Here I come to piss on the parade

March 3, 2008

I’m college-educated, and I’m in my twenties, so it seems as if the rest of my peer group has already told me who I’m voting for this November: Barack Obama. If I don’t, well, I’m probably weird. Obama is a virus in the nicest sense of the word — you just can’t stop him from spreading at this point, and if you’re not infected, everyone’s looking at you wondering why you’ve been spared.
Well, truth be told, I’m pretty sure I’m voting for the guy. In fact, I’m trying to talk myself into going to Ohio tomorrow to campaign for him. After four months in D.C. in 2006, and generally getting a sense of how truly fucked things are, a little talk of change is nice. A black man as President seems nice. Someone new and not of the establishment seems nice.

I hear words like hope, like change; I hear people say things like “How could he not inspire you?”; I hear people claim he’s exactly what America needs. But what, exactly, is he? How many people are really paying attention to the things he’s saying? I know a lot of people know about his charisma, his cult, his YouTube videos, his slogans, his image, his ideals, his statements, his speeches, his appeal (and, my gosh, is he appealing), but how many people know how his policies?

Frankly, I’m pissed off at the guy right now. As the Ohio vote nears, his talk on NAFTA, free trade and globalization has been downright deceiving. For someone who so aspires to change America’s image in the world, to make the rest of the world re-embrace us (and these are reasons we find him appealing, yes?), what in the flying f-u-c-k is protectionism going to do?

How do you look at middle class workers who are losing their jobs to the inevitable cycle of technological advancement, free trade and globalization, and tell them you’re going to fix things? Like it or not, it’s here. It’s not going away. The world follows the dollar. The jobs will go where they’re the cheapest. And no tacky political sentiment meant to rile up a factory full of rust-belters can do jack shit to stop that.

You can tell me you don’t like it. Fine. I don’t really like it either. I don’t like watching my city, my state, and my region getting shit upon. But no one is going to stop it.

The reality is that NAFTA has fucked middle America. But that’s exactly what free trade does. It has also made certain goods cheaper. It has uplifted the lives of many poor Mexican workers that — gosh, I know I’m treading on delicate ground right now — have it a whole lot worse than the middle class industrial worker in the U.S.A.  It’s a difficult transition. Some people are left in the dust. And it’s terrible.
But who’s the better global citizen? The one who seeks to protect inevitably- unprotectable jobs in the US (a country which, despite its current economic malaise, is still one of the wealthiest, most advanced nations in the world); or, is it the one who actually embraces the new economic realities and tries to find a new, moral, and compassionate way to move forward given those realities?

I’m not saying NAFTA is perfect. It’s so obviously not. But the general paradigm of anti-trade, anti-globalization, pro-protectionist ideas is, I hate to say it, a tool being used by Obama right now to rile up those who simply just don’t know enough. Those who simply look at a lack of bread, a lack of money; who look at rising gas and subprime crises and eliminated jobs and high health care costs and ask “Why?” The answer sucks, but it’s the answer. The conversation needs to be what do we do with these people in this new reality rather than trying to cling to the old realities.

Today is not yesterday. We need to be worrying about tomorrow. Empty populism helps nobody right now. Well, nobody except Obama.

And, yes, I’m sure Obama’s just saying this to rile up the democrats prior to tomorrow’s insanely huge election. But it also runs afoul of everything he claims to be. I’m reading his book and he always talks of taking the tough position, of reaching across the aisle, of a new breed of politics. Right now, he’s spouting the same old false promises, the haughty idealism, and the downright deception that politicians have used for decades to get votes.

“Change” and the “Audacity of Hope” are looking pretty damn well like empty statements right now. Politics as usual. And it’s a shame.


One Response to “Here I come to piss on the parade”

  1. jmvukich Says:

    mike – this is his “no new taxes” issue. what the flying fuck is protectionism going to do: get him nominated by helping win ohio. empty rhetoric, sure. just like romney coming here and promising to bring back auto-manufacturing jobs. in barack’s new ohio, the once proud manufacturer or shop owner will be assembling wind turbines for twelve bucks an hour. i’m probably giving him a free pass on this one but i don’t think anybody honestly believes nafta will be repealed. even if at worst barack is nothing more than a cheerleader or is ultimately exposed as a hack by clinton or mccain, you can’t deny that he has shifted the paradigm of politics and has inspired a new generation of thinkers, innovators, and seekers.

    his real battle is going to be health care. once people who gravitate to him b/c they think he is “cool” realize their taxes might increase to subsidize uncle don’s next hate induced heart attack, “hope” will become very audacious indeed.

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