The Politics of Hope and Fear

Yesterday, one of my students asked why I moved to Scotland. I told her that Scotland holds the promise of positive change for me — America has already gone off the rails, and I don’t know what I can do. Here in Scotland, things aren’t so bad yet. I feel there’s space for me to make a difference here, however small it might be. This is a country where the future might be better than the past.

But during the last few months, there’s been a shift. For the first time in my adult life, I felt I could finally relax — a little bit — about the future of my own country. The campaign of Barack Obama inspired me, and gave me hope for a brighter future. His overwhelming grassroots success allowed me to release the breath I didn’t know I was holding. For the first time in my adult life, I felt that I might be able to return to my own country someday.

That brief moment of untarnished hope has now vanished, replaced again by a cold, watchful fear. As we approached the crucial March 4th primaries in Texas and Ohio, the campaign tactics of Hillary Clinton became ever more cruel, nasty, and divisive. By spreading lies and rumours to discredit Obama in the days before the primary, Clinton has proven that truth means little in her quest for power. By feigning doubt about Obama’s religious beliefs and making him appear “blacker” in a television ad, Clinton has appealed to racism and religious intolerance rather than unity and decency. By ranking his “experience” not only below her own, but below that of their mutual Republican foe, Clinton showed where her true loyalty lies: not to country or party, but to the pursuit of her own power.

The mainstream media has lapped it up, of course. Conflict sells. One candidate represents honour, integrity, and respect. The other represents deception, corruption, and ruthlessness. Like oil and water, they will not mix. Clinton has shown she’s willing to play dirty, and like schoolchildren on the playground, media and Republicans have circled to egg her on. I have no doubt that Obama is strong enough to withstand her attacks — but is America strong enough?

Just as Obama’s message of hope and empowerment has brought out the best in people, often getting involved in the political process for the first time, Clinton’s tactics have brought out the worst. There have been widespread reports of Republicans voting for Clinton, simply to divide the party. There have been allegations of vote fraud in Ohio, where voters have been turned away at the polls after absentee ballots were sent in their names, without their consent. Even if these acts have nothing to do with the official Clinton campaign, they follow its ethos and attitude perfectly. Without any outside help at all, Clinton herself is doing a very good job at dividing the party, and the nation.

And now there are news reports that Hillary Clinton is “hinting” at a shared ticket with Obama. For weeks she’s been attacking him, mocking his approach and his supporters, spreading lies and malicious rumours…. And now she wants to work with him? She knows she can’t get the nomination on her own, so she hopes to simultaneously discredit and take advantage of Obama’s groundswell of support. I fear that most Americans are not sophisticated enough to see what’s happening, with the media distortion and fearmongering and lies. We’ve become a nation that has trouble seeing the truth — and Clinton is taking advantage of our weakness to keep us dependent and fearful, rather than reminding us of our strengths to empower and emancipate us.

This, more than anything else of the past few weeks, has turned my dislike of Hillary Clinton into outright disgust. So I’ve begun to fear for my country again. Hillary Clinton will not go down without a fight, and I fear she’ll take America with her. The cracks that she opens with Obama will be dangerously inviting to those who wish to tear the country apart for their own gain — including, apparently, the Clintons themselves. I’m not sure our weary national flesh, weakened by the continual abuses of the Bush administration, can survive another rape.

I hope the momentum that Obama has built so far will continue to grow, and continue to inspire Americans who will not be fooled — and I hope it will be strong enough to withstand the assault of dirty tricks and treachery on the horizon. This is only the beginning of a very ugly struggle, and I hope my country can make it out the other side in one piece. As the world stands on the brink of looming crises wrought by our arrogant lifestyles and beliefs, the next few months in American politics could be a tipping point in the global struggle for transformation — for good or ill.

Certainly, something has changed in me. After a brief glimpse, dreaming, of the distant morning, I’ve awoken again to face the dark and dangerous night ahead. I hope we can survive until sunrise.


