Now that Senator Barack Obama has secured the Democratic nomination, his supporters are beginning to discover (gasp, sigh) that he's a politician after all--and one who is apparently given to labeling his flip-flops as compromises.
His opinion on NAFTA has swung back and forth often enough that even the candidate admits that it's all a little confusing:
He gave Hillary Clinton quite a dressing down during the primaries in the Rust Belt for having once supported NAFTA, a treaty Barack called "devastating." Obama said he'd use the threat of withdrawal from the treaty as a "hammer" to wring concessions out of Canada and Mexico. And sure, his top economics aide told a Canadian consulate official on the QT that Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric was "more about political posturing than a clear articulation of policy plans."
But that only shows how hard it is for Obama to find aides who are as farseeing and honest as he is. Well, yes, the candidate did acknowledge to Fortune magazine last week that he now views NAFTA more favorably and wouldn't seek to renegotiate its terms. And yes, he did say, "Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified." But, oh, the way he employs the passive voice! It's not that he pandered to or misled the voters. No, the rhetoric got overheated. Who else, I ask you, can so smoothly deploy the passive voice?
His support of the compromise (can you say, "Sell out"?) on telecom immunity from the FISA scandal has sent even our friends at Delawareliberal into a spiral of wondering just what the hell is going on. The best comments:
donviti: "very, very, very disappointing. Basically, if the President breaks the law, asks a corporation to break the law and then says I know I broke the law but I’m the president and I can do what I want for security reasons. Wow, Crown the King baby, our democracy just ended."
jason330: "A Barack Obama in office is worth much more than the satisfaction of my sense of liberal purity."
pandora: "Here’s what I do know… Obama is a million times better than McCain. Does that mean I approve of all things Obama? Of course not. What it means is that this entire conversation is for naught if Obama doesn’t win."
I do not cite these comments to criticize my liberal Democratic friends for continuing to support their candidate when he does things they don't like--in fact, my read is just the opposite--and again I'll quote pandora:
Okay, I’m hardly idealistic. I used to be, but then I suffered through eight years of Bush. I hate the FISA compromise, that being said… I’d hate living under President McCain’s “plan” for this country even more.
Here's my point: Libertarians could learn a lot from the people who have figured out Obama is imperfect and continue to support him anyway.
Let me try rephrasing that last quote for you:
Okay, I'm hardly idealistic. I used to be, but then I suffered through eight years of Clinton and eight years of Bush. I hate the fact that Barr has waffled on gay marriage and the drug war, and that he's got a history of changing some key positions, that being said . . . I'm going to hate living under President Obama or President McCain's "plan" for this country even more.
Is some of this starting to sink in?
In search of the perfect candidate (which, by the way, did not exist in the LP this year, no matter how much some of you may have adored Mary Ruwart) and the unsullied pedigree, too many Libertarians have threatened to pick up their toys and go home.
And they are missing the biggest opportunity that any and all third parties have had in decades (and, yes, I'm including Ross Perot 1992 in that) to throw a monkey wrench in the decadent, corrupt, pseudo-two-party system in a fashion that just might serve the cause of American liberty.
Premise One: The election of either John McCain or Barack Obama means--from a Libertarian perspective--little more than business as usual. McCain will continue corporate giveaways, stay in Iraq, and keep turning a blind eye to the steady erosion of the US Constitution. Obama will engage in massive transfers of wealth, has mortgaged himself to the military/industrial complex for bigger defense budgets, and intends to increase the Federal government's influence in your life to a level not contemplated since George McGovern.
Like pandora, I see a difference between the two. Unlike her, I see both as equally destructive to American foreign policy, the American economy, and the individual liberties of American citizens--if in completely different ways.
Conclusion One: That being the case, the best we can do as Libertarians (in concert with other third party movements) is mobilize to throw the entire Demopublican monopoly electoral system into chaos.
Bob Barr has already done that in Georgia; in tandem with Michael Munger he's doing that in North Carolina. Ralph Nader is accomplishing something similar in Michigan.
We have in our hands this year the opportunity to leave the two-party system in a shambles, and at the same time to deny either President McCain or President Obama the patina of legitimacy he will need to carry out the worst of his plans for destroying American liberty and harming the American republic.
This is a real Saul Alinsky moment:
Think of your senses, Alinsky taught. If you've got power, then parade it so your enemy can see it. If you've got numbers but no power, think of your ears and make a lot of noise. And if you've got no power and no numbers, the least you can do is make a stink!
There are those on Libertarian blogs who spend time ridiculing Barr for his positions, blithely ignoring the fact that he has publicly repudiated his own previous position on the war on drugs, called for true diplomacy with Iran, challenged the willingness of both Obama and McCain to wave bye-bye to the Constitution, and on down the line....
If you can't support the man (and even as I write this I am forced to admit that the man strikes me as cheesy), support the positions he's taking in this election, and support the first real opportunity to stick it to the Ass and Pachyderm in years.
The only reason that the average American voter has accepted the asinine proposition that only the Democrats and Republicans are entitled to provide them with their presidential choices is because (allowing for the carefully rigged system) they've never really been aware of an alternative.
Let's make election night a real nail-biter for all those apparachiks who for years have given us only the choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledumber.