Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The chickens coming home to roost

Reflexion and analysis
When Barack Obama was here in Grand Rapids, I noticed two things. One was about the crowd which went to hear him talk, and the other about how the Obama campaign took advantage of the occasion to steal the advantage out of Clinton’s recent victories with the announcement of the endorsement by ex-vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

About the crowd two things were noticeable. One was that it was difficult to distinguish between those who were already convinced followers and how many were simply curious or just wanted to be present before a historical event. Some said to be already decided to vote for Obama, while others admitted being there for them and their children to see a historical figure. In both groups something caused some resonance.

But with all the attention and enchantment of the American press for Obama, why hasn’t he been able to mop up and consolidate his candidacy? Or as we say in these parts, why hasn’t he been able to close the sale and seal the contract? The race is still tight between the two pretenders of the Democratic Party, and the conflict has nakedly exposed not only political but also generational social fissures.

Things have happened in the Obama campaign since those euphoric days of the triumph in Iowa. Besides the support and attraction among the young—the majority of which have no knowledge nor the remotest historical memory of the decade of the sixties—among the electorate of the middle class many are now hesitating about their support.

The discovery of a twenty year association with radical minister Wright, whose scandalous statements represent traces of bitterness, even of a racial tone, against a White majority, has had an impact against Obama’s campaign. Loyal to his friend, Obama didn’t distance himself from those statements on time but perhaps only too late, after the reverend made even worst statements while trying to explain what he previously said. Among those statements were, that the events of 9/11 represented “the chickens coming home to roost” and that “God damned America.”

But this has not been the only factor which has slowed down the enthusiasm for Obama. His own statements, regarding how he would handle U.S. foreign affairs, have only highlighted the accusation from the Clinton camp of Obama’s inexperience and naïveté. His proposal of “direct diplomacy” without preconditions with the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Iran has been seen not only as naïve but also as illusory and even dangerous.

Of them he has said, “Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us.” But if the size and economy of a country were the only factors to consider when determining a danger potential then Afghanistan under the Taliban shouldn’t have been considered as a threat. But the electorate knows of Afghanistan’s role in the 9/11 attacks.

In the same manner, Obama reminds us as examples of “direct diplomacy” that “That's what Kennedy did with Kruschev, that's what Reagan did with Gorbachev, that's what Nixon did with Mao.” But history reminds us that the meeting between Kennedy and Kruschev was a disaster in which Kruschev considered Kennedy as an inexperienced young man, and which led to the Berlin Wall crisis and the “Missile crisis of October.” The meetings between Reagan and Gorbachev and Nixon and Mao were preceded by extensive periods of preparation and not by “direct diplomacy.”

The Clinton campaign has taken advantage of all this. But it is also fitting to ask, why hasn’t Clinton been able to consolidate what was expected to be a virtual coronation? Let’s try it.

When political parties discovered the marketing techniques of triangulation, they discovered how to pull and manipulate the voters by their strings presenting their parties and their political postures as one more product in the consumer market. The experts of that technique were the Clintons.

But people are tired of extremes and it is not only an American phenomenon, but also anywhere else were the politics of consumers have been practiced. It is not that people are looking for the center for center’s sake, but that people know, by observing recent history that in the extremes there is only part of the truth or part of the solution. And they prefer even the vagueness of slogans like “change” and hope”, products of a loquacity which has found its timing, to more of the same from parties and politicians of always.

In the same manner that commercial campaigns are constructed from various parts of the social body, candidates and party programs seem to be made from putting together and manufacturing them in the same manner that Dr. Frankenstein built a monstrous being from various parts of different cadavers. Sometimes those creatures return only to devour their creator. As reverend Wright said, “the chickens are coming home to roost.”
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