Primary Ambivalence

But Clinton’s LBJ remark reveals something more worrisome than racial tone-deafness – a theory of social change that’s as elitist as it is inaccurate. Black civil rights weren’t won by suited men (or women) sitting at desks. They were won by a mass movement of millions who marched, sat in at lunch counters, endured jailings, and took bullets and beatings for the right to vote and move freely about. Some were students and pastors; many were dirt-poor farmers and urban workers. No one has ever attempted to list all their names.

Barbara Ehrenreich, January 15, 2008

When politicians offer nothing, and the people demand nothing, then the powers-that-be are free to continue doing whatever they choose. The death knell of participatory politics can often be a very noisy, celebratory affair – such as we have witnessed in the call-and-response ritual of “Change!” “Hope!” and other exuberant but insubstantial campaign exercises.

Glen Ford, January 9, 2008

Here’s the “Election Overview: Stats at a Glance.”I’ve been wanting to write this sort of post for some time, but I thought it might be most useful once the primaries were settled. I am thinking that my first big decision is this week, so I need to look over this information now.

I am not in the least bit tempted by the Republicans. I think the party is infected with a kind of criminality that has not been seen since reconstruction. Honestly, somewhere Nixon is blushing. So to me the obvious choice is between Senators Obama and Clinton.

One good source of data is, which tracks the money for all of the candidates, from the House to the President. I’m not sure it helps me decide which Senator to pick, though.

One place to start is the “Election Overview: Stats at a Glance.Obama’s dramatic sounding claim that he will refuse all PAC money turns out to be less that it seems, since PACs have contributed only about 1% of the total money in the Presidential campaign.

The PAC percentages are reported here by Capital Eye. Senator Clinton raised “$748,000 from PACs, or less than 1 percent of her total receipts.” This more than the leader among the Republicans, Senator McCain, “at $458,000, ” also, “a little more than 1 percent of his total.”

Here’s OpenSecret’s table of major educational contributers. It’s not surprising to find that the majority of these schools give their money to the Democrats. One predictable exception is the Apollo Group, whose holdings include the University of Phoenix.

None of that is going to help me pick, however. My favorite writers also seem split along these lines. Barbara Ehrenreich mistrusts Senator Clinton, for example, because of her history of top-down, wonk politics. It’s hard to disagree.

The progressive Black writers at Black Agenda blog mistrust Obama’s opportunism. Glen Ford, has described what he calls “Obama’s descent from vaguely progressive rhetoric to shameless pandering (to whites) and vapid “Change!” mantra nonsense.” It’s hard to disagree with that too.

I hope that the primaries settle the issue cleanly; otherwise, there’s real potential for problems. I have to be stay skeptical, though, given that neither candidate is substantively progressive, even if the election of either if them will be a progressive landmark. Is it possible to become more progressive in office?

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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