Election ’08 Round Table Pt. 1

by Steve, July 6th, 2007

I’d like to introduce my good friends Antonio Valle del Rio and Benson Williams, both from the hockey heartland of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. But they’re not here to talk about hockey. Oh no. Election ’08 is in full swing out on the prairie, and Benson just returned from a trip to Iowa City where he “happened to casually run into a Joe Biden rally in the Ped Mall on the way back from dinner one night, and then caught the Bill and Hillary show down at the river the next day. The campaigns are really gathering steam there.”

So my first question to these two astute political observers (I answered this one in my intro):

What criteria do you have for endorsing/supporting a Democratic candidate?

Williams: That question would seem to require a clarification up front as to what I might mean when I say “endorse/support” a candidate for president in this country. For me – and I would imagine all of those participating in this forum – this is more complex than it sounds. It reminds me of the polls taken in the lead-up to the Iraq war that purported to show an overwhelming percentage of Americans “supporting” the invasion. At the time I thought: these people aren’t processing this issue anywhere close to the extent necessary to “support” it. All they are doing is going along with it, and in so doing excepting themselves from the responsibility that would naturally be entailed by full-blown support.

Having said that, I’ll most likely end up supporting whichever Democrat that wins the nomination by voting for him/her. In the meantime I ask myself: How can my insistence upon rigorous benchmarks for endorsing a presidential candidate actually have an impact in this Miss America contest? With everyone else judging the candidates on their beauty, poise and evening apparel, what does it matter that I demand from them the admission that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting an energy war (Kucinich) or the recognition that the entire global economy is hanging by the thread of the dollar as it gradually loses it’s position as the World Reserve Currency (Biden) or the intention to grant all vets diagnosed with PTSD 100 percent VA disability benefits (Gravel). Unfortunately, these kinds of benchmarks go against the forward social motion required to engender large-scale change, and so I will have to be satisfied with the more abstract: in order to garner my endorsement (for now), a Dem candidate must go beyond the analgesic assuaging of our depression, and affirm for us what we all know on some level of consciousness — that we live in a sick, unbalanced society that is poisoning our country and the whole world, and the only way out is to do the one thing that Americans fear doing most – taking responsibility for it.

Valle del Rio: Can I say the most charismatic liar with the most stuffed war chest?

Himself: Hey, you can say whatever you want…. That’s why I invited you, you old sarcastard.

Okay, next question. The Democratic front-runners can generally be described as centrists. We’ve got this sort of illusory diversity, with Clinton representing women (despite her lack of feminist bona fides), Obama representing black America (though he is neither a product of the civil rights movement nor descended from the African slaves who built this country), and Edwards representing working people (though he made his fortune as a trial lawyer). It’s a picture of Republican-style tokenism.

None of them endorses single-payer health care, and of course none of them advocate a departure from neoliberal economic policy. And they’re all about as anti-Bush, anti-war as your average Republican presidential candidate (John McCain notwithstanding). Is there a role for progressive social democrats in the Democratic party? If so, what is it? If not, where do we go from here?

Stay tuned for part 2, and feel free to join the discussion.