Thursday, January 3, 2008

Obama and Hope



I've had some time to sit and reflect recently, and many things have been going through my mind.

To start with, I think I need to explain a few things about myself, and about why I am posting this blog. I am pretty involved locally with the peace and justice movement here in San Diego. The group I'm most involved with is the San Diego chapter of Veterans For Peace. I also do some work with the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, and am a freeway blogger.

I am deeply concerned about the direction of the United States. In March of 2006, I came to a turning point, and that is when I started to become active politically. At first I believed that there was momentum behind the peace movement, and that it was time to take back our government. I went to peace rallies. I sent letters. I became involved with Vets for Peace, formally joining and being elected as an officer in our local chapter. Following the election, full of hope and feeling that the newly elected Democratic majority would be behind us, in January of 2007, I went to Washington DC. I participated in a large national protest, and an effort to lobby congress to defund the war. The effort failed, largely because the Democrats have accepted the Republican talking point that defunding the war is not supporting the troops.

I continued to work at it, writing my congressman repeatedly (I have the good fortune to have Duncan Hunter as my representative here in California's 52nd district). In addition, I have participated in meetings with the other members of the San Diego congressional delegation, gotten involved peripherally in the East County Democratic Club, and jumping on the Moveon.org bandwagon from time to time.

I have become frustrated with trying to influence politicians. I now feel pretty strongly, most of the time, that involvement in the mainstream political process has become increasingly irrelevant. Grassroots activism is what fills most of my time, and as my friend Elliott Adams says (to paraphrase): "The members of congress are not our leaders, they are our followers." By this he explained that he means that politicians will blow with the wind, and if they feel that their jobs depend on it, they will change their vote. If enough people get motivated to change things, the politicians will respond out of fear of losing the next election. So since my disillusionment with most attempts to directly influence politicians, I have been learning and attempting to apply grassroots actions to try and move the public.

I am, however, a political geek, and while mostly my politics are of the grassroots variety, and not specifically aimed at the political process, I pay attention. The candidate for President that I most identify with, and whose positions I share most closely is Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich has no chance in this election. A few days ago, Dennis Kucinich asked Iowans that supported him to caucus for Obama as their second choice. This intrigued me, and made me take a second look at this candidate.

About eight months ago I did research on all of the various candidates. In the midst of that, I went to Obama's website, watched his videos along with everyone else's, and the one thing that struck me was that while I agreed with the basic positions of most of the candidates, Obama was the only one to actually move me.

I read Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. After reading it, I was impressed, more or less, but was not satisfied with some of his positions. I'm pretty liberal on social issues. Obama's tepid stance on gay rights and to be honest, his identity as a deeply faithful Christian combined to turn me off a little bit. That combined with the standard American politician position okeydokey-ing the use of force as a tool of foreign policy, even only if "justified", turned me elswhere.

Now, looking back at that, I may have reacted with a bit of prejudice because of his relative conservatism compared to where I stand on things, and because of his faith. I have moved my politics increasingly to the left, and Obama's position is carved out pretty far out towards the center, so that takes me out of my comfort zone a bit. My second look has caused me to reevaluate what I think. To be completely honest here, there is no candidate, except Dennis Kucinich, who even approaches where I am politically, and I am enough of a pragmatist to recognize that I have to vote for someone who is likely to end the war, restore the rule of law in America, restore our civil liberties and the checks and balances in our government, and attempt to restore our sullied reputation internationally.

Kucinich might not be able to do that even if it was possible for him to be elected, because he is, like me, a liberal nonviolent tree-hugging hippie moonbat. It is difficult to motivate people when they see you as an extremist.

Obama gave his Iowa Caucus victory speech tonight:



Damn it's a good speech, it made me cry. I'm an optimist, despite everything, and Obama stakes out a position that we can all see as rational. He includes all of us, as Ghandi did, and as Dr. King did. He could move the center. I feel some of the hope that he speaks of, and I haven't felt that from our political process for a while. I'm not convinced yet, but my vote meter just moved three pegs in the Obama direction.

Peace

15 comments:

zippiknits said...

I am a fan of Kucinich but of course, as you point out, he's too far out there to get anywhere. I don't like Obama. I fear him as an opportunist. I'll vote for him, if he's the last man standing in the Democratic ring but I can't trust him very much. He has too many gray areas for me to support.

I agree with you about grassroots activism. It's the only way to take back our government and get the party hacks and glad handing panderers out, out, out. I really don't like Duncan Hunter. Really don't like him. What do you see that you like? I'm willing to see your point of view on this fellow.

San Diego Peace Guy said...

