Friday, July 29, 2016

The President's Speech and Third Party Politics

Hillary Clinton Accepts Democratic Party Nomination
The Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia has concluded with fanfare and success. It started unruly with Bernie Sanders supporters trying to make their presence felt; it built to a crescendo on Wednesday with President Obama's uplifting speech making the case for our democracy. Obama reminded us that democracy and self-governance require constant work, attention, and engagement, and not just at election times. In our system this work takes place largely within the two party system.

Hillary Clinton brought it home tonight in fine fashion. It was one of the best speeches I've seen her give, even if her oratory skills pale to her husband's, or the Obamas. She'll be a fine standard bearer.

If you've not watched Michelle Obama's endorsement of Hillary, you owe it to yourself.  Watch it HERE

A successful presidency, said Barak Obama, is never about one person, or even a whole administration. A successful presidency requires the support of an engaged electorate. It requires teachers, and people starting businesses, engineers inventing stuff, and doctors coming up with new cures. We might add, it requires bankers, and oil companies, airlines and airline manufacturers, stock market executives, central bankers, money managers, loggers, builders, manufacturers, merchants, supply lines, media companies, utility companies .... and on, and on. And all of these have a stake in our politics.

Obama was upbeat and encouraging to the young folks who supported Bernie Sanders. "I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, not constrained by what is, ready to seize what ought to be," he said.

But we can't go it alone, or in a small group, said Obama: 
I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together-- black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. That's what I see. That's the America I know! …. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on …. any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election -- the meaning of our democracy. ….
In our democracy, said Obama, we don't look to be ruled. We look to our founding principles and our belief that we are all created equal; our belief that We the People can continue to form a more perfect union; our confidence that we can shape our destiny as a free people.

But it takes work.
America has never been about what one person says he’ll do for us. It’s about what can be achieved by us, together --through the hard and slow, and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately enduring work of self-government.
And in this messy process of self-government, most issues are not black and white, Obama reminded us. Even when we are 100 percent right, "getting things done requires compromise."
Democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other. ...[F]or progress to happen, we have to listen to each other, and see ourselves in each other, and fight for our principles but also fight to find common ground, no matter how elusive that may sometimes seem.....
It can be frustrating, this business of democracy. …. When the other side refuses to compromise, progress can stall. People are hurt by the inaction. Supporters can grow impatient and worry that you’re not trying hard enough; that you’ve maybe sold out. But I promise you, when we keep at it, when we change enough minds, when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. …. Democracy works, America, but we got to want it -- not just during an election year, but all the days in between.
So if you agree that there’s too much inequality in our economy and too much money in our politics, we all need to be as vocal and as organized and as persistent as Bernie Sanders supporters have been during this election. …. If you want more justice in the justice system, then we’ve all got to vote -- not just for a President, but for mayors, and sheriffs, and state’s attorneys, and state legislators. That's where the criminal law is made. And we’ve got to work with police and protesters until laws and practices are changed. That's how democracy works. If you want to fight climate change, we’ve got to engage not only young people on college campuses, we've got to reach out to the coal miner who’s worried about taking care of his family, the single mom worried about gas prices. If you want to protect our kids and our cops from gun violence, we’ve got to get the vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, who agree on things like background checks to be just as vocal and just as determined as the gun lobby that blocks change through every funeral that we hold. That is how change happens. …
Not everybody gets it. Way too many Americans look at Donald Trump, and his threats, his bullying, his narcissistic boasting, his unstable personality, his lack of relevant experience, his lack of any program, and are ready to support him as President of this great country.  Too many Bernie-or-bust folks look at Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and fail to appreciate a difference. Jill Stein (the Green Party candidate) acknowledges that Donald Trump is a threat to our democracy but claims that Hillary Clinton is an equal threat. Cornel West has joined her in this judgment. It's an error in judgment on the order of equating Otto Wels and Adolf Hitler because the Weimar Republic didn't have its act together.

The idea that a third party President would be free of the entrenched political forces in society is a fantasy. Jill Stein would not be free of those forces. She is as inexperienced in politics as Donald Trump, considerably more naive, and much less powerful. The entrenched powers would eat her up, or anyone like her.  The idea that a "pure" leader could lead us to the promised land free of influence from the strongest forces in society is fantasy. It is a fantasy of being ruled by a philosopher king or queen who is above the fray of entrenched interests. Obama's speech eloquently reminds us that there is no such thing. Bernie Sanders knows this and that's why he's keeping his movement in the Democratic party and why he'll work to get Hillary Clinton elected as the next President of the United States.

Democracy is hard work and the Democrats did what they had to do with their convention.  On to the campaign.

Here is Obama's speech in full:

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