Tuesday, March 04, 2008


To reply to Kelly and Lex from the comments below, let me clarify regarding my decision to leave the Democratic party should Clinton become the nominee.

First, I did not say I would vote for John McCain. No matter what happens, I will vote for the nominee whose ideals are closest to my own. Despite my self-smear as a latte drinker above, I am actually pretty small-government in my social and economic thinking, and so I doubt I would ever be able to vote for a person aligned with the privacy invaders of the anti-abortion, anti-gay right wing.

Second, I support Obama because I support the party. I believe that Obama as nominee will strengthen and broaden the party. I think his nomination is our best shot at winning the presidency with a broad, clear mandate and in winning back to our cause the independents and moderate Republicans that the Clintons, rightly or wrongly, seem to have lost.

(ironically, they lost them over the same tactics they used to seek them, but more on that later)

Pragmatically, such a mandate would create coattails upon which other Democrats, as well as Independents and Republicans I agree with, will be able to ride into office. Far more so than a scorched-earth, 51%, dare-I-say Clintonian victory in November, this kind of mandate and broad based electoral success is our best chance of actually enacting the kind of change both candidates want to make.

Third, Obama represents the model of the Democratic party I wish to belong to. It is a party that is inclusive. It is a party that does not tell me that I'm the wrong kind of Democrat (ie, latte-drinking). It is a party that does not imply that the Democrats of Texas or Iowa don't count because they don't fit into the electoral calculus. It is a party that is committed to innovative grass roots organizing: raising funds and building policy support voter by voter in all 50 states, and does not rely solely on entrenched political machines and top-down, mass media, which is dying.

I acknowledge that Obama is not pure-as-driven snow on these metrics. I am sure some may find quotes that would support that he alienated a voter there, or benefited from a political machine here. But is clear at least to me that he is closer to the mark on these principles than his rival, and he is a leader insofar as he is showing us why they matter so very much. These models for the party, especially the matter of inclusiveness, are not merely inspiring ideas, but also represent a blueprint for what I would consider to be a broader, more vibrant, and more powerful Democratic party.

Fourth, and to specifically answer Lex, I do not dislike Hillary Clinton. I voted for her husband twice, and I think she would be a capable president, were there not a better option available.

However, she nonetheless represents what I consider to be a model for a failed Democratic party. A party that divides its own membership against one another--by suggesting that a rival is not black enough, for example, or too maybe-Muslim--in order to conquer it. A party that prefers a meaningless, symbolic conflict over an effective struggle, or reasonable compromise. A party that is essentially unprincipled, following the DLC line of tacking further and further to the right to capture what I consider to be a mythical conservative majority until finally it is merely a shadow republicanism. A party that mocks inspiration and villifies optimism.

Again, I do not just find these qualities loathsome. Pragmatically, they add up to a party that loses elections, loses core support, and presides over a dwindling collection of special interests instead of a national movement. Our success in 2006 stemmed from our firm principled opposition to the war, resonating with a motivated electorate, and our embrace of disillusioned republicans like Jim Webb. Yet we have retreated from that stance ever since. On the war alone, the defining issue of our day, there is little meaningful difference between McCain and Clinton. If Clinton's democratic party is, in policy and tactics, merely a shadow of the Republican party, then independents and moderate republicans will simply and understandably vote for the real thing.

Fifth, and this goes without saying, my loyalty is to my country and its principles first, not to the private enterprise that is a modern political party. Like most, I didn't choose my political party, I inherited it. I've always been proud of it and its stances. But I think we see a clear difference here not only in which way the country goes, but the party. If Clinton is nominated, and especially so if she is nominated without a clear electoral mandate, then I will conclude the democratic party is not interested in being the party I think it can become, the party I wish to be a part of. And while I might vote the democratic ticket in the future, I would in that case become an independent.

I hope that all make sense. Did you notice? NO CAPS!

That is all.


Ron said...

I wouldn't have to leave the party as the wife registers with one party and I register with another (why more couples don't do this escapes me). We also conveniently eliminate ourselves from ever holding a public office. :-)

Voting in general elections is based on who I think is best for the country first, and party comes down the list somewhere. The current shenanigans in the democratic primary will turn me from someone excited about the prospect of voting (if Obama is the nominee) to someone who will reluctantly vote for Hilary. The fact that she didn't stomp firmly on the innuendo associated with Obama makes that reluctance greater.

tony said...

How exhausting that you had to clarify that "leaving the Democratic Party" did not mean "campaigning for John McCain."

Though I enjoyed reading the clarification very much!

In any case, whenever I'm feeling low about the national election or nauseaus about the latest political Obama is a Martian smear e-mail I got from a relative, I like to take in one of Steve Novick's campaign videos:


Just a fan, I don't work for the campaign.

R.A. Porter said...

Thank you for your reasoned and measured words, John.

Lex Friedman said...


First, I am flabbergasted at the promptness, kindness, and clarity of your response. Thank you for that.

But I am stunned -- STUNNED! -- at the lack of ALL CAPS.

In all seriousness, you make many fair, well-stated points.

My wife and I both voted for Hillary in our New Jersey primary. My chief concern is one that I don't hear raised often, and one that I hope doesn't create a battle on your comments... I'm simply being honest about my own thought processes regarding Obama:

I like him. I think he would make a good president, and if he is our currently mutual party's nominee, he'll certainly have my vote. At the same time, however, I have reservations about a President Obama, because I so strongly disagree with decisions he made in his younger years.