My comment on Duncan Hunter was sarcasm. I have written him, lobbied his office, visited his office, spoken with his staff, and petitioned him to change his position on the war, but he has so far avoided meeting with me personally. (I think he's a-skeered)

I despise Hunter, and hope Duke Cunningham is keeping his bunk warm for him in federal prison. I fear that won't really happen though, mostly because in addition to being a corrupt sleaze-ball, he's also much smarter and more careful than the Dukester.

Duncan Hunter happens to be my congressman, as unfortunate as that is. I'm about as far left as they come.

I like Obama better than the alternative, which I see as Hillary Clinton. Out of the viable candidates left in the race, I like Edwards the most, really, but he's slipping fast. I find that Obama moves me when he speaks, and while I disagree with him on several issues, his stance on healthcare, most social issues, etc, he is far enough to the left that I'm comfortable with his positions. Again, on healthcare for example, his plan is incremental enough that it might just pass a Democratic congress where Kucinich's plan - the right answer though it is - could be easily blocked by Blue Dog Democrats working with the right.

All that said, since writing the piece, I've retreated to my "it really doesn't matter who wins", whether it's the Demublicans or the Republicrats. The war is likely to go on, American Imperialism is likely to expand, and I don't see a way to avoid the biggest recession (Depression?) since the 30's.

I'm a grassroots activist & political geek. Obama has my vote, because he's middle of the road enough to move the center, which a farther left candidate, in my view, couldn't do. He has the charisma, and on the experience issue, his lack is an advantage in my book. He's a sharp one and a natural leader, and I think his heart's in the right place. I don't think he's an opportunist, based on his record in Illinois.

One thing to consider: Think how Europe, and the Middle East, and Africa, and Asia would look at the United States, if we elected a liberal biracial president. (What the hell? Americans finally got it?) Think what that might do for us internationally. Once he's elected of course, it's time to change his mind on NAFTA, the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO. I think grassroots protest might be more effective (and might mean more) directed in opposition to the goals of an American president who is a black man who went to grammar school in Indonesia, than it would be in opposition to the goals of a president who is a white woman who who went to an Ivy League college, or a rich southern white man, populist "son of a mill-worker" though he is.

Peace

Kitchen Window Woman said...

You thought out everything in this one! I, like you am not entirely pleased with some of what Obama holds dear, but it will be him that gets my vote as there are only two left now. I refuse to vote for Hillary!

He does have something. He seems more real, grounded, concerned, and connects with people. I think that the best thing about him is that he is sincere.

Hillary would keep me up nights just like Bush does. I'd worrying about what she's going to do to this country. I think that I could rest a bit with Obama. I won't mention McCain or the aging Ken doll.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I felt like I was reading myself think. Won't feel like such a nut job for awhile, thanks!

I have very little hope for the country at this point. My decision to support Obama, after Kucinich and then Edwards dropped out, came after I saw one of his speeches. I think perhaps he might be able to wake people up. In my opinion, the terrible things that have happened to our country have happened because we let them happen. Being a product of the 1960's, I feel more than a little guilt that the fight was let go. I believe we became complacent, let down our guard, forgot to watch closely, became self absorbed, and now we have social, economic, and foreign policy issues that are destroying the country, without a populist movement to promote change. I'm willing to go down fighting, but I feel like I fight alone. The propaganda Americans have been fed is like the field of poppies, will Obama be the snow that breaks the spell? I'm too old to be idealistic, but I voted for him and I think he deserves a chance. I like his attitude.

Hope to see any and everyone who reads this at the rally/march 3/15/08. I'll be there, again, sign in hand. Paula

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Anonymous said...

It amazes me how many people are afraid of Obama. Why? Strip off the skin, look at his voting record, he's not so different from the other Democrats. By no means a left wing liberal, certainly not the visionary Kucinich is. As for qualifications, he's over 36 and a citizen, so he qualifies. After all, our constitution set up a citizen government. Of, by, and for the people. That we are ruled, and we ARE ruled, by professional politicians is part of the problem, in my opinion. Our top political office has been held by 2 families for 20 years, and could continue to be controlled by those same 2 families for another 16 years (2 term Hillary, and then there's Jeb). I find this alarming. And then there's the nastiness that pervades our politics. We are not only dumb sheep, we are mean sheep.

San Diego Peace Guy said...

Wow, it's been a while since I looked at this, but have to respond now. I guess I touched a nerve, or else (more likely), the right wing trolls are posting xeroxed replies on liberal blogs everywhere they find a reference to Obama.

The comments were three times as long as my original post! It blows me away how jingoistic people can be. I would refute what the comments say, but read my previous blogs - that does it well enough.

Peace

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