Why Obama's Party Can't be My Party

"Trailer trash with an elite college veneer"

That's an exact quote from a poster, in reference to the Clintons, on TPM yesterday.

It's only one of the many unlovely things said by Obama supporters about the Clintons, or Hillary Clinton's supporters, over the course of this campaign.

What's the problem with the quote? Not that it will hurt the Clintons personally, it won't. But that it is a perfect, and unfortunately far from unique, example of the ugly classism of the now triumphant branch of the Democratic Party.

Such attitudes are not compatible with progressive politics. Not at all.

Take a look at the candidate himself -- the video of his "periodically""feeling down" swipe at Clinton. Watch his face; see how amused he is with himself, how shamelessly he demonstrates his disdain for his opponent, not as a competitor, but AS A WOMAN. Tell me such disdain has no repercussions for all the women who have put their trust in this party over the years or the issues they care about. Give me concrete arguments for why I should vote for this mean-spirited, self-satisfied man at the top of the ticket? Why I should continue to make monthly contributions to a party that supports this kind of behavior? Why I should devote time and energy to supporting the thoughtless, clueless sexism and classism of the people he represents?

This has nothing to do with the Clintons. Hillary Clinton was always my last choice for the nomination. She didn't win my vote, Barack Obama, by his own behavior and tactics, lost it. As for all the Democratic politicians and so-called "progressive" bloggers and supporters who defended him when he used race and gender as a campaign tactic, who have refused to stand up to what has happened in the media, who, for instance, went to bat for a media personality who suggested that Clinton had "pimped out" her daughter rather than for the Democrat who was maligned in this despicable way, they've lost my support too. No more checks, no more "contributions," no more subscriptions, no more votes. I'm done.

The Republicans have a lot of bad ideas, yet, as a business owner, if I was someone who only voted my own self-interest, I wouldn't have much to complain about from the last almost 40 years of mostly Republican rule. The only party that's really let me down is the one I've supported. It was organized Feminist agitation in the 1970s and 80s that helped create economic opportunities for me -- not the Democrats. But, did the party follow through with real support on the health care, child care and pay equity issues those feminist wanted? No.

The Iraq war has been a disaster. But one speech 6 years ago, when he had no political skin in the game, doesn't convince me that Obama is any different from the Democrats who are most responsible for his candidacy - most notably, Senator Kerry and former Senator (now lobbyist) Daschle. These are men who over their careers consistently showed themselves to be more afraid of Republican criticism of their weakness and their patriotism than afraid of the actual consequences, for real people, of their votes. A trait that Obama's compromising campaign rhetoric, and his record of ducking hard votes, has led me to suspect he shares. Plus, frankly, I'm sickened by the hypocrisy of people (many now on the Obama payroll) who initially supported the war, who did everything they could to defeat the anti-war candidate in 2004, who instead supported the candidacy of someone who voted exactly as Hillary did, and who now argue that, this time around, when the die is cast, the options limited, and both candidates basically have the same policy toward Iraq, I should punish Clinton for her vote in a way they argued against punishing Kerry. In 2004, for the sake of "getting a Democrat in the White House" I held my nose, swallowed hard, and voted for a candidate who voted for the war. I don't see any point, now, in taking a stand against that vote -- other than to reward the cynicism of Obama's operatives -- and, of course, to make it obvious that there really is no end to how many times I'm willing to be the Democrats' fool.

I come from a working class family and have always supported Labor. But let's be honest, this party started walking away from Labor close to 40 years ago with McGovern and his youthful and mostly affluent supporters. Carter let the Rust Belt rust without lifting a finger. During most of his administration, Reagan had both a Democratic congress and Senate - but they let his efforts to weaken labor continue apace. Now Obama supporters tell me that I'm abandoning Labor if I vote for Clinton because she served on Wal-Mart's Board of Directors 30 years ago, when it was still just a regional retailer? That I should, instead, vote for the man anti-labor Wall Street interests are most interested in seeing in the White House?

Frankly, I haven't had an opportunity to vote for any Democratic presidential candidate with a real Labor record since I cast my first presidential vote for Shirley Chisholm many decades ago.  And Obama doesn't change that. I long ago swallowed my disappointment with this party, its lip-service only support for, and its many betrayals of, Labor. What has mostly kept me a Democrat is the issue of race and gender equality and the family welfare issues that, in a new economy (in which Labor no longer has a real voice), I believe are essential for the survival of middle class families and a requirement for poor families hoping to move into the middle class.

But in this campaign I've seen the only Democratic president in almost half a century to stand up to the inevitable abuse caused by paying anything more than lip service to those issues -- who took care to make his administration "look like America" including an America that actually has women in it, who at least partially addressed the issue of family leave, who tried but failed to get comprehensive health care reform passed (defeated not by Republicans, who didn't yet hold the majority in Congress but by spineless fellow Democrats spooked by "Harry and Louise") but did get expanded health coverage for children, who initiated innovative small and micro-business programs that gave Americans, including many minorities, without access to the usual financing resources an opportunity to become entrepreneurs, who oversaw a huge expansion of small business and the increases in domestic job creation and wages for those at the bottom that expansion contributed to -- denigrated by Obama supporters as not only no better than, but actually worse than, Bush. Am I really supposed to support a party this stupid?

Carter and the spineless performance of the Democrats under Reagan almost drove me away from the party several years ago. It was the Clintons, as imperfect as they are, who gave me some reason to hope that the party would once again take the plight of its working class constituents seriously. But now the party is ready to embrace a standard bearer who is running against the only successful two-term Democratic president in almost half a century; while providing praise for and seeking comity with Republicans who have worked purposefully to undo those small gains. A candidate whose whole campaign has been based in denigrating the only small measure of hope the party provided for working class Americans in 30 years.

Frankly, with Obama at the head of the party, I no longer have a clue as to what the party is suppose to stand for; other than being hipper than the Republicans. His own supporters, when they are honest, admit that he isn't an economic progressive. His foreign policy doesn't differ from Clinton's (and his advisors are all former Clinton people). And, his own behavior suggests that he simply doesn't understand issues of gender and class.

In fact, insensitivity to issues of gender and class are the things that, along with actual experience, more than anything else, distinguish his campaign from Hillary Clinton's.  

For all those who refuse to see fault in Obama, and say he shouldn't be held accountable for the sexism and classism of his supporters, here is the bottom line; these are the people Obama has intentionally courted, the people he has asked to bring him to the ball. That means that he, and his party, will have to dance to their tune.

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