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MLK Day & An Oddity of Politics - A Recovering Physicist's Apology

About MLK Day & An Oddity of Politics

Previous Entry MLK Day & An Oddity of Politics Jan. 21st, 2008 @ 04:51 pm Next Entry
I find in odd that when Hillary Clinton (whom I have no fondness for whatsoever) pointed out that the civil rights movement needed both the charismatic grassroots movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. AND the political actualization of the Civil Rights Act signed by LBJ, she was strongly criticized. Though she said it in a flippant way that seemed to downplay the role of Dr. King, she was speaking of a basic democratic truth. The civil rights movement required a fundamental change to the government itself that could have only happened through internal reform or drastic overthrow. I am of the belief that the grassroots movement forced the government to sign the Civil Rights Act, but, regardless of which influenced which more, both sides were needed. I believe that is what Mrs Clinton was suggesting.

So I was particularly surprised and disappointed with our media when Barak Obama spoke favorably about Ronald Reagan. I realize Obama (whom I also have no fondness for whatsoever) was stating a fact that Reagan fundamentally changed our country. This is true, of course. Reagan took us off the noble course laid out for us by FDR and Kennedy. Reagan did his best to ruin the nation (there'd be no G.W. Bush without Ronald Reagan). But I digress. Obama spoke of Reagan with a kind of breathless enthusiasm that the Giper unified the country because people were desperate for change as if Reagan was a great president who enacted glorious revolution. This "interpretation" of Reagan is delusional and upsetting in itself, but what really irks me about this whole thing is this, while signing the bill creating Martin Luther King Day (a bill he opposed), a reporter asked Reagan if Dr. King was a communist. Reagan, in his typical lovably 'ohhh grampa!' racist way, responded, "we'll know in 50 years when his FBI file is opened." Reagan also described King as a "near-communist". In a time when calling someone a communist was akin to calling them a terrorist today. So where was the outrage with Obama's choice of heroes that we saw with Clinton? Anybody? Anybody?

I'm not suggesting that the media went after Clinton because she was white and Obama is black, I think it has more to do with the fact that we are well on our way to making Reagan a saint. And talking about how he called Martin Luther King Jr. a COMMUNIST doesn't jive with our image of St. Reagan. This frightens me to no end. I have a friend who was talking about how great Reagan was so I laid out an outline of why he wasn't: debt, trickle down economics, illegal breaking of unions, blatant ignorance, fear peddling, war hawking, Iran Contra, radical conservatism, the whole forests produce more CO2 than a factory, etc. My friend listened closely nodding his head that all of this was pretty bad, and then responded, "Yeah, but he was a good president!" I suppose the deification of Reagan is inevitable and in our current political climate makes sense, after all, Ambrose Bierce defined a saint as, "A dead sinner revised and edited."
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From:stovelkor
Date:January 22nd, 2008 10:51 am (UTC)
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Obama clarified his comments on Reagan in tonite's CNN debate. He wasn't so much gushing at Reagan's views and ideas as at his ability to bring together so many people for a common cause, which is what he, Obama, is striving to do. At a time when Democrats were not doing too much Reagan inspired not only Republicans, but Independents and Democrats to rally behind him. That's all he was really saying. The parallel he wants to draw is that he wants to be the anti-Regan, being a Democrat who will forge a new direction and unite not only Democrats, but Independents and Republicans together to get there.

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From:biggrumpy
Date:January 23rd, 2008 12:27 am (UTC)
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Having heard Obama clarify his remarks, it sounded a lot like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. I realize that Obama thinks he wants to unite the country for change but there are a lot better examples of unifiers from history than Reagan. So I don't buy this "I was just saying..." argument from Barak. It is far more likely Obama was trying to get votes in California (where Reagan is still popular) by gushing about Reagan, and assumed no one would call him on it. It just makes more sense that he was whoring for the vote in California than talking (favorably at the time) about a man who unified the country for all the wrong reasons and did all the wrong things. Had Obama really wanted to make the point he could unite us for change he would have picked a leader that he also believes in, an actual positive example.
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From:stovelkor
Date:January 23rd, 2008 09:44 am (UTC)
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http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/politics/blog/2008/01/clintons_are_lying_about_obama.html

