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Obama’s Iowa Victory & The Infatigable Cynicism of the Left

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So…yeah! Obama won in Iowa which really sort of means he could be the Democratic candidate which means he really sort of could be the President. Fuck this “first black President” junk for a second because that’s exciting and all and represents this or that, but Obama is really just an genuinely exciting and smart candidate. I’ve used the quote below in a previous entry, but it’s worth repeating because it’s exactly why I am excited about Obama- like everything in life, we like people we agree with and I agree with enough of what dude has to say to be excited- and represents his clear-thinking, sincerity, and avoidance of some of the left-wing ideological traps that I don’t necessarily disagree with, but see as ultimately polarizing and therefore, a good idea to drop or stick in the background:

“I believe in the free market, competition, and entrepreneurship, and think no small number of government programs don’t work as advertised. I wish the country had fewer lawyers and more engineers. I think America has more often been a force for good than for ill in the world; I carry few illusions about our enemies, and revere the courage and competence of our military. I reject a politics that is based solely on racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or victimhood generally…Undoubtedly, some of these views will get me in trouble. I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them.”-from ‘The Audacity of Hope’ (10-11)

In short, Obama is saying without saying “I’m pretty much your classic pre-60s Social Democrat. If you like that, hop on-board, if you don’t, I’m very sorry to disappoint you”. It’s a testament to both the inherent hopefullness of liberalism and the current left’s total out-of-touchness with most people, that so many of my peers still won’t support Obama. I say this not on some “how can you not see how great he is” type shit (because he’s not great) but because he’s an actually viable Democratic candidate, simple as that. Watching the New Hampshire debates last night, I was shocked by his ability to not be totally full of shit and I’m genuinely engaged by his ability to think about a question, pause, and then respond in a way the highlights the results of promises more than the promise itself.

I understand my joy is a little premature and etc. etc. but I find it troubling that so many people I talk to or read are still a little “meh” about Obama. At my work, as the Iowa results were coming in, more discussions were about Huckabee being a creepy motherfucker and abortion rights than you know, the Democratic candidates. Another co-worker’s contrarian response was not to sway the discussion towards the candidates we’d all presumably be voting for, but to say that complaints should cease because any Republican would be better than Bush (Huckabee to me, is way scarier than Bush, but that’s besides the point). What was so depressing but gave me some secret glee was witnessing a group of twenty and thirty somethings that all lean to the left, confronted with something quite hopeful and not knowing what to do with it!

I stumbled into a similarly frustrating conversation with a declared “feminist” co-worker the night before. The topic was American Apparel, specifically their business model in regards to making quality American-made clothing and especially, CEO Dov Charney’s respectable stance on immigration. The “feminist” of course, mentioned sexual harassment suits brought against Charney and for her, this outweighed any “good” the guy might be doing…

If the flaw of the current right is a mind-bogglingly complacent attitude and fear of anything that isn’t the status-quo, the left’s flaw is a refusal not to be cynical. But like most of the left’s flaws, they somehow switch it around into a self-important positive. My co-workers’ inability to get their dicks even remotely hard for Obama is not because they are infatigable cynics but because they are “discerning”.

Similarly, two of the most engaging and entertaining hip-hop bloggers, Jay Smooth and Dallas Penn both posted apprehensive blogs on the topic of Obama. Neither of the guys support Obama and I think it’s awesome that they come out and say it, but it ultimately draws parallels to the single-issue voting of so many right-wing voters. Jay’s post is interesting but ultimately cynical in a way that most of his blogs are not. That probably says more about the current political climate than it does Jay’s attitude but I personally found it a little distressing that the focus was more on the racism of those Americans that haven’t yet voted, than those Iowa-ans that did. Dallas Penn’s reasons are equally honest- which I totally respect, this is not an attack- and boil down to Obama’s opposition to universal health care. Penn cites his mother’s multiple-sclerosis and this country’s- to steal a phrase from Dallas- “fucked the fuck up” health care system as reasons why Obama’s opposition means so much to him. That, I cannot and will not fault but I find it problematic that the assumption is that Obama’s opposition to universal health care must mean “the pharmaceutical industrial complex and the insurance rackets definitely have their wallets over Barack”. Maybe Obama just doesn’t support universal health care? I don’t support universal health care and no one’s paying me to say that. The only reason I even work at the aforementioned job (where I fucking shelve books from 8pm-5am, after a day of teaching, mind you) is so I can have some health insurance.

The logic that because Obama does not support this supposedly good thing of “universal healthcare”, it must mean he is being paid-off, is unfortunate and reduces a complex issue to comic-book hero/villain simplicity. I no longer perceive cynical, political idealists as highly-demanding voters but impediments to genuine political change, who bask in their own complacency even as they proudly proclaim their refusal to compromise; It’s a fun way to feel but it doesn’t do a lot of good.

The Democratic left has become but one more institution designed to maintain power and the status quo. A trip through history will show nothing but institutions that create an impossible “ideal” to gain power and reward the people not by you know, giving them what they want, but by giving them the illusion of progress. Christianity remains pervasive because it is based on “Goodness”- something no one can ever achieve. The return of Christ too, is an example of it; you hook a person forever if you have them believing in something impossible. The war on drugs, the war on terrorism, Islamic terrorism itself, the goals of Socialism, Communism, and all identity-based “isms” are all based on the impossibility of total equality or the total stamping-out of whatever “evil” a specific ideology has decided to label “evil”. Capitalism is the idea that you can continually move-up and make more money with no end in sight…even this concept that hip-hop was once this wonderful, perfect thing that is now dead, works as an example…you get the point. It’s fun to feel noble and discerning all the time, it’s scary to actually embrace something real and palpable, even if it isn’t exactly what you want.

“We decent, liberal, humanitarian types (representatives of the moral community to which both my reviewers and I belong) are just luckier, not more insightful, than the bullies with whom we struggle.”-Richard Rorty

Written by Brandon

January 7th, 2008 at 8:14 am

Posted in Barack Obama

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