Sunday, February 03, 2008

ClintObama Inc.

February 5th is "Super Tuesday." Twenty-two states, including California and New York, will be holding their primaries at which 50.9% of the Democratic delegates will be selected.

So what’s the big deal? According to Jon Spitz,* it’s no big deal whether Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama win. Hey dude! We have a woman and an African-American running for office. Isn’t this a big deal? According to Spitz, yes and no.

The physical differences between them are obvious, and as Jon states in his article, ClintObama Inc., “This [neither contender is a white man] is indeed an unprecedented situation in US presidential politics and I think generally deserving of the attention it gets.”

But Spitz thinks it “…[W]ould be a big mistake to believe that either of these two candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York or Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, really represent any great change from the corporate controlled government we have long suffered.”

Read the whole article here.

*I’ve posted links to Jon’s previous articles here, here, here, here, and here)

(photo of Jon Spitz provided by him)

8 comments:

Dan Gurney, Mr. Kindergarten said...

I agree with Jon: it's hard (for me at least) to get excited by any of the corporate-sponsored candidates who want more military spending.

I would add that the way our presidential elections are conducted make a pretty pathetic illusion of democratic governance. Add to that corruptible touch screen voting machines and it's hard not be completely cynical. Jimmy Carter, who sometimes travels abroad to certify that elections meet minimum standards of reliability, has stated that our elections do not meet those minimum standards.

The most interesting sentence in Jon's article was the final one: that our sad substitute for an election in November might be cancelled. That's news! I hope he writes an article that goes into that in more detail.

Weedgardener said...

I sometimes think that we liberals live in a dream world. The rest of the world knows the compromises politicians have to make to get elected and cuts them some slack. And by now we should know that there's a difference between Democratic and Republican presidents--especially when the Republican is John McCain.

Sure, I would have liked to have Edwards or Kucinich as president, but by now I know that in our current money-dominated system, no such person is going to be elected.

Given those constraints, I actually think Obama or Clinton would make a decent president--certainly an improvement on what came before. I'm fairly certain that neither one of them started out in politics for the purpose of kowtowing to corporate donors; both have ideals, and with luck, may have a chance to pursue some of them. Obama, at least, has promised to pursue public funding of election campaigns, which would go a long way toward loosening the corporate control of our political process.

But there is a practical reason for choosing Obama in the primary: independent voters, who are now 1/3 of the electorate and thus in the position to choose the next president, don't like Clinton or Romney. But they love McCain and, weirdly, Obama. That's why Hillary can't win against McCain, who is looking more and more like the Republican nominee. And why Obama can.

That's why I'm voting for Obama--not because there is a huge difference between him and Clinton, but because I want a Democrat in the White House next year.

Meanwhile, instead of whining about the poor choices for progressives, why don't liberals get out and demand publicly funded elections, the only change that will free our politicians from the money chase.

As a former activist in this area, my heart was broken by the lack of interest on the part of the left in fighting for this necessary change.

Gail Jonas said...

Dan and Weedgardner,
Thanks for your responses.
I, like Weedgardener, believe that the root cause of the Dems moving so far to the right is that they've had to in order to get the funds they need to run for office. Then they are beholden to the donors.

Jon Spitz said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments Mr. Kindergarten, Weedgardener and Gail.

I feel the same way Mr. Kindergarten, I just can’t get very excited by this election knowing how utterly corrupt the process is in every way. I have written many columns on this subject over the past few years. For some of my thoughts on the “national emergency” scenario click on the fourth “here” above. This subject is also a regular focus of mine.

I appreciate your argument Weedgardener and certainly agree with you that both Clinton and Obama (and Kerry and Gore before them) are no where near as bad as Bush/Cheney and McCain. Hell, even Nixon, Reagan and Bush Sr. weren’t as bad as these guys. But I think the problem runs deeper with our government so totally subjugated to corporate interests. The system is now so stripped bare of any semblance of democracy that it has become irredeemable and I don’t think anyone who gets to be president can or would challenge it. I do think that we are on the verge of a major oil crisis (peak oil) and whoever is the next president is going to be presiding over a serious economic decline in America. Will Clinton or Obama use this crisis to justify oil wars in the Middle East? Probably yes.

Your are right Weedgardener, publicly funded elections are the only solution to this problem, but Bill Clinton promised that too and it never happened. There is simply too much at stake for incumbents to give up their fundraising advantage. The system is irredeemable. The best hope of election reform is happening at the state level where the people vote for it in referendums.

It’s like the old saying Gail, “follow the money”.

Weedgardener said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Jon.

I've been through the initiative process in California with publicly funded elections, and the barriers are nearly insurmountable. Public funding will happen when enough people learn about it and make it part of the political dialog on every level--national, statewide and local. Unfortunately, even progressives are not willing to go to bat for it, and instead chase after the symptoms (corruption, unnecessary wars, tax giveaways, pharmaceutical bonanzas, etc.). It's like hacking away at Bermuda grass. Until you get at the roots, it'll just keep coming back. If every time Obama or Clinton spoke at a rally, a bunch of people in the audience were willing to ask about public financing, so that they got asked at every appearance, there might be a start at a public dialogue.

I don't remember Bill Clinton promising public funding ever. Not that he didn't, just that he wasn't asked often enough for anyone to hear about it. In fact, since the particular form of public funding that would be possible in our country had not been tried when he ran for president, I doubt he would have done so. I'm talking about "Clean Elections," voluntary public funding as described on publicampaign.org or just6dollars.org.

The system we have now, with matching public funds for presidential candidates, will not do the trick even if the funding limits are increased, because the matching funds still depend on candidates collecting private money.