man, I've never heard anyone with such hostility to Obama. I kinda don't get how, even if you don't agree with him, you can feel that way. he really HAS changed how politics are being conducted in the US for a change. but anyway, watch the clip again and listen to what he says, and more importantly how he says it. you're kinda acting like (as you're fond of saying) he's got his tongue in Reagan's ass. it's pretty far from that. it's more objective and historical in tone than, ohmygod, what an amazing unifier Regan was! He mentioned Kennedy, too, after all.
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From:biggrumpy
Date:January 23rd, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
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He hasn't changed how politics is being conducted he has changed the RHETORIC of politics, and even that is now falling apart. The Clinton's are hitting him hard (leave it to the Dems to do the Rebublicans job for them -- another parallel to Reagan when the Dems destroyed each other in the Primary which helped issue in the "unified" Reagan election). Barak is reacting very poorly to the attacks, which if he can't handle the Clinton's attacks do you think he will be able to handle the Republican Noise Machine?

Just because he talks about this grand new vision for America doesn't mean HE has one (which HE doesn't, when you look at the other two Dems). What is so annoying to me is that people think that there is a difference between Edwards, Clinton, and Obama in any substantive way (http://politics.nytimes.com/election-guide/2008/issues/index.html#/cont). They all have the same exact views with the same exact plans and take money from the same exact people! It's a matter of rhetorical difference only. For all his talk that the Republicans "were the party of ideas for a long chunk of time there", you would think that he would have a single idea that makes him stand out from the other two top tier Dems, instead of all of them just saying the same think differently:
Obama: "I believe that we can change and do X!"
Clinton: "Bush is bad, and I have the experience to do X!"
Edwards: "My father worked in a mill, so I'll fight hard so that we can do X (because my father worked in a mill)!"

They all want the same things, and none of it is particularly insightful!

I'm really disenchanted with US politics right now. I hate the media for not point out that they are the same candidate with different rhetoric. I'm really really negative towards the main stream candidates right now. To Barak's great credit, he made a statement about Dennis being excluded from the MSNBC debates. Of all the main stream candidates I like Barak the most, but he is still part of the problem with the Democrats rather than a solution. I am watching Dennis get buried so that we can make more room in the debates for Cerberus or Ghidorah (for my Japanese cultural readers). And I want real change, not "change" as a brand name like "support the troops" is a brand name that means nothing. And looking over Barak's policies, he isn't really for Change, he is for Change™ just like Clinton is for Change™ and Edwards is for (my father worked in a mill) Change™, and hell even Mitt Romney is now for Change™.

And I'm sick to death of it.
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From:stovelkor
Date:January 24th, 2008 08:56 am (UTC)
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I agree their stances are not substantially different; they are all Democrats after all. What is different about Obama is his ineffable ability to inspire people, which is just as much of a leadership quality as anything else. You can have all the great ideas in the world, and without that aura around you that turns something on in people to flock to your banner, you can accomplish nothing. It's the reason I can never be a leader. I just don't have it. If I could just control everything, I think I could make the world a better place. But in reality, leaders have to motivate others to do that work, and for that to happen, they have to believe not only in the work, but in the person directing it. It's the reason MLK was so great. There were plenty of Civil Rights activists working on many different front, so why was he special? He had that special quality that truly inspired people. It's why Kucinich, with all his ideas (which I agree with even more than Obama's) has never had a shot at the presidency. Fair or not, people take one look at him, his demeanor, his style and they don't take him very seriously. But Obama speaks to people in a very special way and inspires them to want to do more, he gives them hope, and that's why he's special. Even if he never wins the presidency, he' still inspired me. I was very pessimistic about politics in particular and America in general after the Iraq "war" and the 2004 election. But Obama makes me proud to be an American again. As for being sick of change as the buzzword of the moment, you really can't blame the messenger for having his message adopted by everyone else. Again, that's just evidence of how much of an impact Obama's had.

