Spare change

Katha Pollitt:

Hillary Clinton was fiery and funny and bore no resemblance to the candidate relentless attacked in the media as rigid, incompetent, Machiavellian and screechy. You can understand her obvious frustration with the ongoing lovefest for Obama: At one point she even compared his “likeability’ to that of George W. Bush. In real life, Obama has made the same sort of compromises she herself has made. As she pointed out, he said he’d vote against the Patriot Act, and then he voted for it. He casts himself as the candidate who’d repair our bellicose relations with the world, and then talks about bombing Pakistan. He talks about putting Republicans in his cabinet, as Bill Clinton did. His health-care plan, as Paul Krugman points out every day on the New York Times op-ed page, is weaker than Clinton’s or Edwards’. I’m sure Hillary Clinton must be wondering what the difference is between “triangulation” and Obama’s calls for unity.

Somehow Hillary Clinton is stuck as the candidate who simultaneously represents excessive compromise and excessive partisanship. For various reasons, John Edwards, who actually represents the most substantive hope for change, seems in some ways a throwback to the old-fashioned class-based politics of the 1930s. Poor Richardson, who actually has the most experience of any candidate in either party, can’t get any traction at all. Obama, the black candidate who never mentions his race, gets to smile his mile-wide smile and be a rock star. Somehow he has made himself a great big humongous hope object. People can project on him what they want him to be.

I’ll support a potted plant against whichever race-baiting science-denying warmonger the Republicans finally settle on, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer a candidate who actually stands for things I care about, like real health care reform and a speedy end to the Iraq debacle. Given that Kucinich is — sorry — unlikely to carry the day, that leaves me with Edwards. Who is also probably not going to make it to the finish line. And then, hurray!, the Democrats will once again be offering up a mushy centrist who speaks vaguely of hope and change, of bipartisanship and reconciliation. Why is it always the Democrats who have to reconcile, after these spasms of right wing extremism? Why is partisanship always such a one-way street?

Oh well. Go, team.