Water Man Spouts

Friday, June 06, 2008

Unconventional Behaviors

{1} Unconventional Politics

I recently spoke with a friend who expressed frustration at the path that Senator Hillary Clinton has taken in the democratic presidential primary. She said that Senator Clinton’s behaviors suggest that she "only cares about herself." I understand why many good democrats and progressives on the left feel this way. This has been a long and often harsh primary season, and at this point, most democrats would like some resolution to the issues that threaten to divide our party. But it is important for us to recognize that Hillary Clinton does not actually only care about herself – and once we do this, we can then identify what is the actual cause of the unconventional behaviors that we are witnessing today.

Even Senator Clinton’s harshest critics should be objective enough to recognize that the central issue of importance to her in her political career has been a form of social justice that includes health care. Hillary’s approach may be different than my friend’s, because of of the two is a product of their own unique experiences. But they also share common ground: my friend, who is a bit older than Senator Clinton, helped make programs such as Head Start a reality for families in this country, and no one can doubt that this is exactly the type of program that Senator Clinton advocates.

My friend is a Lakota, or Sioux. Thus, her world-view includes seeing the children in Iraq as being equal in human value to children at any place of any time in human history. Her greatest frustration with Senator Clinton has to do with the vote on the Bush plan to invade Iraq. More, there is a concern that Senator Clinton may have been prone to continuing the policies of President Clinton, that caused so much suffering for the children of Iraq.

{2} The Art of Party Politics

The mainstream media continues to portray the Obama vs Clinton contest as primarily a struggle between individuals. More insightful journalists have identified it as battle between two factions for control of the national leadership of the party. If we view this in the limited manner of a fight between individuals, Senator Clinton is mistakenly viewed as a narcissist who risks destroying the party’s chances in November for purely selfish reasons. When we recognize that there is something much larger going on beneath the surface issues that the corporate media reports, then and only then do we begin to get an accurate picture of what has taken place between November of 2007 and today.

Struggles for control of the democratic party is not "new." In 1960, for example, Robert Kennedy was the driving force behind electing his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and thus taking control of the party. In 1976, Hamilton Jordan masterminded Jimmy Carter’s election, allowing another group to take control. And in 1992, Bill Clinton was able to take the party’s leadership. In each case, the new president’s ability to exercise control and pass legislation was based on their ability to coordinate efforts with the other groups within the party.

Around May 20, in keeping with the phenomenon of news being reported on the Democratic Underground before being covered by the corporate media, I told DUers that Representative Rahm Emanuel had been tasked with telling Senator Clinton that she would need to accept the decision of the Rules & Bylaws Committee, regarding Florida and Michigan. If she opted to contest it, numerous supporters in Washington would stand down, and the super delegates would endorse Obama after the June 3rd primaries, putting the contest beyond her reach. I said that she would end her campaign on June 6.

After the RBC meeting, a couple of journalists noted that Obama had taken control of the democratic party. Indeed, Americans watching the RBC hearing saw a contest between two distinct groups, with a third group siding with the Obama forces. However, in keeping with a long line of media failures, the corporate media refused to take this event a step. Let’s take a minute to look a bit closer at what happened, and how it is playing out today.

{3}Political Power

The word "power" comes from the Latin root "posse," which mean the ability to do. Political power is simply the ability to accomplish goals. As First Lady, Hillary Clinton attempted to accomplish her goals for health care. Her failure can be traced to her inability to get other groups, including congressional democrats, to support her efforts.

Some of President Clinton’s accomplishments resulted from his ability to coordinate efforts with others, including republicans. Perhaps the most important example was his damaging habeas corpus by uniting conservative republicans to accomplish this.

After losing the 1980 democratic primary, Ted Kennedy would become the nation’s most accomplished Senator by uniting a large base of democrats in Washington. He also worked closely with republicans on the Hill to exercise power.

Senator Clinton is today facing an important decision. She has lost the primary contest. She has to decide if she wants to return to the Senate; to try to become the Vice President under Barack Obama; or accept a position as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services, where she could accomplish her goals in health care.

This decision involves her goals as an individual, as well as her position as representative of a large group within the democratic party. While the Senate is a powerful institution, it is possible that her position would be of diminished capacity to exercise influence should she return.

There are key people within her group advocating that she use her strength to become vice president. Publicly, the face of the efforts to get her on the ticket are Representative Charles Rangel and Lanny Davis; behind the scenes, Bill Clinton and Harold Ickles are calling the shots.
But Hillary Clinton’s career has been focused on human service issues, such as universal health care. By working with the Obama administration, she would have the political power to accomplish her goals in this area.

{4} The Fourth Way

Barack Obama’s unlikely rise to national political power is the result of his ability to unite distinct groups in American society. He has united the grass roots (aka "net roots"), black Americans, and the Kennedy branch of the democratic party. This coalition is unique in recent political history.

The 2008 democratic primary featured other unique events. Besides the contest between two of the usual groups of the party, this primary was a historic event, because it featured a black man and a women. For the first time, these two important groups within the traditional democratic base had a candidate representing their interests.

The republican party is, of course, hoping to be able to exploit the passons of the groups who sided with the Clinton campaign against Barack Obama in the primary. The republicans are like a pack of hyenas, looking to tear away democrats from the outside of our party.

Those in positions of party leadership recognize this potential danger, and are thus applying pressure on Senator Clinton to rise above the more limited interests of her wing of the party, and to unite with the Obama campaign. This is unlikely to lead to her being selected as VP on the ticket. Instead, it will mean her accepting an offer to serve as the head of Health and Human Services, which holds the promise of her being able to accomplish her long-time goals of universal health care, and other important services for families and children in America.

As we approach this important weekend, keep these concepts in mind


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