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Where's the Manchurian Beef? - De File
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Where's the Manchurian Beef?
In reading the latest in a series of incisive critiques, thanks to ankh156, of French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- a man who seems to inspire good sentences, if not good policies -- it occurred to me that much of the trepidation people in the United States feel with regard to Barack Obama's campaign for President has to do with the fact that he represents a new generation of political thinking. Although Sarkozy falls squarely within the span of the American Baby Boom, he goes out of his way to appear younger than he actually his. Some would place Obama, born in 1961, within the tail end of the Baby Boom. Personally, I think that date qualifies him as someone caught between the Baby Boom and Generation X, as the differences between his reception and that of Hillary Clinton suggest. The fear, I believe, is that the Obama who is running for office might, like Sarkozy before him, struggle to translate the call for a break with convention into political results.

Roger Cohen had an interesting editorial in The New York Times yesterday in which he sought to ease fears in the American Jewish community that Obama, because of his worldly upbringing and personal experience of Muslim cultures, might constitute a "Manchurian candidate" where Israel is concerned. I agree with Cohen that such worries are baseless. But the notion that Obama, once elected, might turn out to be a lot different than he presents himself on the campaign trail is harder to dismiss. Indeed, I have the sense that many Americans, myself included, are hoping that he will turn out to be a bit of a "Manchurian candidate" where issues of social and economic justice are concerned, someone who really will try to shake up the establishment by turning the hope he constantly invokes into practice. I'm sure that's a major reason why he's raising so much money from small donors. Unfortunately, however, reflection on the recent history of American politics suggests that someone who can raise money as effectively as Obama has may not be able to transform himself from a receiver into a giver. If he is elected and that turns out to be the case, the analogy to Nicolas Sarkozy will seem more apt than it does now, when Obama supporters are flush with the prospect of proving the Establishment wrong.

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e_compass_rosa From: e_compass_rosa Date: February 12th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
A friend recently told me about a meeting that Obama had with Edward Said before Said's death. Obama and his wife had dinner with him, and then had their photograph taken together. Apparently, Obama later requested that he be removed from the image before he went and met with AIPAC to pledge his support to Israel. I'm not sure that the American Jewish Community needs to worry about him.

And, I really have deep doubts that he will turn out to be that Manchurian Candidate, especially if you look at who his advisers are. I'm not saying that there are not aspects of his candidacy that are exciting, just that he is in most senses a corporatist (and imperialist-oriented) mainstream democrat. Is that better than Bush? Yes. Will I vote for him? Only if I have to (i.e., if CA is not likely to go Democrat).
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 12th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
They make a big deal about how Sarkozy and his confidantes insist on using "tu" instead of "vous" in formal settings, implying that the biggest change he represents might be a break with linguistic convention.

American politics has been filled with rough-hewn words since Andrew Jackson's day, so the sort of change Obama claims to stand for would have to be of a different -- if you'll pardon the Lacanian pun -- symbolic order.

I agree that Obama seems pretty mainstream. But the idea that he might have kept a copy of that image you mention in which he hadn't been erased -- or that he was content to have his wife remain in the shot, if that's the case -- is precisely the sort of thing to inspire both paranoid fantasies, whether negative -- seeing him as a stealth candidate hostile to traditional American interests -- or positive -- seeing him as someone who will approach conflicts like Israel-Palestine with a fresh approach.
From: babyiwasshot Date: February 12th, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm sure that's a major reason why he's raising so much money from small donors. Unfortunately, however, reflection on the recent history of American politics suggests that someone who can raise money as effectively as Obama has may not be able to transform himself from a receiver into a giver.

Elements of my father's ideology will seep into this, but I've got to say it: america is in no position to give because america is broke and entering a state of recession, which is Bush's fault. Then again, I don't trust the private sector to disseminate money to those who need it (because they won't), so it seems as if there's no other option but to incur more debt funding social welfare programs INITIALLY; in the long term, however, these programs will translate into economic recovery.

libertarians are wrong on SOCIAL economics: the clintons (democrats in general) know how to manage the economy of a GOVERNMENT; their track-record proves it.

