02-Feb-2008

American Primaries : Democracy In Action Or...

Ramesh Thakur in The Hindu:
... let us pay homage to America and the American dream more generally. Later this year, the Democratic Party will have either a black or a woman as its presidential standard bearer. The party’s field of candidates is already America at its most glorious best: Barack Obama, son of a white Christian woman from Kansas and a black Muslim father from Kenya who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, victorious in 96 per cent white Iowa; Hillary Clinton, a woman; and Bill Richardson, a Hispanic-American, among others.

America matters, what America does and does not do matters, and so the choice of who leads America matters to the rest of us. ... it is impossible for outsiders not to celebrate when America presents its most attractive face to the world which no other country, still, can match.

After that rhapsody he has gone on to endorse Mr Obama:
“A president like my father,” Caroline Kennedy wrote that in Mr. Obama she saw an echo of the force of inspiration that people told her they had felt with her father but she herself had never experienced. She was supporting Mr. Obama for a mix of “patriotic, political and personal” reasons that are intertwined. Touchingly, it was her children who first made her realise that Mr. Obama “is the president we need”.
...
Mr. Obama’s victory speech was another rousing oration that dipped deep into the wellsprings of hope, optimism and unity. There were also flashes of hard-edged anger, condemning those who will say and do anything to win, denouncing those who are so partisan that they will demonise any crediting of ideas to a Republican, and rejecting all attempts to file candidates and voters into ethnic and gender boxes.
But he has completely skipped over Mr Edwards - "the most progressive candidate on issues and the most electable on paper" - ignored him, made him invisible - as the American media has. And there in lies the real story of the American system - media and big-money dictates who gets a chance and who doesn't.

Paul Krugman on Edwards contribution to the race:
So John Edwards has dropped out of the race for the presidency. By normal political standards, his campaign fell short.

But Mr. Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform Mr. Edwards built.

If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit.

Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, the willingness of his rivals to emulate his policy proposals made it hard for him to differentiate himself as a candidate; meanwhile, those rivals had far larger financial resources and received vastly more media attention. Even The Times’s own public editor chided the paper for giving Mr. Edwards so little coverage.

Eric Alterman on how the media marginalised Edwards :
The Edwards campaign was a surreal experience that should inspire a doctoral dissertation or two. He was both the most progressive candidate on issues and the most electable on paper, and yet he did not get the support of most progressives or most professionals. This despite the fact that he actually ran a terrific campaign and, more than Obama and Hillary, defined it in a positive direction. That he forced the other candidates to respond did not end up mattering as much as the media’s fascination with all things Clintonian, Obamian, and the egregiously awful coverage of Edwards. The Washington Post deserves special mention for its idiotic 1,300-word piece on his haircut and an even longer one on his house. Richard Cohen and Michael Dobbs both called him a liar and presented no evidence. The editorial board attacked him constantly. The New York Times also went in for the “How can you care about poor people when you’re so rich?” line of questioning, which implies that poor people are unentitled to representation in the American political system, since it allows for only wealthy people to run. And Maureen Dowd was her usual awful, substanceless self, helping to set the tone for the rest, to the shame of all of us.
More from :
The 28% of the American adult population with college degrees defines the country's values, its policies, its laws, what is stylish and how you get to the top, including the White House. And what it has defined has exacted no small price from the remaining 72%. For example, just in the past eight years, the following have gotten significantly worse:

Median income
Number of manufacturing jobs
Number of new private jobs
Percent of workers with company based health insurance
Poverty
Consumer credit debt
Number of housing foreclosures
Cost of heating oil & gas
Number without health insurance
Wages in manufacturing
Income gap between rich and poor
Wealth of the bottom 40% of Americans
Number of older families with pensions
Number of workers covered by defined benefit pensions
Hunger
Use of soup kitchens
Personal bankruptcies
Median rent

Yet when John Edwards tried to build a campaign around these issues he was subjected not only to the opposition of the establishment and its media but a notable tone of ridicule whose subtext was: why would anyone want to bother with such things? Especially a guy as rich as Edwards?

And when he pulled out of the race, Edwards was treated to more of the same, especially from such faux hip websites as Gawker, Radar and Fark:

Radar: The pretty-boy presidential candidate scored just 14 percent of the vote in yesterday's Florida primaries. . .

Fark: John Edwards announces he will drop out of race today to spend more time with his hair.

Gawker: John Edwards will end his 49th run for president Wednesday after failing to capitalize on his angry hobo-under-the-bridge message.

These sites, like much of elite America, are led by spoiled offspring of generations who had to struggle with just the sort of issues Edwards was trying to raise, but from which they now consider themselves immune by their education, status and cleverness.
...

Edwards' problem was that he made the smug set of American liberalism extremely uncomfortable. He showed them what they should really be thinking about and what they might do about it. And they didn't like it. Far better to relax in the self-righteousness of choosing between a Harvard Law School black and a Yale Law School woman.

And so, once again, the Democratic Party drifts further away from what once made it worth bragging about.
One of the comments to the above post:
Both Obama and Clinton have elite megabucks backing them. The Kerry and Kennedy endorsement of Obama represent billions in famlity net worth, in addition to the billions - for example, from the heiress to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, Karen Pritzker - already backing him. There is, to my thinking, no "democracy" in this "Democratic" party two-fold choice.
So that is what is happening in the American primary contest.

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