    • Dhenz
      13 April 2015

      Obama has no idea what he’s going up against cnillehgang the Clinton machine. His unfavorables will soar once Hillary’s surrogates get done smearing him .and given that he has yet to face any serious opposition in any of his previous runs for elected office, it’s unlikely he’ll know how to effectively respond when his back’s up against the wall. Obama is definitely a factor in this race, but Hillary is still the frontrunner, much as it pains me to say it. John Edwards has some built-in advantages, but I suspect the immigration issue will be his achille’s heel. Edwards will be walking a tightrope right away as he tries to simultaneously court favor from the industrial unions that dominate Iowa’s caucuses and the service unions that dominate Nevada’s caucuses. The latter demographic wants lawless immigration policy the former does not. And even if Edwards threads that needle, he has a broader immigration problem in that his likely support for comprehensive immigration reform directly conflicts with his primary campaign theme of reducing domestic poverty. If comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality, poverty in America will increase .and increase substantially. Edwards will have a big problem trying to talk his way out of that double-edged sword.While there is tremendous (and legitimate) worry among Democratic voters that Hillary is unelectable nationally, her well-oiled machinery is likely to be as ruthless as George Bush’s was in 2000, all but guaranteeing her the nomination and crushing any obstacle that stands in her way. I’m already convinced that Obama will be on the receiving end of the same hit job that John McCain was in 2000, only at the hands of Hillary. However, the bloodthirsty spectacle that BushRove got away with in 2000 will not be as successful for Hillary, further staining her hands.But barring a Giuliani nomination on the Republican side that would ensure a third-party challenge from the right and put every Southern state on the table, Hillary and Obama would both be defeated in November 2008. If the Republican nominee is Romney, McCain, or any number of second or third-tier GOP contenders, I can’t see a single red state from 2004 turning blue. Iowa or Colorado could conceivably tip blue for Obama (though it wouldn’t be enough for him to win), but neither of them would tip for Hillary. Both candidates would likely lose a couple of blue states to either McCain or Romney.As for the GOP field, I think their safest bet, based on my limited knowledge of his political profile, is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. With George Allen and Bill Frist out of the way, he’s the only Republican in the race who seems capable of averting the GOP civil war, bridging the chasm between the values voters and the robber barons. Gingrich and Brownback would be too scary to the Greenwich, Connecticut, crowd and the party’s campaign coffers would suffer for it. If I was a Republican activist, I’d be looking pretty seriously at Huckabee right now.

  1. Leandro
    13 April 2015

    . I agree 100%. But there’s a snag here. And mind you, I mean what I’m about to say to get the wheels colstructiveny turning and thinking.While you blast (rightfully) the dangerous role of basic economic ignorance and the silly expectations therefrom in the voters’ minds in the realm of democratic elections, the hard fact remains that there are many PhD economists, some with popular blogs and web-influence, who are not only partisan Democrats but also ideologically liberal. Krugman is a notable one. Others with popular blogs are DeLong and Thoma. There are others still. Visit Angry Bear and peruse the links on the right column.IOW, despite their sound grasp of basic economics and markets and beyond, the end result is that these professional economists generally support the same candidates and buy into the same rhetoric as many of the very voters you criticize. I think it’s all fine and good for you, or Caplan in his book (which I’ve read), to make this case about economic biases and ignorance and its effects on democracy and voter mentality. I think it’s great to recommend a book like Hazlitt’s. But this doesn’t tackle the larger problem that needs to be addressed:What does this talk about understanding basic econ and markets mean when many PhD economists who have studied well beyond the basic and fundamental tenets of economic thought support the unkeepable promises of candidates and buy into the unrealistic rhetoric that seduces laymen voters?What would a Krugman-like economist say about Bastiat or Hazlitt and the iron clad notions they put forth that they seemingly ignore through their actions? and WHY?In summary, economists who share your view need to start addressing the conflicts with economists who disagree with you before bemoaning the average voter. The average voter is an easy target. Blasting Joe Six Pack for silly views is easy. What to you say to Krugman? or DeLong? or any number economists who agree with them?That’s a book I would buy.

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