Wednesday, March 5

Believing in Change for the Wrong Reasons

As a resident of Pennsylvania in the front-loaded primary season I have, and still do have, a lot of time to decide who gets my vote. This is a very special occasion because, as an 18-year-old, this is the first time I can vote. I could not have predicted a few years ago that in the Democratic race there would be a half-black man as the presumptive Democratic nominee. For those who fill in the same ethnicity bubble on the SATs as I do it is an opportunity to elect a president who may change perceptions within our country.

However, as I learned more and more about politics I began to wonder how progressive Barack Obama would be. He has been running on the promise to simultaneously transcend partisanship while also changing America. What is most striking about this rhetoric is its similarities to that of Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was a very pronounced centrist and also promised to rise above the divisions of partisanship. This was not surprising due to his role as the spokesman for the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The DLC’s most prominent goal is to move the Democratic Party into the realm of Reaganism. By his own admittance Clinton’s policy was focused on the needs of Wall Street and not the working man. This is obvious in his economic policies, which contributed to the dotcom boom and bust and the growing pay inequality between CEOs and employees.

The DLC has been churning out “centrist” politicians that were supported enthusiastically during the 2006 election simply because of the D in front of their names but now have earned the ire of democrats. The most local example is the primary defeat of Al Wynn in Maryland’s 4th district. Donna Edwards ousted him riding a wave of grassroots support run by voters who voted for Wynn but found that he was in effect a Republican.

Presumably this DLC style of governing is what Obama means by “transcending politics.” It appears that way if one looks at David Cutler, Jeffrey Liebman and Austan Goolsbee, his three financial advisors. Cutler and Liebman are from the Clinton administration and Goolsbee, Obama’s main advisor, comes from the University of Chicago. Cutler writes about incentivizing the healthcare industry as a way to improve care. Liebman has endorsed the partial privatization of Social Security. Their influence shows in his subprime plan. Obama hasn’t called for a moratorium on foreclosures or a freeze on interest rates, both policies that help people stay in their homes.

Recently one of the most important liberal publications, The Nation, came out in support of Obama. Throughout the election this same magazine has been bemoaning the lack of diversity in the policy of Clinton and Obama. Its writers have picked sides and have been hurling articles at their peers (the same battle has happened on the pages of this newspaper). The most striking thing about the endorsement is that it was not based on policy. “[We are]critical of the senator from Illinois for his closeness to Wall Street; his unwillingness to lay out an ambitious progressive agenda on healthcare, housing and other domestic policy issues...” prefaced the assertion that despite all of these flaws he is the candidate most likely to build a coalition and work with congress.

It baffles me how supporters of any of the Democratic candidates remaining can really expect meaningful change. Voting millionaires into our presidency is not a formula for change. Having right wing advisors is not the formula for change. The real agents of change are those that don’t have to announce it; if you really want change look at candidates that rely entirely on the people to run their campaigns. The corporate money Obama receives has strings attached. Wouldn’t you rather have the common man pulling strings than Wall Street?

Ron Paul is a candidate that is able to compete with his corporately funded opponents but is dismissed by the corporately funded media as “un-electable.” Dennis Kucinich was funded entirely by grassroots support but was similarly dismissed. The same people that denounce these candidates fail to explain how Paul and Kucinich continue to be elected to the House of Representatives year after year. The corporately run media never mention how they predicted Rudolph Giuliani to be a major force and how he was beaten handily by Ron Paul in several states.

When discussing politics I too often hear “I like Candidate X, but I’m voting for Candidate Y because I don’t want to waste my vote.” Prior to his withdrawal I was a supporter of Dennis Kucinich but hesitant about voting for him for the same reason. I had resigned myself to voting for the lesser of two evils. While listening to the Green Party debate I heard a statement that changed my outlook on politics. A candidate mentioned the lesser of two evils conundrum and stated “just don’t vote for evil.” I’ve made the choice to start my voting career by not voting for evil.

Cynthia McKinney is the first African American female congresswoman elected to Georgia and an ex-Democrat running for the Green Party. As a six-term member of congress she amassed a consistent voting record. She voted against the Iraq War, but more importantly voted against the Gulf War in 1991. It’s not enough to just be against the Iraq War; meaningful change is a candidate against all wars of imperialism. She has also voted against funding the war despite the false assertions by other Democrats that somehow that would translate to troops with no armor or weapons in battle. McKinney introduced articles for impeachment against George Bush and passed legislation preventing the sale of weapons to human rights abusers. Isn’t that change you can believe in?

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