton's struggles have consistently downplayed Iraq, as bloggers like The Atlantic's Matthew Yglesias and Atrios have pointed out.

It's hard to remember now, but last year, when he was a dark-horse challenger, Obama's consistent opposition to the war, along with Clinton's vote for it, provided much of the rationale for his long-shot candidacy. Without that black-and-white contrast, it's doubtful whether his insurgent campaign could have gotten off the ground.
And Stephen Zunes, professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco says ZNet - Why Obama Won:
Barack Obama has won the race for the Democratic nomination for president against Hillary Clinton on the issues. Sort of.

This is not what the pundits will tell you, who would rather focus upon the most superficial and trivial aspects of the two final candidates' style, personality, associates, personal history, and campaign organization and strategy, not to mention race and gender.

This is not what many on the left will say either, in recognition of how little differences there were between the two candidates' stated positions on most policies.

Another difference between the two, which has nothing to do with sex or skin, is that Barack seems to be populist, while Hillary seems to be elitist. This point has been noted by several bloggers, like Tauratinzwe in Observations from the Sidelines: Yes, WE Can!:
The essential difference between Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton is found in their use of the first person pronoun.

Listen to Hillary and you hear the first person singular used over and over. 'I will . . . ' 'I have . . . ' I - I - I.

Listen to Obama and you hear the first person plural pronoun. 'We can . . . ' 'We are able . . . ' 'Yes we can!' 'Si, se puede!'

The second person plural pronoun is also used differently. Clinton says she will do things for you. Obama says he will enable you to do things.

Now I'm not a fundi on US politics, and as I've noted in my blogs, I sometimes find it difficult to understand American culture, but until Obama capitulated to the Israel lobby last week, I thought he might be the better of the two. I do have a stake in American politics -- after all, as a result of George Bush's warmongering and other policies we are paying a lot more for fuel and food. So it would be nice to be able to believe in change, and that makes Obama's backpedalling even more disappointing.


Malcolm said...

I too felt grave disappointment over Obama's back-pedalling on Israel. With the power of the Zionist lobby in the US of A it's hardly surprising.

Sadly, I feel that the change from Bush - to whoever - will bring about little change in their general ideological thrust.

Adam Gonnerman said...

Not to defend what Obama may have said, but in the United States no politician can get elected to high office without voicing support for Israel. No politician. That is the current political climate. The Zionist crowd won't have it otherwise, nor will the conservative evangelicals (premillenialists, particularly). It's a bad situation for peace.

seev said...

I agree with Adam. It's either go along or not get elected. Still, I would have liked to have seen him stand up to them. But it would have been suicidal for his chances, and everyone else is to the right of him.


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