It was somewhat amusing to watch Hillary Clinton as her campaign, once widely thought to be invincible, began to fall apart. Facing the increasing likelihood of losing the nomination to Mr. Hope himself, Clinton took to outright mockery in describing the junior senator from Illinois and his seductive narrative of hope, unity and change.
“I could just stand up here and say ’Let’s just get everybody together, let’s get unified,’” she told supporters at a rally in Providence, Rhode Island. “The sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.”
At this stage of Clinton’s flailing campaign, the move comes off as desperate. With polls showing a likely Obama triumph, the Clinton camp has had to pull out all the stops – including accusing Obama of disloyalty to Israel in the latest Newsweek cover story. Still, we have to admit: she has a point. While Obama’s stump speeches speak glowingly of dramatic change, his policies fail to match up; in fact, his policy positions are, in many cases, barely distinguishable from those of Clinton. And on some crucial domestic issues, he is actually outflanking her from the right.
Of course, there are some positives about the Obama phenomenon. First, he is clearly preferable to Clinton, whose record (in the senate and as first lady) on trade, welfare, gay marriage, the War in Iraq, and media regulation has been horrendous. Obama, a one-term Senator with a background as a community organizer, is far less entrenched in the Washington establishment than Clinton. Further, he opposed the invasion of Iraq and supports some level of diplomacy with Iran, Venezuela and other countries that have typically poor relations with the US.
More important, I think, is the mass outpouring of grassroots support that Obama has received. While I doubt very much that Obama is the vehicle for change his supporters think he is, the fact that millions of Americans have donated time, money and sweat into trying to make this country a little more humane, speaks volumes about the American peoples’ desire for change. This shows the very real potential for more significant social movements to succeed in the not-so-distant future.
And, this happens at a time when the conservative movement, once monolithic in its control of all three branches of government, is collapsing due to poor leadership and a sharp disconnect with the American public on foreign and domestic policy.
These are all positive things. But we lose out by romanticizing Obama’s platform –which is still well to the right of the majority of the public on virtually all of the crucial issues.
Obama and foreign policy
Since the executive branch has far more influence over foreign affairs than it does over domestic issues, it makes sense to begin there. As I noted, Obama opposed the invasion of Iraq from the beginning, But Obama’s record since that vote has been pretty dismal.