Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A CAMPAIGN BECALMED

It is against the journalist's code of ethics to say so, but the presidential campaign has become incredibly dull. Over the past few weeks, the candidates have become becalmed, drifting in the electoral ocean, sails flapping lazily, awaiting for nature and history to cause something to happen.

Actually it has. We're on the verge of war with Iran and the banking system is collapsing, but neither candidate has much to say on these topics. Instead the hope huckster lectures the NAACP on how to raise their children and his opponent struggles to find some justification for his existence since he was a prisoner of war.

Part of this is just the shift from primaries to general election, the former being a sort of personnel interview while the latter usually demanding some attention to actual issues. Neither candidate, however, is inclined to take on the challenge. They see their role, after all, as being life's great commercial break.

The increasingly timid Barack Obama is still ahead in the polls and electoral vote count, and may benefit even further by the heightened turnout of several constituencies. But given the incompetence of his opponent and the disaster of his presumptive predecessor, he should be doing far better. Among his problems, he clearly prefers the pulpit and op ed page to the street corner and the union hall. Further, his rapid decline from patron saint of change to faint patron of the status quo does not bode well if he does get elected.

Obama not only offers little hope of restoring the Constitution, he is not even the anti-war candidate he pretends to be; he just wants to switch its primary locale from Iraq to Afghanistan. His hubristic, pompous approach to matters political are already becoming tiresome. Democrats, after all, are meant to put their views into legislation, it is traditionally the conservatives who prefer endless cliches. And, though he speaks of change, Obama has yet to come up with any really good examples and, though he is considered eloquent, his enthusiasts rarely offer a quotation in support of this contention.

Obama has already alienated some of his own constituency for his indefensible position on telecom immunity and electronic spying. But trouble is arising elsewhere as well, witness this from John Bresnahan of Politico:

"After a brief bout of Obamamania, some Capitol Hill Democrats have begun to complain privately that Barack Obama's presidential campaign is insular, uncooperative and inattentive to their hopes for a broad Democratic victory in November.

"'They think they know what's right and everyone else is wrong on everything,' groused one senior Senate Democratic aide. 'They are kind of insufferable at this point.'. . .

"One Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, compared the Obama campaign unfavorably to President Bush's administration.

"'At least Bush waited until he was in the White House before they started ignoring everybody,' the aide said."

So, once again we are forced to fall back on the wisdom of the father of famed Democratic operative Jim Farley who told his son, "Just remember, behind every Republican president, no matter how good, are other Republicans, while behind every Democratic president, no matter how bad, are other Democrats." Of course, Jim Farley's dad didn't have to put up with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Still, with the Senate Democrats possibly picking up as many as nine seats, it is at least possible that Obama's absurd notion of post-partisanship may be in for a justifiably bumpy ride.

And boring as the campaign has become, it may be better that way. The great danger in waiting is an attack on Iran before the election instituted by either Mad King George or the equally pathological Israeli government. We can not expect either Obama or the Democratic leadership to take steps to oppose or block such a move.

In the end, it is the strength of issues and not the candidates that will matter. Jacques LaRoche in the DMI Blog notes that, "After the Great Depression, Americans were fervently pushing for change. Socialist activist farmers in Kansas were fighting for workers rights, Alabama was rife with progressive communists, the general mood was progressive. Faced with such overwhelming popular support for social change, Roosevelt was forced to enact the New Deal to appease the masses and quash the rising power of rival political parties."

The uprising over Obama's betrayal of the Constitution in the FISA matter is a small example of how this can happen. The right - which has managed to infect a fear of gay marriage, abortion and peace into virtually every mainstream candidate of either party - has shown that you don't have to be elected to produce change. You do have to make it painfully obvious what it is you want.

It's not so much about satisfaction with your electoral choice, of which you really don't have much. If you're rational you will be unhappy but can always take a barf bag to the polls. It is about making the important issues unavoidable to those the system foists upon us and giving some positive direction to their endless capacity for political cowardice.


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PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

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Your editor has been a musician for many decades. He started the first band his Quaker school ever had and played drums with bands up until 1980 when he switched to stride piano. He had his own band until the mid-1990s and has played with the New Sunshine Jazz Band, Hill City Jazz Band, Not So Modern Jazz Band and the Phoenix Jazz Band.

NOTES ON THE MUSIC

Here are a few tracks:

SAM SMITH'S DECOLAND BAND

'SHINE' 

JELLY ROLL

PHOENIX JAZZ BAND

APEX BLUES   Sam playing with the Phoenix Jazz Band at the Central Ohio Jazz festival in 1990. Joining the band is George James on sax. James, then 84, had been a member of the Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller orchestras and hadappeared on some 60 records. More notes on James

WISER MAN  Sam piano & vocal

OH MAMA  Sam piano & vocal