June 2008 Archives

Obama Mamas and Papas

Obama Mamas.jpgYesterday, in the spirit of the Obama campaign's attempt to organize "Unite for Change" neighborhood parties across the country, we gathered with some of our neighbors for an "Obama Mamas and Papas" party. Thanks to Jim and Gloria Leous for organizing and hosting the event. Three of the Obama Mamas are pictured here (from left to right: Gloria Leous, Valerie Long and Linda Erickson).

Although I have been a bit frustrated by the way the campaign has moved more squarely into the mainstream since winning the nomination, I am keenly aware that such a move toward the center is necessary if Obama is to win in November.

My frustration is does not concern the decision to pull out of the public campaign financing system -- I argued in February that he should opt out.  Rather, it has to do with the way the mainstream of the democratic party is now beginning to bring its influence fully to bear on the Obama campaign. So, for example, Obama has embraced Jason Furman, a close ally of Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's former Treasury Secretary, both of whom privilege free market principles over labor interests and the need for stronger economic regulations of Wall Street.

Also, Obama seems to be backing off a strong stance he took against the Protect America Act of 2007 which was to amend FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act). He is now supporting a compromise passed by the House which puts an end to the Bush's use of warrantless surveillance, although it does grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that helped facilitate the illegal wiretaps. This is a case, I think, of Obama's politics of compromise: he will take this even though he recognizes that it is not everything he would want. Although I have problems with the compromise legislation, I think it is probably the right thing for Obama to do.

Something Obama said to his campaign staff on a video the campaign sent to supporters has stuck with me. It helps explain some of the recent moves they have been making.  Obama said, "we don't have an option now ... because we won [Iowa and the nomination], we have no choice, we have to win."

I am as confident now as I have always been that Obama will do what he needs to do to win this election. I have never fallen into the misguided camp that believes that Obama is naive and inexperienced. Now, we see, he is ready to do what needs to be done to meet the Republican challenge at every turn.

A Small World

KorbinianChrisFreiburg.jpgFREIBURG, GERMANY - I have been struck during my short visit here in Germany by the way the world is at once made smaller by the internet and yet remains also somehow large enough that what concerns people here is rather different from what concerns us currently in the United States. 

I feel the world smaller when I am able to access all the information I would have at home easily over the internet here in Germany. I can still read the New York Times, the Centre Daily Times, Slate.com. I still have access to all the feeds to which I subscribe through Google Reader. I can even talk to and see my family. The world felt small when I skyped with my Mom upon my arrival, and then, later, with Val, Chloe, Hannah and Choo Choo Nana. To be able not only to talk to them, but to see them, made the distance disappear. 

I feel the world larger when I see the real differences between the German and the American academy, when I sit in a cafe and am not rushed out, when time slows, when I hear the city cheer each goal in the European Football Championship (Europa Meisterschaft). 

And yet, the sense of excitement is not unlike that we feel in State College when the town swells with football fans, and so I am left, ultimately, with a sense of how similar we are, how small the world has become.

Note: The above picture was taken in Freiburg of me with Korbinian Golla, the graduate student who spent a year studying and working with us at Penn State this past academic year.

18 Million Cracks

Over the course of the last few months, I have been very critical of Hillary Clinton's politics. However, now is the time to recognize the powerful significance of her candidacy for the presidential nomination, to reaffirm the importance of electing a woman president of the United States and to express gratitude for the ways in which her continuing to campaign into June has made Barack Obama stronger candidate by forcing him to extend the roots of his grassroots organization into many more states.

Her speech on Saturday was poignant, beautiful and graceful.  I could not help but think of Chloe and Hannah when she said:
Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.

I have been very disappointed and angered by the sort of misogyny that she had to endure throughout her campaign. From references to "Billary" to lewd nutcrackers, to men yelling "Iron my shirt," to the sexist comments by commentators like Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, we have witnessed an embarrassing display of destructive and hateful misogyny. 

To read more about this, see these articles: 

There is something deeply significant about my daughter Chloe's reaction when Val showed her, earlier this year, pictures of all the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Presidency. When she saw Hillary Clinton's picture, she said, "I want her to win."  Chloe saw something there, something I want to affirm for her: there is someone who looks like me, a strong, confident, highly qualified woman, running for president.  

So, it is time for me, so long critical of what I still think of as a misguided political approach, to express my admiration and gratitude to Hillary Clinton for the courage she had to compete for the office of the presidency and for the 18 million people who voted for her.  

Let us not forget the unfinished business her candidacy has left us.  As a reminder of the long road still ahead, I leave you with this chilling montage put together by the Women's Media Center. 

The Moment

00235_thebluemarble_1920x1200.jpgSo much, of course, can be said about the significance of Barack Obama's capturing the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States.  I simply want to mark the moment by appealing to a single line from the speech he gave in Minnesota on Tuesday:

... this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal ...

I was surprised to find myself moved most by this fragment of a very inspiring speech. Perhaps it is in part because the book I am writing, The Saying of Things: The Nature of Truth and the Truth of Nature in Aristotle, has developed into a study of how human-being exists as a natural being in and with the world of nature. 

Although I am thrilled to see an African-American receive the endorsement of a major political party, and I do not think the significance of this aspect of his candidacy can be overemphasized or celebrated too enthusiastically, still it continues to be the sort of politics Obama articulates that moves me most.  His is not identity politics, but a visionary attempt to transform the nature of politics in the United States.

As I read today of how the U.S. Senate is determined to drown the climate debate in a flood of words designed to foster inaction, I look forward to a President who is willing to use words to transform the way we live in and with the world. 

As Obama takes up the mantle of the Democratic Party, my hope is that he does not set aside the transformative politics that won him the nomination in the first place.  I remain, as ever, confident that he will not.

UPDATE, 8:19: If this story from the AP indicating that Obama has instructed the Democratic National Committee not to take lobbyist money is any indication, my confidence is well founded. 


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