Friday, January 04, 2008

Warm Fuzzies, Obama, and McGovern

It seems as if Obama's win in Iowa is giving many people warm fuzzy feelings. See David Brooks' column this morning. I'm not immune to the sentiment. I get warm fuzzy feelings myself when I go to the supermarket and see the diversity of people working and shopping there. Coming from a swan-white rural neighborhood in upstate New York, the idea of people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, races, religions, and sports teams coming together peacefully is great. What cola company did the great ad about teaching the world to sing?


As I promise in my profile, I'm contrarian. I also got a haircut this morning. (Very macho barbershop, not one of these new-fangled unisex shops that have been around for 35 years.) The conversation was mostly about the Redskins amazing run and their chances in the playoffs. The little talk about Iowa showed some male chauvinism, plus a lot of dislike of Clinton, and surprising acceptance of Obama. This is Virginia, the leader of the Old South, but it's also the first state to elect a black governor this century. (Whoops, last century.) We had warm fuzzy feelings when we elected Mr. Wilder Governor. Didn't make him a good governor, didn't make him a bad governor, did make us feel good about ourselves for a little while. But all of this leads me to the question: is it more acceptable to be a male chauvinist than a racial bigot? The answer is neither are acceptable. But while neither sentiment can be openly expressed, except by comics and rap artists, both are still present in society.

I shouldn't deprecate the significance of warm fuzzy feelings. To the extent that people share in them, or simply understand them, we reestablish our image of the U.S. as a good and caring country, open to all. And if the U.S. is good, then its citizens must be good. While the logic sucks, in human terms it's much better to live in a country where people have those images than in a country, like Kenya, which is teetering on the edge of ethnic violence. (Suggestion for Mr. Obama--grab Mr. Richardson and head for Nairobi to try to mediate a settlement--that would be a better campaign move than anything he could do here.) It just reaffirms the old WASP sentiment--some things are best left unexpressed.

Speaking of letting everything hang out, as was the meme in the late 60's, to some extent I'm now reminded of the 1972 election, with Howard Dean filling the role of Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Clinton in the Ed Muskie role, and Obama as George McGovern. McGovern too was all about process--increasing the influence of the people in governance and eliminating the influence of the evil ones, like the party bosses. McGovern too brought hordes of young enthusiasts, even including Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton, to participate in politics. McGovern too had a record that got lost during the campaign. Of course, McGovern's crusade fell short of the White House and would have failed even without Tricky Dick and his dirty tricks brigade.

Fortunately so far the Dems have been able to campaign without splitting the party, and the current signs promise success in the fall. McGovern had a split party, facing a popular President, and little chance of success. And McGovern had proposals which the Reps were able to mock. So I'm hopeful regardless of which of the Democrats becomes the party's nominee.

(To be fair to Obama, and because I always like Charles Peters, read his op-ed in the Post today.)

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