Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wednesday Morning Open Thread

John Edwards' new "Hair" video -- h/t to commenter SteveK.

There's a lively discussion going on down at my "You Call These Candidates?" post, so I thought I'd put up a few of my thoughts and comments about it, and start a new thread.

The conversation prompted me to think a little more deeply about my own personal criteria for a Democratic candidate. What it comes down to for me is this: I believe, based on my own understanding of history's ebbs and flows, that we're at a major historical inflection point -- a time when both the overwhelming need and the intense social pressure required to create transformative change are building up behind us. The last time this happened was in the mid-1930s: compare the world of 1932 with the world of 1947, and you'll get some idea of just how revolutionary the next 15 years are likely to be.

We cannot go forward as we have. We absolutely need to get off carbon-based fuels -- not just for the sake of global warming, but also for the sake of our own peace and prosperity. And this, in turn, will demand further revolutions in economics, politics, transportation, food, health care, and infrastructure. We are also (not coincidentally) dealing with deep shifts in the structure of the American Empire abroad -- changes in the way our power flows, and the way we exert influence on world affairs. I'm not ready to predict that the empire is falling, but 9/11 showed us, in the most brutal way possible, that it's definitely overdue to be re-built on different relationships and principles. And we're beginning to struggle with the idea of becoming a social democracy, bringing ourselves more in line with the other (often more successful) industrial countries of the world.

What this means is that our next president absolutely, without fail, needs to be somebody who's capable of envisioning and leading us through a period of transformative change. Specifically, I'm looking for candidates who can demonstrate that a) they understand the nature and scope of the changes we're up against; b) they're not afraid to entertain brave -- even radical -- solutions for those problems, even if those solutions threaten the status quo; and c) that they're tough enough to keep pulling against the worst kind of opposition (because the champions of the status quo are going to fight very nearly to the death before they consent to change), and -- preferably -- whose links to the keepers of that status quo are thin and few.

Which is why I don't think Hillary is our girl. Bill Clinton was a great president for the safe and secure 90s; but the last thing we're going to need going into this wild era is more triangulation and continued caving in to corporate demands. She's the corporate class's bought-and-paid for cheerleader, which means we can pretty much count on her not to do anything that will upset that order. For all her adoration of Eleanor Roosevelt, she's really short on "the vision thing" that Eleanor had in spades. We're looking for someone who can lead us into a new era -- and she's made it clear it's not going to be her.

Obama may be a somewhat better bet. He's young, he's brash, he's not taking money from PACs (though God knows he's got corporate backers enough -- they all do) and he knows how to lead from his heart and tell a new kind of story (which is one of the hallmarks of the kind of leader you want in times of extreme change). My deepest concern about him is simply his youth and inexperience. The magnitude of change we're about to navigate requires someone with extraordinary levels of cunning and experience -- someone who knows how the sausage is made, and where the skeletons are buried. And I don't believe Obama's been around long enough to know that. Hope he gets back to us in 2016, though.

Which is why I'm backing Edwards. He understands that the next president needs to be creating structural changes that are going to gut the health insurance companies, put the oil industry on notice, and reconfigure the economy in ways that allow for a middle class to re-emerge. He's the only one who talks like he sees the issues we face clearly; and is willing to say, right out loud, what needs to be done about them. As a trial attorney, he knows how to play rough when necessary. And he's been around the Washingtong cesspool long enough to know where the pipes run, and how to turn things off and on.

Which, of course, is why he's behind the pack. The corporate class -- and their lapdog media -- are terrified of him, precisely because he is willing to talk openly about changing their status quo. (The big tipoff here was when they started making fun of his haircuts -- that's an insult they only reserve for candidates they're genuinely afraid of.) The big money has piled up behind Clinton and Obama because they really, really don't want Edwards in power. Which, right there, is a sign that those of us who want real change should be paying attention to him.

Unless, of course, Al decides to step up. He's really the FDR for our generation -- the one who's got what it takes to lead us through this era of change and bring us out safely on the other side. We know it. I hope he knows it. It's not even about what he wants or what's most comfortable for him; it's about this moment in history, and what is going to be required of us. Jesus didn't want to make the sacrifice, either -- but he made it anyway. The cup has come to Al Gore; our future will be poorer if he refuses to drink from it for his own sake.

Commenter PSG asked how we get our hope back. Augustine had the answer, I think. He said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”

The way we get back to hope is through her daughters, anger and courage. As long as we have those two, hope is not far away.