btw, it's Barack, not Barak ;)
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From:biggrumpy
Date:January 24th, 2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
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I realize there is a cult of personality surrounding Barack that people see as the reason he will succeed where others would/have fail/ed, but I think that the argument could just as easily be made that Hillary Clinton would be the best instrument of change because she has a lot of political capital behind her (far more than Obama), or that (probably because his father worked in a mill) Edwards has a tenacity and scrappiness that the other two do not have (because their fathers, unlike Edwards', did NOT work in mills) and that because of Edwards' never surrender attitude he will be most likely to bring about change. Barack sometimes frightens me because he almost makes "compromise" a fetish. There are certain things that you should not compromise. Just as Clinton's straight up Karl Rovian tactics to win at all costs upsets me, and Edwards parroting what he thinks the soul of the dems want to hear (essentially steal Dennis' talking points, but none of his actual convictions) infuriates me.


In Barack's speech after New Hampshire (I believe it was NH) he said that when he is president and he changes health care the insurance companies will not rule the debate, but they will have a seat at the table. And to me that is equivalent to a compromise of first principles, and I get that vibe off Barack that he is willing to sell certain fundamental ideals to "compromise". If you look at the disastrous Democratic Party during the Bush years, a lot of why we are stuck in the messes we are in is because the Democrats simply shut up & laid down, and they called it "compromise". Because Barack's policies are so similar to the other Dems, he is acting more and more like a standard Democrat, and he barely shows up to vote in the Senate anymore, hearing him talk of "compromise" makes me nervous. I've heard that word before, I've seen where it gets this country. I've seen seven years of the Democrats' version of it, and I'm not too thrilled with the results. Couple this with his vision of change which does not take us too many degrees off our present course, and you have somebody that I can't really get behind.

The reason I like Dennis is because he is an unreasonable man, in the sense that George Bernard Shaw wrote, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." And I just see the current Democratic Cerberus as all completely reasonable people. And right now our country needs an unreasonable man more than an orator, the son of a mill worker, or a throughly vetted politician.
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From:stovelkor
Date:January 26th, 2008 01:18 am (UTC)

compromise

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are you serious? Hillary has a better chance at bringing about change? political capital? she's the most divisive political figure of our time. half the country already hate her (not, that I think it's justified, but it's a fact). the republicans would do everything they could to make sure her agenda died a slow, painful death. that's her political capital, the legacy of the 90s. and as we've seen with the Bill and Hillary tagteam show, Hillary represents the old way of politics more than anyone else - the antithesis of change.

one should never compromise one's principles, but in a complex society where people have many different views, compromise is the only way to get anything accomplished. we've had a no compromise right vs. a no compromise left for far too long, and that's why nothing gets done in America. when one side is in power, the other side does everything it can to derail the opposing side's agenda; that's fine in sports, but not in government.

take abortion for example. one side wants to completely ban it. the other side wants it to be free, available 24 hours a day, up to the 8th month and 29th day. is either of these a good way to go? probably not, so what we have in most cases is a pretty reasonable compromise. it's legal to a certain point - X# of months - after which it's not.

i think sometimes with big issues, when you go the extremist way, you make it more difficult to really bring about change. when a lot of people aren't ready for that change, and you try to force it on them, you're only going to create a backlash. but if you compromise a little now, you can soften those people a little, and a little way down the road, people will be more open to change. change can't always be instantaneous; sometimes it works better over a long period of time.

I don't think the democrats have given it their all of late, but I don't think it's entirely fair to say they've laid down. there's still a republican president and their majority in congress is a very slim one. they can pass all the legislation they want, but when the president vetoes it, they've got no further recourse.

the irony in all of this is that your description of the great no-compromise, unreasonable man sums up our current president to a T.
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