a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Neither of the above — for now

Posted by Thomas Nephew on February 4th, 2008

With Edwards out, I’ve been looking for reasons to favor Obama over Clinton or vice versa. It appears to me by now that I’m being presented with a choice almost designed to cost me the maximum amount possible for my support.

Hillary has built a more progressive domestic agenda — crucially, a truly universal health care plan, but also a better subprime crisis plan. But sadly, she’s built that on the foundation of a vote she thought showed good judgment about Iraq back in 2002 that she still won’t acknowledge was a mistake — a mistake in judgment, at minimum, about the definitiveness and seriousness of the WMD case, and a mistake in judgment about the probity of those trying to sell that case. A mistake so serious it handed Bush a war costing thousands of American lives, on the order of a hundred-fold more Iraqi lives, largely guaranteeing his political wins in 2002 and 2004, and handing him numerous excuses to shred our Constitution. (A mistake, in all candor, that I made too. But I’m not running for president, let alone on an “experience” pitch.).

Barack, meanwhile, seems to be balancing off his early Iraq opposition with all manner of rhetoric and dog whistles designed to appease, mollify, and echo the right on Reagan, on Social Security, on religion, on health care, on an expanded military, on all those mortgage deadbeats, to name a few, and with politics so determinedly centrist he endorsed Lieberman over Lamont in ’06, among others. And I realize this makes me a bit of a sourpuss, but I feel like I’m watching a remake of the “Pied Piper” story when I see videos like this. “Yes, we can,” la la la. Yes we can what? Yes, we can has warm fuzzy feelings, a tear in our eye, a (comparatively) weak health care plan, and Joe Lieberman over for tea and crumpets once a week.

And yet — here goes the inevitable caveat — don’t get me wrong. Either Obama or Hillary are miles better than any of the Republican alternatives — especially on issues of executive power, if not on the equally fundamental one of how to punish overstepping power by impeachment. Both of them at least give lip service to turning towards diplomacy and consciously trying to restore our country’s reputation overseas. Both seem to have decent plans about global warming, nuclear nonproliferation, and securing nuclear weapons — the really existential issues they must tackle. I think either of them are likely to appoint better cabinet members and Supreme Court justices — knock on wood — than McCain or Romney. And while they give themselves wiggle room, more American troops will be out of Iraq sooner with either of them than with “hundred years” McCain or Romney. So come the fall campaign, I’ll support either one on the phones, on the streets, in the fields, and on the beaches.

However, that will mainly be a choice against the Republican Party — which has enabled and given its full-throated support to one of the worst, most unforgiveable presidents in history… perhaps the worst. Regardless of my reservations about the Democratic Party, the Republicans deserve to be annihilated at the polls for their role in the past eight years this November.

But that’s not the choice I have next week.

And so, here in Maryland on February 12th, I’ll be supporting… John Edwards. I don’t care that he’s not running any more. I don’t care that “throws away” my vote by conventional reckoning. I do care that my primary vote means what I want it to mean, and not an endorsement of one of the surviving campaigns over the other — when both have done their level best to make it mean no more than necessary. Call it a protest vote — or call it a reminder vote: that both Clinton and Obama can do better.

NOTES: “subprime crisis” — The Nation, January 2008; “Reagan”– YouTube video, January 2008; “religion” — Paperwight’s Fair Shot, July 2006; “health care” — Ezra Klein, February 2008; “like this” — YouTube video, February 2008; “securing nuclear weapons” — Obama, April 2007. The other links lead to supporting posts on my “newsrack” blog.
UPDATES, 2/4: In fairness to Clinton, Obama, and their dedicated supporters, here’s a more positive “it’s hard to choose” assessment by Ezra Klein. Also “in fairness,” Kevin Drum‘s explanation why he’ll be pulling the lever for Obama — it nearly convinced me to back Hillary in the primaries after all, see what you make of it. Yes, it’s an election “fer chrissakes” — that’s when you don’t burn our bridges to universal health care, not when you do demagogue mandates.

6 Responses to “Neither of the above — for now”

  1. julia Says:

    Aw geez.
    Kevin Drum’s overly affected by what pundits think, he’s offended by nuance but not by concrete plans, he thinks people who are are unhinged even though they’re right, and he’s willing to roll the dice for the people whose lives are at stake.
    That’s so… new.

  2. tom Says:

    I understand, Thomas. But then again Edwards may not have been all he was cracked up to be either. As Feingold said, Edwards ran as a progressive, but he didn’t always act that way in the Senate.

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    That’s true. But I see no major change from 2004 when he ran on pretty much the same kind of stump speech and platform. I tend to believe he’s changed his mind +/or is going more from the heart on some of those things. Anyway, we can’t all be right 100.000% of the time like Mr. Russell Feingold.
    I will say Edwards kind of pulled the SocSec rug out from under me in the SC debate, saying he agreed w Obama it needed fixing. (I mean, I don’t disagree there’s a potential problem 30 years out, but that surely puts it on a back burner compared to other things — plus that “30 years out” has tended to be the word for the last 10 years or so.)
    I will also say that I realized I was kind of pulling for Obama as I was watching the returns — maybe just to stave off the “Groundhog Day” feeling I sometimes get with the Clintons. (“Babe…. I got you babe.” That would be a fairly mean video for someone to do.)
    ADDENDUM: So why do I give Edwards a pass on things, and not Obama? Good question. Some of it is that Obama’s errors (IMO) are more recent, but I ought not require 100% correctness of him either.

  4. janinsanfran Says:

    Having just gone through the same conundrum (Edwards quitting; remaining choices seeming both good and flawed) in California, I’ll be curious to see where you land when push comes to Maryland. 🙂

  5. Thomas Nephew Says:

    OK! (Where did you land? … Aha: Obama, with a vow to stay on his case.)

  6. » Blog Archive » Voting for Obama Says:

    […] I last held forth on my likely Maryland primary vote, I wrote that I’d be supporting John Edwards because both […]

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