Friday, February 01, 2008

Political Bric-A-Brac

Every once in a while I find myself at something of a lost in trying to get a handle on the trends of the day. Today is such a day. Sure, there is plenty of news to talk about, especially political news on the campaign trail but that ‘space’ has been done to death by the chattering classes. These American presidential nominating contests have taken the air out of the fight to talk about more substantive issues. Like those damn wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are no closer to being ended than at this time last year despite any rhetoric emanating from the campaign trail. Today we make just a few haphazard comments while stewing about the situation.

The American Commanders in Iraq Are Getting Skittish

Of necessity the lead comment today, as has usually been the case over the past five years, is the situation in Iraq. The presidential candidates may have effectively banished it from serious discourse, the media may have placed it on page fourteen, Congress has taken a dive on ending funding for it, the bulk of the American population may have sent it under the radar but the damn thing still goes on at about the levels of troop engagement of five years ago.

According to the military analysts the ‘success’ of the surge over the past several months has permitted steady troop reductions that will reduce the American presence to fifteen brigades by summer. Now, however, there is serious talk by military authorities of a ‘pause’ to evaluate the progress of the surge strategy. That, my friends, is short hand for hedging bets that the Iraq military and/or police are up to the task of policing their own country. The long and short of this is that the Bush Administration has left the next presidential administration an immediate decision before it on the question of further withdrawals. Thanks, President Bush. To help the next administration along on its way let me give a lead on this – Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

In light of the remarks in the above paragraphs I have to take a political slap on the face for somewhat missing the extent of the rise of the economy as the central question before the public. Since last year I have believed that foreign affairs would be central to the American presidential campaign. Although I will not give up my persistent advocacy that Iraq and Afghanistan are the burning questions of the hour it is hardly irrational that the many individuals and families that are facing the wall on mortgage foreclosures, unemployment or the ability to just pay the bills see economic recovery as their primary issue. Okay, so it is the economy, stupid!

Mark this, however, where and what are the proposed just solutions to the problems of the vast inequalities of wealth in America coming from? The Republicratic candidates? Hell, no. They all are committed to ‘free markets’ and, one way or another, the international capitalist globalization of those markets. This would be a great time for those of us with socialist solutions, that is, social solutions to the economic problems of the day, starting with the need for a planned economy, to take the floor. And link the fight against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the war against the working class and poor here.

Israeli Supreme Court Approves Cut in Gas Supplies to Gaza

In a commentary a couple of months ago concerning the lead up to the Middle East Annapolis meetings and President Bush’s pollyannaish belief that he could gain a peace treaty between the Israelis and Palestinians I mentioned that I HATE to comment on the Israeli-Palestinian confrontations because there is so little sense that, this side of paradise, there is any rational and just solution to the long time controversy. A recent decision by the Israeli Supreme Court on cutting gas supplies to Gaza is a case in point. That august body has determined that using this weapon of limiting vital gas supplies to the residents of Gaza by the Israeli government is correct in its fight against the ‘terrorists’ who rule there (by that they mean Hamas). The reasoning of the Court, however, will be hard to square with any sense of traditional Solomonic judgments, the vaunted rule of law that Western civilization touts as the cornerstone of its existence or simple humanity. Once again I throw down the challenge- Is there really any solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict short of a socialist one in the context of a wider Middle Eastern solution? To ask the question provides the answer.

Okay, now that I have gotten the serious commentary out of the way I can move on to American presidential politics. What would one expect from a confessed political ‘junkie’, anyway? At this point most of this campaign is of real interest only to technicians but here are some observations from afar. As always, I preface my remarks with the comment that, thankfully, I do not have to vote for any of these candidates.

In Mr. Bill’s Neighborhood-South Carolina.