Meanwhile, I've been around this track enough times to know that the best progressives can hope for is someone incrementally better than what went before. If we can get someone who is better than Bush, then next time maybe we can get someone better than Obama or Clinton. Maybe that would all change if we got better at framing or whatever it takes, but right now, we just don't have much of an audience. We mostly talk to each other.

Jon Spitz said...

Weedgardener,

With a massive propaganda campaign corporate interests were able to destroy California’s campaign finance reform initiative. This is just more evidence of the lock that corporations have on the system. But other small states such as Maine and Arizona somehow have managed to pass initiatives for real public financing laws that are now working to elect majorities of non-corporate candidates. It will be interesting to watch these states to see if they actually become more responsive to the people.

For the story on Bill Clinton and campaign finance reform in 1992-1994 click this link:
http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst;jsessionid=Hn9Ys0hsvGBypWQdpdgJsbccGHnzQYnddMllWyNyKtSKW2gKlvPh!-621056018?docId=5000561421

Basically, the Democrats bailed.

Frankly I think that due to “peak oil” our country and the whole world are going to go through profound changes over these next eight years that will be even more turbulent than the past eight. I think reacting to these inevitable events is going to define the next president. Incremental change over many elections is not an option; it is the next president who will be calling the shots in this extremely volatile situation. Will Obama shake his corporate allegiances and initiate popular reforms under these very insecure circumstances? I guess we have no choice but to find out since corporate candidates are all we’re going to get. I know the media is portraying Obama as a great savior but I just can’t get excited about him. His post-partisanship rhetoric doesn’t bode well for the future.

The reason progressive ideas have such a limited audience is because of media consolidation by corporate media. The internet is great, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the audience controlled by corporate media. This is just another way corporate America has a lock on the system. There comes a time when you accept that the old car just isn’t worth trying to fix anymore; well I’ve come to the point of not wanting to put anymore of my energy into trying to fix this broken political system, it is beyond the point of repair.

Weedgardener said...

Jon, thanks for the link. It appears, though, that the Clinton proposal was to limit campaign spending, not institute publicly funded election campaigns on the Arizona-Maine model. Limiting campaign spending to $200,000 or $2 million or whatever will not solve the problem of high office being off limits to those who either aren't independently wealthy or don't want to auction off their principles.

I was deeply involved in the California clean elections campaign, and what I found was that when I approached progressives, many agreed that the issue was crucial, but said they were already stretched too thin by their other involvements: living wage, anti-big-box, Iraq war demonstrations, anti-GM movement, impeachment, environmental issues, and even central committee political infighting. In other words, while all worthy causes, the symptoms, not the disease. My hat's off to the small core--including Gail--who put their hearts into the campaign.

I also closely tracked the fundraising and expenditures for Prop 89, and, sad to say, though corporate interests raised somewhat more than the California Nurses Association and their allies, they actually SPENT about the same amount of money. With Prop 89's 25-percent approval rate, opponents didn't even feel they had to spend the money they had.

It could be argued that Prop 89 was badly written, and the argument has some validity. But in any case, the mood in California is anti-initiative right now, and unless an issue plays strongly to rather base emotions, it tends not to get passed.

Several large newspapers supported Prop 89, and others opposed it. TV media ignored it. So I don't think you can pin this entirely on corporations or media. Even if you can, it just underlines the need to get publicly funded elections as a FIRST step in breaking corporate America's lock on the system

You say you've decided the system is beyond repair. So what is your next step? Will you leave the country? Retire to the (organic) farm? Start an armed insurrection? I'm not trying to be flippant here--I really want to know where someone goes who has given up on the system. If, for instance, I give up on the system, what could I do that would be better than trying to fix it?

I hope you will continue this dialogue. I'm really interested.

Jon Spitz said...

Weedgardener,

I’d be glad to engage you on these subjects and I respect your informed comment.

While it is true that Bill Clinton didn’t pledge public financing, my point is that the Democrats use campaign finance reform as a convenient campaign pledge, but once in office incumbents are not likely to give up their natural advantage in private fundraising by passing even mild reforms let alone public funding. I am convinced that the only hope for public funding is state initiatives voted on by the people. Since there is no National initiative process the chances of success on that level are nil. I think that is a simple political reality.

With regard to Prop. 89, by your own accounting there was a massive corporate propaganda campaign against it that managed to convince an overwhelming number of voters that it would be too expensive to implement. (How absurd when just the opposite is true.) It is a lot easier to raise uncertainty and convince people to vote no. It didn’t help that labor was giving mixed messages with the Nurses union supportive and the teachers union foolishly against. I think the real test of corporate power is that if corporate interests hadn’t come out big against 89, would it have passed? I think so, handily.

Your question “If, for instance, I give up on the system, what could I do that would be better than trying to fix it?” is a good one and there is no simple answer. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I am absolutely convinced that the world has reached the point of peak oil production and that this unprecedented fact is critical to thinking about how the future will play out. There is no place to go to get away from peak oil so planning on how to deal with it where you live is the place to start. As the global economy breaks down economies will begin a return to more local production. Getting involved in local organic food production (farm co-ops) will be essential to feed people and to help repair the environment. I also think this period of global economic collapse is going to create a frantic effort by corporate capital to maintain control and will result in foreign resource wars and in a continued crackdown on our civil liberties. Here again, local passive resistance to this fascist regime is our only realistic option. This scenario has already started with the collapsing world economy and will be played out with increasing intensity every year from now on. Not a pretty picture, but then I didn’t promise a rose garden.