Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Final Frontier

This post’s title is probably hyperbolic. Frontiers always recede – they become moving event horizons of transformation and self-discovery, as Frederick Jackson Turner taught us Americans. So declarations to the effect of, “Now they’ve/we’ve crossed the last line in the sand, beyond which there’s no turning back” – or some such – are pretty much always simply a way to grab attention… a rhetorical exclamation point.

With that qualifier, it does feel, well, rather striking that the Obama campaign and its handmaidens in the media have been reduced to protesting protests, to demonizing demonstrations, to sneering at the capacity of a candidate to inspire lots of people to show up somewhere – and, astonishingly to equating a march in favor of counting votes with a riot aimed at blocking them.

After all, this is the “movement” whose primary – essentially only – claim to fame and legitimacy was and is that it could mobilize armies of supporters to show up at caucuses, at rallies, at Yes-We-Can chant-ins. Were the caucuses undemocratic? That’s not the point, we’re told. The point is that this showed Obama’s savvy and new-politics mojo – that he could move armies of young things to show up and dominate (sometimes in fairly, er, domineering ways) these events. If Hillary didn’t grok that opportunity, we’re smugly assured, that that proves she isn’t smart enough to be the nominee.

This is one index, among many, of how, as the campaign has continued, its emotional dynamics have shifted. Hillary’s supposed lack of inspiration has somehow inspired millions of people to donate, to campaign and especially to vote. To the point where, when you look at the whole campaign, it turns out it’s Hillary, not Obama, who has benefitted from large electoral turnouts. To the point where she is going to wind up with the majority of the popular vote – as the result of blowouts long after everybody with a broadcast tower and most of those with a blog have declared her obviously, laughably, blessedly dead. To the point where the tonality of two campaigns now forms a stark contrast – between hope (delusion, its opponents claim) among the Hillarybots and rage among the Obamacans.

As I argued a couple of days ago, the viciousness of that rage is now rising to Nuremberg-rally decibel levels. It’s everywhere you turn on the lefty blogosphere. I’m not even talking about the usual suspects – the Great Orange Satan, TPM, the spittin’-mad Avarosis. Check out the comments in response to Joan Walsh’s last column at Salon (and these are after she went through and cleaned out the “filth” – her description, and entirely accurate). Look at how the boyz (and, sadly, some of the girlz) over at Misogyny Spewing National Broadcasting Company are flogging the shibboleth that Hillary incited murder.

This is nothing more and nothing less than a sexist version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – making stuff up that provides the pretext for murderous disgust. Did I hit her, your honor? Okay, yeah… but you have no idea how she provoked me. She doesn’t listen!

But that’s not the point of this post. My point here is that the two campaigns have switched roles – and in the process, the entire premise of Obama’s has disappeared.

As Somerby says, our press corps’ current master is the Obama campaign. We actually have the smoking emails. But even if we didn’t, the total absence of any serious attempt at uniting – or any ideas about how one would go about attempting that – is undeniable. The silence is deafening. If he or Axelrod or Daschle or Brazile or anybody else has the first idea about how to reach out and pull the party together, you’d think they would’ve been going about that for awhile now.

This is the great uniter? This is the great hopemeister? This is the guy and the movement that is going to forge a new consensus among enemies? This is the guy who’s gonna bring the insurance companies… the jihadists… the Republicans… the Chinese… you name it… to the table and forge a new paradigm? This is the representative of the idea that you can disagree without being disagreeable?

Mr. Hope and Change? These days, not so much. Now it’s more like Mr. Rulz… Mr. Gaffe… Mr. Run Out the Clock.

And the Hillary forces… dead-enders? If so, there sure are a lot of ‘em. In fact, more of ‘em than he has any likelihood of gathering – as all the polls show. Obama’s arguments re November come down now to: “Well, you can’t predict a GE outcome from primaries.” Not especially persuasive – and certainly not inspiring.

If this is hope – hope that’s supposed to sweep the nation and the world, and render boring policies and actual knowledge irrelevant – it's pretty fragile and, well, hopeless. In fact, isn’t it clear that the vitriol being spewed at Hillary is largely a defensive reaction to this dawning recognition? Why else would they need to blow this non-event out of proportion – indeed, to promote it? That’s right, the Obama campaign has engaged in an aggressive promotion of the idea that he might be offed – merely in order to be able to claim that Hillary is doing so.

It’s perfectly obvious why. It’s really uncomfortable to see the Emperor’s New Clothes start to fade. And the more people start to see that – see reality, rather than the narrative du jour – the more strident the assertions of that narrative have to become. Hillary’s perfectly appropriate and within-normal-bounds campaign has to be turned into the Greatest Evil in Human History… Beyond the Pale of What Anyone Has Ever Said or Done... in order to explain the collapse of their own campaign’s raison d’etre. She has to be declared literally soulless, because it couldn’t be their own shallowness and weakness that’s at fault. The she-devil made them do it.

The GOP and corporate lobbyists and jihadis and all of them? We can unite with them. But this spawn of evil and her on-the-rag legions of crazed minions (about 18 million of them, at last count)? No, they’re “beyond the pale.”

A year from now, nobody will be able to remember what exactly it was that they found so entrancing about Obama. He will have blown away with the first nor’easter, and the recollections of the campaign will be one version or another of, "You had to BE there, man. I can't explain it to you. It was, like, this whole hope thing..."

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