Fuck it; I switched from the obama camp to the hillary camp based on the odd parallels between the economic state of the country when bill clinton was elected (compared with how it was when he left office) and the economic state of the country NOW, with hillary trying to get elected.

and, yeah, the economy is my main issue given that I'm feeling (at least I think) the repercussions of it's current state in relation to university departmental funding/POLICY.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 12th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You may be right. It's interesting, though, that Obama has managed to attract the interest of some big-money Democrats who share your concerns. I imagine that he would do more or less what Hillary would do, once elected. The question is which one would do it better.
From: babyiwasshot Date: February 12th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The partisan argument in support of his candidacy is very compelling, but I was attributing it to an ability to reconcile and reach bipartisan compromise, which may not be the case. He attracts moderates, but what does "moderate" really mean in this country; the more I think about that, the more convinved I become of something I thought a while ago: "moderate" is a term that softer-core republicans (some of whom are still nominally democrats) use to dissociate themselves from the party in the wake of the Bush administration's ignominious tenure.

Again, it's all about the economy for me because--the arguments of raymond williams notwithstanding--I think of society in marxist terms; the superstructure is a reflection of the base. Social policy is determined by economic policy; widespread prosperity usually leads to positive social change when it comes to a close (e.g. the prosperity of the 50s, when combined with an inciting incident like vietnam, gave rise to the reforms of the 60s)....

Speaking of generations, I've always wondered--given certain parallels between vietnam and iraq, and even the fact that my generation is often referred to as the "echo" baby-boom--why 2008 is nowhere near identical to 1968 and I think the answer boils down to one thing: the draft. Without fear of death, nobody pushes hard enough for social change. Vietnam TAUGHT the government this; like some bacterium, it became immune to civil unrest elicited by imperial conquest....it's a goddamn organism--a malignant one (so maybe "virus" is a better word than bacterium)
From: babyiwasshot Date: February 12th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

intersting sidenote

a means of parsing the meaning of the word "moderate" would be to gather a group of professed moderates together, take data on their social/economic views and then compare them with hardline/party doctrines.....my hypothesis: moderate=socially liberal and fiscally conservative; in essence, a "softer" republican, which is a demographic that I think Obama is almost customly tailored to.

.....i should've majored in sociology
(Deleted comment)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 12th, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think I'd place him there too. Kim certainly identifies as a Gen-Xer and she was born in 1962. But there's a lot of literature that pushes the far end of the Baby Boom to 1964 or even 1966.

I definitely have issues with Hillary because of her Boomer-ness, that sense of smug condescension she projects towards Obama when he's speaking in a debate.

At the same time, I'm wary of jumping on the bandwagon of Hillary bashers, because I think there's a lot of sexism contributing to the way in which she is judged, not least on the Left.
tommix From: tommix Date: February 12th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Regarding Obama's ability to raise tremendous amounts of money:
Obama money is from grassroots support -- tons of small donors who can give again and again, like me -- and he's not taking PAC or lobbyist money.

I totally disagree with this:
"he is in most senses a corporatist (and imperialist-oriented) mainstream democrat"
How is this the case? What proof do you have of this?

I understand that Obama is not the populist that Edwards was, but I don't care about the phony populism that Edwards' espoused.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 12th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I mentioned the small donors. Personally, I'm not going to call him corporatist. But I do think that he's trying very, very hard to appear as a centrist, which naturally leads him to articulate positions that disagree with my own. That's sort of what I was trying to get at, the hope I perceive by many on the American Left that Obama -- or Hillary, for that matter -- would turn out to be more progressive after being elected President. Of course, that hope is what Republicans will latch onto in campaigning against him -- or her -- as they try to turn it into fear like the Nixon people did in 1972 with George McGovern.
tommix From: tommix Date: February 13th, 2008 01:03 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
But "imperialist oriented?" That seems like a crazy stretch. I mean, Obama was a community organizer and a civil right lawyer. Clinton was on the board for Wal Mart. That's corporate.
pissang From: pissang Date: February 13th, 2008 03:56 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Les jeunes gens souffrent moins de leurs fautes à eux que de la prudence des vieillards.

Young people suffer less from their own faults than from the prudence of old people.


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