Election ’08 Round Table Pt. 2

by Steve, July 12th, 2007

Once again, I welcome my colleagues Benson Williams and Antonio Valle del Rio from the US high school hockey capital of Minneapolis-St. Paul. We’re going to save my meta question from part 1 for the wrap-up and get right on to the candidates.

Hillary Clinton

Williams: When I saw her speak in Iowa last week, I noticed the crowd. Lots of women of her generation there. She was emphasizing this… “Anybody else out there who thinks it’s high time for a woman president?” Howls from the masses. I’d love to get excited about a female president. But when I think of her, I just don’t get excited in that way.

Valle del Rio: She tries to please too many; does she have any integrity? That said, I would vote for her.

Himself: I see her as an attempt to extend the Bush/Clinton dynasty. She epitomizes neoliberal economic policy, and hurts the progressive cause. When conservatives label her policies “liberal”, it places truly liberal social and economic policy outside of the debate. Plus, she’s got a bit of a “feminist problem”. That is, feminists aren’t too thrilled with her candidacy. Having ovaries in the White House isn’t the goal; having somebody who cares about women’s issues is.

Barack Obama

Williams: I think he has a better chance of being a change agent than president. A guy who makes people think that anything is possible—sort of. I still think he should stay in the Senate, where he could gradually rack up the kind of respectability and influence that is normally not reserved for politicians with his progressive stripes. But he has the potential to win votes by making people believe that they can transcend their Dick Cheney-hastened mortality by voting for the magical Barack.

Valle del Rio: his name sounds too much like that terrorist guy, what was his name? Anyway, a very charismatic figure, and actually seems to genuinely be real.

Himself: Wait a minute… Obama is progressive? He’s got great people skills. He’s a lot like Bill Clinton in that regard. He really wants people to like him, and he really makes people feel at ease with him. But what about policy? Like all three Democratic leaders, he’s an incrementalist on universal health care, unwilling to take on the insurance industry. And he endorses merit pay for teachers, something school privatization zealots have been pushing for a long time. Charismatic and real yes. Progressive? I don’t think so. I think he’s spending way to much energy convincing the corporate establishment (and white voters) that he’s “safe”.

John Edwards

Williams: It’s good to hear at least one of the candidates (besides Kucinich) use the word “poverty” without ducking underneath a table right after he says it. But I just don’t see him wowing enough voters in this campaign, a campaign in which so many of us are expecting to be overwhelmed, to be saved from these dark years by a deus ex machina (see above comments on Obama). Besides, with Kurt Vonnegut’s passing in April of this year, any chance of an Edwards-Vonnegut ticket has been wiped out.

Valle del Rio: I like the fact that he focuses on poverty, and the fact that he is rich means nothing—all politicians are rich.

Himself: Of the top three, he’s the closest to my values. But I agree with Benson… I don’t see his campaign lighting it up like it needs to. Maybe he’s waiting to pour it on later, but I’m not counting on it. Edwards-Vonnegut? Now that would have been cool!

Joe Biden

Williams: When I saw him speak in front of an Italian restaurant in Iowa last week, I realized again that I really do like the guy a lot. I would like to party with him. I’ve always shuddered a bit at how disclosive he can be in front of a TV camera about the workings of Washington. He knows he’s not going to win. He just wants to earn enough brownie points along the way so that he can drop out and endorse a front-runner, cashing in those brownie points in the process.

Valle del Rio: Didn’t he try this in 1988? Let’s call him the paraphraser without footnotes. I think he is more significant in the senate.

Himself: I don’t have a strong take on Biden’s campaign, but hell yeah, I’d party with him, too.

Christopher Dodd

Williams: Basically same as above, except without the entertainment factor.

Valle del Rio: He’s one of the original DLC centrists, right?

Himself: He represents the core of the milk-toast brigade. A principal author of the train wreck called No Child Left Behind, he had the audacity to issue veiled criticism of Obama for endorsing merit pay for teachers. You can’t have it both ways, Chris. Your education policy stinks.

Mike Gravel

Williams: We should be so lucky as to have about 50 Mike Gravels running…that’s the way it should be. He has the best commercials so far—check out the one on YouTube where he’s standing next to a lake staring into the camera for over a minute, then walks over to water’s edge, grabs a rock, and throws it into the lake.

Valle del Rio: This guy better buy some air time; does anyone know who he is? I don’t have time to Google him (he he).

Himself: Hmmm… I like guys who throw rocks into lakes. I’ve spent a few afternoons with my kids doing just that. He’s got my vote. No, wait! Does he have any policy positions?

Dennis Kucinich

Williams: The fact that there is a true, unapologetic progressive running in this campaign says that such a thing is still technically allowable in this country, in these times. The fact that he has no chance at all in this race tells us everything else we need to know. At least for now.

Valle del Rio: Very intelligent, hard for people to take seriously. Plus, he looks terrible.

Himself: The sacrificial lamb of progressives. Why does he do it? Do we gain anything from his campaigns? I think we probably do. It’s important to keep one member of the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party out in front of the public.

Bill Richardson

Williams: He is running for Vice-President, and he is currently the front-runner. Watch the way he positions himself throughout this campaign. He will attempt to finesse a rather extensive series of policy positions while trying not to make too much of a nuisance of himself.

Valle del Rio: He is a balanced liberal and would be my first choice because of his positions on immigration. He is somewhat overweight, though. What if he had to wrestle Vladimir Putin? Still, he would be my number one choice.

Himself: Yep. He’s definitely thinking Veep. But as far as candidates who have a chance (sorry Gravel and Kucinich), I’d have to get behind him.

Still to come in our Election ’08 Round Table: Dark Horses and Wild Cards. Will Al Gore run? What about third-party challengers like Mike Bloomberg and Ralph Nader? How might that change things? And what about those Republicans? Stay tuned.

3 Responses to “Election ’08 Round Table Pt. 2”

  1. Comment from benson:

    Whoa — slow down there Himself. Let’s back up a minute and take a closer look at what I said about Obama: I didn’t say he was progressive. I said he had progressive stripes (as in zebras, dammit!). Anyone with a passing familiarity with his career would know about his experience as a grass roots community organizer in Chicago, helping south-side blacks hit by lay-offs find jobs, and organizing voter registration drives. As an attorney, he did what lawyers are supposed to do: represent members of the community who get into legal trouble for trying to exercise their civil rights. He fought for the rights of poor black people who were discriminated against in housing and employment. Obama fought against the Chicago Machine where the Machine still reigns supreme today – on the local ward level.

    So Obama has progressive stripes – big-time – the kind earned by doing instead of just posturing. Thus my point about Obama potentially wasting those stripes on a presidential run. The compromises in policy positions – such as the ones aptly noted by Yourself – that are necessary to get elected president would, in my opinion, likely negate much of the political value that he has accumulated throughout his career in Illinois. This is value that could remain largely intact were he to be content to remain a senator.

  2. Comment from Himself:

    Sorry for misreading your nuance. I get it now. And you’re right. He earned it in a real way.

    Still, I wouldn’t be so ready to see him as separate from the Machine. They let him run for the US Senate, after all.

    Finally, you broach the topic we’ve been skirting so far: “[t]he compromises in policy positions … that are necessary to get elected president….” Which brings us back around to a question we’ve deferred (and you’ve already answered): is there a place for social and economic progressives in the Democratic party?

    I’ll be publishing our answers to that soon.

  3. Comment from benson:

    Quick note about the Chicago Machine: Nobody needs their permission to run for Statewide office, but you will need their permission to vote in the city of Chicago proper – if you’re black….