Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A few random thoughts about the election

Love it; it may be the only time.

1. I'm voting for Cynthia McKinney (that is, Green Party). I know some readers are voting for Nader and others for Obama, but I can't.

I voted for Nader in 2000 and 2004, a matter I've discussed repeatedly both here and elsewhere and I've no intention of getting into again. (If you really want to know all about it, do a search on "Nader" on this blog.) But I simply can't support him this time around.

There are two reasons: One is that, as someone else said before me, where has he been? The whole point of independent candidacies is to build alternatives to the Demopublicans. Running for president every four years does not advance that effort if you're not out there in the years between trying to build on whatever publicity and momentum the campaign generated. Nader has fallen clearly short on that account and I'm not interested in purely symbolic campaigns, especially when there are other solid lefties who are at least trying to build a strong third party. And two, if nothing else, his bizarre, last-minute injection of himself into the Terri Schiavo tragedy (he released a statement calling on the courts to require her feeding tube to remain in place) would have soured me on him.

2. As for Obama, when all is said and done, I have to admit I would prefer him to McCain. But I simply cannot generate any excitement about the prospect of an Obama presidency. For one thing, contrary to the notion of supporters, Obama would not withdraw US troops from Iraq. He'd withdraw combat troops and leave a "residual force" for counter-terrorism, "protecting American service members and ... training Iraqi security forces," a force the Iraq Study Group (which the Obama campaign claims "largely affirmed" his thinking on Iraq) estimated would run to the tens of thousands. And they would of necessity remain for an indefinite period.

And what would Obama do with the combat troops removed from Iraq? He'd send "at least two" brigades of them to Afghanistan. "We need more troops, more helicopters ... to accomplish the mission there," he said. That is, he'd draw down in Iraq in order to escalate in Afghanistan.

He also wants to, among some other desires,

- increase the size of the military by over 90,000,
- promote "agility" in the military (which in the past has served as code for being able to quickly intervene abroad),
- "preserve our unparalleled airpower capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors,"
- increase "investment in advanced technology,"
- "recapitalize" and "modernize" the Navy,
- "add to the Maritime Pre-Positioning Force Squadrons" (that is, increase force projection), and
- "support missile defense."

Barack Obama is not a peace candidate. He's just a "I knew Iraq was a dumb idea" candidate. That's why people like Colin Powell and the several neo-cons who have endorsed Obama feel comfortable doing so: He's a reliable, accepts-the-common-wisdom, centrist who can be counted on to strive to continue the Pax Americana.

Add to that his support of the corporate bailout and his disgusting, craven, betrayal on FISA, and yes, I'd prefer him to McCain - in precisely the same way I'd prefer skin cancer to lung cancer. That's doesn't mean I'd have any enthusiasm about the former.

3. My memory of presidential campaigns goes back to 1960. (Technically, back to 1956 but those memories are very vague.) I think the worst, the most dangerous, the most criminal presidential campaign over that time was 1972: the campaign of Watergate, of (successful!) "dirty tricks" intended not just to screw with your opponents but to manipulate the entire political process.

On the other hand, I think the 2008 McCain campaign ranks as the lowest, slimiest, sleaziest, shabbiest, just cheap campaign in my memory. And if the eliminationist rhetoric and regional hatreds it has embraced and empowered can use the campaign as a springboard to a higher level of intensity, it could quickly become the worst.

4. One final note: I am flaming sick to death of hearing how this is "the most important election of our lifetime" particularly since this is at least the third consecutive election that same cry has been raised and at least the fourth time total (the other I recall clearly being 1984).

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