Radical Progress & the 2008 Elections

Like many on the left, I feel ambivalent about Barack Obama. He’s taken a number of positions that are incompatible with progress and peace. Of course, McCain would be worse.

In 1996, a similar ambivalence about Clinton led me to support Ralph Nader. I had actually boycotted the 1992 election after voting Democratic in prior elections. Clinton in some ways was more worrisome, but I wonder if that’s simply because Bush has been so awful that Obama can’t help but look attractive.

And Obama is an attractive candidate. He is African-American and we on the left consider race relations as a fundamental social concern. The fact that his parentage is mixed and his Hawaiian childhood distance him from the average black American mitigate the race factor’s appeal, but doesn’t entirely remove it.

Nader is not as appealing as he was in ’96 or 2000. He’s burned all his bridges to the Green Party, which makes him just another rich independent presidential candidate. His agenda is more progressive than Ross Perot, but Nader’s campaign does not create any independent grassroots organization. If Nader decided to create a third party, I’d support it if it wasn’t just a vehicle for Nader’s celebrity candidacy.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Greens. The current presidential McKinney-Clemente ticket is very interesting and signals the emergence of the Greens into the Latino and Black youth culture. This will have positive effects on the traditionally Caucasian make-up of the GP. However, McKinney has some unsavory baggage.

So, I’m back where I’ve been over and over since I started voting. No candidate embodies a true organized progressive force in US politics. The Republicans are truly evil, no question. The Dems are a lesser evil, but I can’t seem to embrace Obama wholeheartedly.

In 2000, I was truly eager to support Nader and the Greens. I don’t have any eagerness for this election. It feels inadequate to simply focus on other issues and let the election just roll along without putting some energy into it. Part of me would love to be involved in McKinney-Clemente organizing in Chicago, but I’m not even sure that I’ll vote for them at this point. I almost could vote for Nader, but for the reasons given above, I’m not happy with his independent direction.

One wrinkle in his situation was the 3rd Party united front organized by Ron Paul. I find it troubling that McKinney and Nader joined in supporting "balanced budgets" but most of the other issues they united on were innocuous. Could this be the beginning a true upsurge of third party politics? One can only hope.

Despite my best attempt at deciding between Nader, McKinney, or Obama, I am still stuck with an uncertainty about which campaign can best focus the energies of progressive movements in this country.

Peace! Charley


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