Thursday, April 03, 2008

A little politics, perhaps?

Firstly, I’m thrilled that John McCain has won the Republican nomination. I volunteered for his campaign in New Hampshire in 2000, and really believe he’ll make an incredible President (he has to win).

Now, to the more interesting Dems (they’re interesting the way a multi-car pile-up is interesting). It looks like Obama will win the nomination, but only naïve fools will count the Clintons out. I think of Hillary Clinton as the Lady Macbeth figure of American politics, and the “vaulting ambition” of the Clinton couple shows no signs of slowing down.

I also think the Obama guys are out of touch. The Democrats are a party of silos. Groups that don't identify by ideology, but by identity are voting completely independently of each other.So what do you get? Young people, white people, college kids and rich urban liberals voting for Obama; middle-class whites, women, union folks and rural people voting for Hillary. Supporters of each group completely pass each other, like ships in the night, without any knowledge of who they are. This is a problem for the Dems regardless of who wins the primary.

It's actually a two-fold problem. Firstly, it means that there is extremely little substance here, and that all the arguments are superficial and identity related. Secondly, identity fights are much more visceral than ideological fights, so there's much more animosity.

The dems have screwed this up really badly. And this isn't new. Since the 1970s, the dems as a party have been a coalition of identity groups (blacks, unions, gays etc.) while the republicans have been a coalition of ideological groups (social cons, libertarians, free traders, neocons). Sure, there are contradictions in the latter arrangement, but the former is certainly a house of cards. Upset the identity equation just a little bit, and you have all kinds of visceral hatred that results. Upset the policy equation, and you end up with people who have to marginally compromise their beliefs. It's easier to compromise beliefs than identity, which is why you're seeing the republicans coalesce around the McCain campaign in a way you will not see around an Obama campaign if he wins the nomination. If it's Hillary, the situation will likely be much worse.

So, there you have it.


Mike said...

You can count me as one of these Obama Guys, although I'll isolate myself from the Dem moniker.

I don't think Clinton's been counted out by most Obama supporters. The political reality is that media buzz about Hillary's impending doom surely puts more pressure on her than keeping up the charade that somehow her win would be acceptable to the other half of the party.

I think you're right on the nature of identity politics, but I'm not sure I buy that identity plays such a deep role in this democratic primary. While much of their broad policy stances give little room to debate, what differentiates them is best described as their management styles. I think one big draw to Obama is his frank, open attitude - its appealing to a large sector of voters that feel disillusioned by politics. Its refreshing in this political kibuki we've grown accustomed to. I think this makes Hillary is a lot of people's third choice, while I don't think the same can be said about Obama.

Hillary has the weight of party line democrats that will work to support Obama should he be nominated. They may see him as an untested upstart, but they'll still show up to the polls to check off the blue box. Obama's base is too young and generally disenfranchised to feel any obligation to head to the polls for Hillary. I also don't think Obama scares enough republicans to drive their participation like Hillary does.

Balaji Raghothaman said...

Hi Vijay,
Good to see back. Coincidentally, I posted something on my blog after a long pause....

ganeshan said...

yes i also could feel the same .the great debate also shows how bold john is.and also making it tougher for obama to make a go and he looks a little nervous during the debate.

Sreevysh Corp

Karthick said...

Hey Vijay, I agree with you. If Obama wins the election it will be a critical situation for many contries.



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