Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Politics

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm ambivalent about art and politics served on the same plate, but I'm quite passionate about both. And I'm a red (and this has nothing to do with red states, either).

When I resurrected my poor neglected blog recently, I thought about streamlining it to the extent that I just talked about painting and racing, leaving out my digressions into politics (and jazz, for that matter). But certain stories get me worked up, and I just can't resist comment, so "No Hassle" readers are just going to have to suffer a bit of dilettantism.

One of my closest friends asked me this morning if I was planning to watch tonight's Democratic debate, and I answered with my customary, "no." In past experience, these things quickly devolve into preposterous discussions of "character," and even more frustratingly into discussions of the social issues that have replaced class issues as the distinguishing difference between right and left. Abortion and stem cell research are real-enough issues, important issues, but have absolutely supplanted topics like labor protections, consumer protections, and strategies for lifting people from poverty, providing affordable housing, and providing access to higher education. This process, maddening as is, becomes easy enough to understand when you look at who the Democrats get their campaign funding from: except for the unions (or what's left of them) they get money from the same people that fund the Republicans; they just get less.

All that said, I'm throwing my lot in with Obama this year, even though I'm tempted to put in a protest vote for Nader. I went ahead and promised the afore-mentioned friend that I would tune into the debates tonight (are you reading this, Flo?), because the details of each candidate's health care plans will allegedly be aired out. Also, it seems that John Edwards surprisingly frank discussion of the "Two Americas" forced Clinton and Obama, at least for a while, to address class issues. I think that's probably over now that Edwards is out of the picture, but we'll see.

There were two recent stories in the Times which I can essentially guarantee will not be addressed tonight, even in rhetorical fashion: last week, Brookings issued the findings of a study which linked class mobility to education in fairly concrete terms. A person born in the bottom fifth of the income scale in America has a 19% chance of moving into the top fifth if he or she has a college education, and a 5% chance of doing so without one. Today a story was published about Brown university's rollback of financial aid to poorer students, which followed similar moves from the other Ivy schools. This is a simple recipe for entrenched, generational poverty, which could easily be addressed at the federal level (we're able to find $10, 000, 000, 000 a month for Iraq, no?).

And a couple of parting shots about the effect of political parties on democracy:

Yesterday, Geraldine Ferraro had an opinion piece defending the so-called "Super-Delegates" right to turn the Democratic nomination over to Hillary. Her sophistries about how the primaries did not actually represent the will of the people were chilling enough, but this quote had the distinct aroma of fascism: "But the superdelegates were created to lead, not to follow." Big Sister is watching.

And the litany of voices who blame Ralph Nader for the Bush administration were stirred up by Sunday's announcement of his candidacy. Here's Ralph, responding to the charges (as articulated by Tim Russert) that he is culpable for the last seven disastrous years:

"Not George Bush? Not the democrats in congress? Not the voters who voted for George Bush [though] they were democrats? In Florida; 250,000 of them? You know, I wish you’d have Al Gore on this program someday, Tim, and ask him, why did you not become president in 2000? And I think what he’s going to tell you, is that he did win Florida, but it was taken from him before, during and after the election. In Talahassee: Catherine [Harris], Jeb Bush; all the way to that terribly politicized Supreme Court decision. But the political bigotry that’s involved here is; that we shouldn’t enter the electoral ring, we, all of us who thinks the country needs an infusion of freedom, democracy, choice, dissent, should just sit on the sidelines and watch the two parties own all the voters, and turn the government over to big business."