A small portrait of the translator

November 4, 2008 @ 0:32 UTC

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Barack Obama, John McCain
Media & Internet, Activism & Protest

The hours are winding down to the final day of polling and the resolution of the long campaign of almost two years.

It has been a grueling and exacting course for the candidates and their campaigns. They will I suspect be both pleased when it is over. Someone raised the question as to whether they were saints or narcissists and concluded that they were both saints - but that was satire.  Both have displayed, as you must running for president, extraordinary stamina, in particular 72 year old John McCain. Equally, the physical demands been placed on Barack Obama. From Wednesday, the winner will have to take up the heavy lifting required to get the United States - and perhaps the world, at least the global economy - out of the hole dug by the Bush years. ( I think there is no question who is the better of the two alternatives.)

Despite the resort to the Bush-Rove smears by the McCain team, and the appeal to the “authoritarian personality” as described by John Dean, it is encouraging to witness Republicans on the street, perhaps not fully articulate, but excessively emotional. One person said if equanmity and a smile that were Obama to be elected he would be her president. One supporter at a McCain rally contented himself by yelling out “socialist” as some emotional code with no reference meaning. Any concept of social democracy is we are to suppose lost on Americans.  Joe the Plumber, and the cast of working class job descriptions, excluding Jesus the Carpenter, gave evidence of an exotic vocabulary.  It was he said “surreal” to be mentioned in the final debate, and something like Obama  views were contrary to the “ideology of democracy”.  Sarah Palin performed her parrot role with distinction - which qualifies her for a role in Monty Python, not President of the United States. She is now set to be America’s very own Pauline Hanson.

Obama will have won without joining McCain in the political sewer, and credit to him for that. In retrospect, I suspect that his 30 minute political ad that amongst other issues highlighted health care, especially for those uncovered, will be seen as the political master stroke. It is salutary to observe, how in The Guardian video, people who cannot afford health insurance can so blithely support the Republicans. Marx, of course, had already observed such “false consciousness”. And Karl got a run as well in this election, but that was the race where ignorance won by country mile.

Reflection and self examination do not seem to have any value in the greatest nation on earth. John S McCain, in the final moments of his campaign, echoed Hilary Clinton, that he too was a fighter - not merely a bomber pilot leaving a trail of wreckage. He was, he declared, coming back (from where?), and he could tell from his long experience of campaigns that he was going to win. Tell that to the marines. Go tell it on the mountain.

To his critics, omega man, Barack Obama, is “less than a perfect man”. Alexander Cockburn, fails to be impressed by the promise of a “transformational leader”.  He observes:

“Obama invokes change. Yet never has the dead hand of the past had a “reform” candidate so firmly by the windpipe.

“Is it possible to confront America’s problems without talking about the arms budget, now entirely out of control? The Pentagon is spending more than at any point since the end of World War II. In “real dollars” – admittedly an optimistic concept these days — the $635 billion appropriated in fiscal 2007 is 5 percent above the previous all-time high, reached in 1952. Depending on how you count them, the Empire has somewhere between 700 and 1,000 overseas bases.

. . . “If elected he will be prisoner of his promise that on his watch Afghanistan will not be lost, nor the white man’s burden shirked.

“In the event of Obama’s victory, the most immediate consequence overseas will most likely be brusque imperial reassertion.

“As a political organizer of his own advancement, Obama is a wonder. But I have yet to identify a single uplifting intention to which he has remained constant if it has presented the slightest risk to his advancement. Summoning all the optimism at my disposal, I suppose we could say he has not yet had occasion to offend two important constituencies and adjust his relatively decent stances on immigration and labor-law reform. Public funding of his campaign? A commitment made becomes a commitment betrayed, just as on warrantless eavesdropping. His campaign treasury is now a vast hogswallow that, if it had been amassed by a Republican, would be the topic of thunderous liberal complaint.

“In substantive terms Obama’s run has been the negation of almost every decent progressive principle, a negation achieved with scarcely a bleat of protest from the progressives seeking to hold him to account. The Michael Moores stay silent. Abroad, Obama stands for imperial renaissance. He has groveled before the Israel lobby and pandered to the sourest reflexes of the cold war era. At home he has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines. He is even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain, and has been the most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists. He has been fearless in offending progressives, constant in appeasing the powerful.”

Others do not share such a bleak, if accurate, view. For example, David Kaiser observed:

The other night, in a remarkable interview, Rachel Maddow asked Obama if he had any second thoughts about becoming President at this moment in history, with so much going wrong, and he turned the question on its head. No, he replied, this was the kind of moment of which people in public service should dream: the kind of era in which they could make a real contribution. Asked at one point to describe the difference between Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, both of whom he had known, the British philosopher Sir Isiah Berlin said that FDR radiated more than anything else a great joy in his life and work, and JFK, a sense that every morning offered a chance to do great things. Obama, it seems to me, is closer to JFK in that regard, but he has something of the FDR touch as well. He has established his lead with a mixture of inspiration, organization, and steadiness of nerves. I feel rather astonished that the United States has managed not only to produce such a man at this moment in history, but to bring him to the threshold of the White House.

I tend to believe that the interests of the working class will be better served by an Obama presidency, despite the campaigns constant appeal to the middle class. There is a moment in the video at The Guardian, where people from a African American housing estate are been given a lift to vote, often it seems for the first time, which applies to people in their fifties, when the young woman observes, “actually we are not middle class”.

And yet Obama has changed campaigning, in part reflecting the role of the internet, not least you tube, but particularly by the “ground campaign”, which has been running for as long as the campaign. I suspect that you cannot win the office, without been beholden to the supporters and the donors, which have come as always from the big end of town, but also from wallets of the small donors. I suspect that this local participation model not only gives candidate Obama with reach, but as president with a political activist base. We will have to see how that plays. Ashley Sanders, for one, is not so easily convinced.

The election coverage for most people, I suppose, is that provided by television. “Fake” News continued their diet to the afflicted, who can thank ex-pat Rupert Murdoch for their infortainment. Obermann, Stewart and “Colbare”, some of whom were comedians, gave the no-holds coverage. Established funny man, Letterman was jilted by contender McCain, who latter explained he screwed up, he got the wrong mail, or rather he got the “dear John” letter early in the season, and was not required in Washington as he thought. Rachel Maddow emerged as a liberal lighthouse, a success that was a surprise, but could not be argued with.

Others will be better able to describe these changes, even developments. The talking heads continued ad nauseum, so much for the 24/7 news cycle.

The internet in the form of news blogs, for example Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall), The Huffington Post, Truthdig and others, provided coverage in direct competition to the mainstream media. The New York Times, which I think performed well in the Democratic Primaries, was challenged in quality by these new voices.

The internet provides an audience of intrusive people from distant countries holding the peculiar notion that they too have a stake in this election, and now have a voice, if not a vote. To my knowledge, The Guardian provided the best election coverage. People with British accents could be seen at polling places interviewing, while been told in Florida to keep away, only to respond that behavior would be fully acceptable where they came from.

On a personal level, I would listen to the radio news programs, only to hear reports of events, that I had already read, seen or heard about already.

So it goes. And now, with twenty four hours the final polling will begin. Now for the queues, the voting problems, the voter suppression, and all the hallmarks of the greatest democracy on Earth.

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