Certainly, I am naive to wish that all our elected official be straight and narrow, 100% law-abiding citizens themselves. And even more certainly, Mrs. Clinton too has made her own documented mistakes.

But what I'm getting at is: The fact that a younger Obama dabbled in some rather serious drugs makes me question his judgment. Even the fact that he was a smoker for so long makes me question his judgment. It's a simple thing, and perhaps foolish in comparison to running the country, but I keep thinking about how even when he started smoking it was known to be a health risk. So why start? On impulse? Because it looked cool? And why wait until you're running for president to quit?

Had Obama been in the public eye for longer, maybe this would be a more minor issue for me as I could evaluate him more solely on his public life. As is, though, I do have these hesitancies regarding his decision-making.

Am I totally ridiculous to think of such things?

Thanks again for the response, John. Much appreciated.

hodg-man said...

Hello, Lex--

No. That is not an issue for me. Indeed, Bill Clinton's "I didn't inhale" comment was a far more bitter pill to swallow (so to speak) than Obama's comparative candor on the question.

That is all.

ilikeitdontyou said...

On the most fundamental level, I agree with you on Obama. Unity is the most important priority right now for us, and that's Obama's message. And i think he'll win, and inherit a huge mess.

I found http://glassbooth.org/ to be helpful in realizing which candidates were truly in line with my values, and Obama did not rank high on my list (we differ on health care, and especially gay marriage, which I feel is a civil rights issue).

In an ideal world, I think that Kucinich would have been the best candidate, because he has the guts to express what he truly believes. I think that's super strength. Unfortunately he was sort of mousy and uncomfortable to watch on tv.

tony said...

Oh also: Obamanos!


Sorry, if it's old news for some of you.

Drhaggis said...

Sound political commentary. Although it could have used a few references to "Baby Mama."

Tim said...

I'm disappointed by the YouTube link posted above. I expected "Obamanos" to be some combination of Obama and "Manos" the Hands of Fate.

tony said...

You obviously did not watch it to the end when Obama selects Torgo as his running mate.

The Curiously Dull Mint said...

1. Lack of any ALL CAPS scared me at first.
2. The latest Clinton ad featuring clips from Jack Nicholson films makes me sick. What was she thinking?
3. As far as Obama's former drug use and smoking are concerned - well, we all make mistakes for various reasons and I commend his openness regarding these issues, rather than trying to present himself as a goody-two-shoes. When I look at all the Republicans who have tauted anti-abortion, anti-drug, and anti-gay sentiment, and then get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, it makes me very sad for their hypocrisy. Has every choice you've made been a good one? Especially when you were in your teens? One of the things I really like about Obama is that he wasn't groomed for a political life. He chose this path out of his concern for the well-being of Americans, especially those who need the most help. Bill Clinton spent years eating french fries, but apparently didn't really consider the consequences to his health until after he was elected. And then he need heart surgery. Should I have trusted him to be president??

Lhyzz said...

This may refer to something that was said in the last post, but I am going to comment on it here.

I am always disheartened to hear people refer to "The Clintons" when talking about Hillary's bid for the White House.

It was an issue for people when Bill was in office, that he had an intelligent, gutsy wife with opinions, and that he would actually listen to her opinions and give her some influence over policy. Who would let their wife out of the kitchen long enough for that sort of nonsense?

And now that Hillary is running on her own merits, it seems that she comes bundled with her husband as a package. How exhausting for women everywhere to have to tow their husbands with them to work in order to get anything done!

Some may expect that because she was given some measure of power as First Lady, that Bill as First Gentleman would be some sort of Co-President, but knowing Hillary, he will be sent to cut ribbons and speak at colleges while SHE runs the place.

So stop attaching Bill's flaws, his mistakes, his policy to her ankles. Was she instrumental in some of the White House's policy during his tenure? Yes. Does she take credit for that experience? Yes. Is she Bill Clinton? No.

Blake Himsl Hunter said...

wow, this is some of the most thoughtful political commentary I have read on the election. I accidentally read some comments on another blog (I think it was Taylor Marsh) a week ago and it made be quit disheartened. The comments were ad hominen and thoughtless for the most part, I am glad the comment here have avoided that tone.

James said...

I enjoyed the post, John. it made doing my job in the OH primary today that much easier.

By the way: I hope TED was fun; I would have loved to go. Did you happen to check out BIL? I'd love to hear a few words from the front lines.

Anonymous said...

in defense of hillary: it seems that jack nicholson released that video without coordinating it with the campaign

not in defense of hillary: in campaigning on the record of the 90s, she is purposefully conflating bill clinton's actions in government with her own (except, occasionally, when those actions aren't popular...eg NAFTA). i think this choice of hers makes talking about "the clintons" fair game.

Anonymous said...

brief addition, because i am at work and should be um working:

i also think it's fair to conflate the two clintons because it seems that her approach to politics was developed during bill's campaigns/presidency. so, no, they're not the same, but referring to "clinton-style politics' or 'the clintons' is i think a useful shorthand for describing their (shared) political philosophy.

Dustin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dustin said...

Did anyone see this? Hillary Clinton put out an ad that was doctored to make Obama look blacker! this is seriously sketchy and exactly the kind of democratic party you are talking about

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