The long time notion that Bill Clinton had been the first ‘black’ president, a comment made as much or more in the past by blacks than whites, got sorely tested and justly upended by the campaign in South Carolina. Clinton in attempting to prove that whites can use the race card as well as blacks, especially when ‘wifie’ is a candidate, got his head handed to him on platter. When the deal went down Mr. Bill turned into just another redneck hillbilly from the Ozarks and blacks judged accordingly. The fallout from this is far from over. Mr. Bill is being openingly mocked by younger blacks that I run into as just another white honky. If one really looks at what Clinton did during his reign, eliminating welfare as we know it, making the death penalty easier to impose and putting more police on the ground in black neighborhoods that is a perfect description. Playing jazz saxophone and having a few black friends on Martha’s Vineyard does little to cut the other way these days.

The Talk Around The Water Cooler

Maybe it is the winnowing process at this point in the campaign. Maybe it is just the momentarily whirl of politics but around my work water cooler there has been a very dramatic shift in political talk. About a year ago nobody (except me, of course), white, black or Hispanic talked about anything or anybody but Hillary. Today that talk has significantly shifted.

Blacks, who last year thought that Obama was too white, now are making it a question of race loyalty to support him. And by their lights this makes sense. Obama may be mixed but in race-conscious America he is BLACK. Hispanics, and in this particular case I am talking about Hispanic males, are talking up Hillary. This reflects the tension between the black and Hispanic communities that get a full workout over the question of immigration and other issues that separate these communities.

As for whites, again especially males, there is now actually less talk about the presidential campaigns. The great secret of this campaign at least on the Democratic side, a secret that will become more apparent now that John Edwards is out, is that white males for the first time in Democratic Party history do not have one of their own to vote for. For those old enough to remember the old days this is indeed a strange turn of events. The main point here, from a socialist perspective, is that if either Hillary or Obama wins the presidency that has to be a significant development in this country. Is that enough? Hell, no but it is significant.

John Edwards and the Working Class

The recently ended campaign of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is a case in point for the proposition that while you may come from the working class that does not insure that you are a working class candidate. And that, my friends, is the problem with today trying to run a populist campaign out of the Democratic Party. In order to do so you must put it in terms of the middle class, a very nebulous and slippery concept. However, the middle class in this country is not the working class. If you are going to fight for the poor of the Ninth District in New Orleans (and that is very definitely a good thing to fight for) then you cannot mix up your message. But what you really need to do is get the hell out of the Democratic Party and fight for a workers party. Then you can, like I am, be a proud son of the working class.

The Revenge of John McCain

Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain staked his campaign on the premise that the surge strategy in Iraq would work. Those of us on the left who have argued that it would not have to take our licking on this issue. At least in the short haul the surge has worked and that success has worked to McCain’s benefit. We concede the point for now. But as stated up in the first comment we still fight for immediate withdrawal from Iraq no matter whom the next president will be.

The Torch Passes

In my youth I cut my political teeth on John Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Elsewhere in this space I have freely admitted to having had my first political love affair with Robert Kennedy. Recently long time liberal icon Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and John Kennedy’s daughter Caroline went out of their way to endorse Senator Obama. As John Kennedy said in his 1961 Inauguration speech the torch had passed to a new generation. That thought is being echoed here. I have also mentioned in this space that I sense the need for and welcome that change. The question remains, however, what programs and what policies will the next generation take hold of to ‘seek the newer world’. In my dewy-eyed youth it was enough to use a few sweeping phrase for a politician to state his (or her) case. In my old age I want a specific program that fights for the interest of working people. To date I do not see that. Enough said.

Anyone Can Run for President, Right?

Most of us remember as kids the old democratic political adage that any one (or almost anyone-look at the constitutional limitations) could run for President of the United States. As we matured we became painfully aware that that adage was less than the truth. In recent decades this has become even more painfully clear, as the cash nexus has driven the price of presidential politics through the roof. That brings me to the question of buying your way to the presidency. One multi-millionaire Republican candidate ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has literally kept his campaign alive by dipping in his own funds. New York City Mayor Bloomberg, if he decides on an independent run, apparently would finance such an endeavor by tapping into his personal fortune. I can only say this when the fight for a workers party wins us a workers government it will not be the color of one’s money but the worth of one’s political program that will be decisive. Or you will get the boot, pronto. Again, enough said.

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