The Iranian election & American hypocrisy

Iranian Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

The results are in. The Western world’s boogeyman, Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran, has won re-election by a score of 24,527,516 to 13,216,411.

The United States, with democracy drooling from its lips, instantly barked about voting irregularities, even though evidence of fraud is, at the moment, nonexistent. Another bark came when Iran repressed some of the protests that have been spawned in the wake of the election.

Naturally, I hope the election was free and fair, and I hope that Iranians are allowed to fully exercise their freedom to dissent. Nonetheless, I question the validity of the United States’ criticism of Iran. It wasn’t so long ago that we experienced voting irregularities in Florida – an event that sparked extensive protest along Bush II’s Inauguration route in January of 2001. Less than a year ago, police cracked down on peaceful protesters at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul (video documentation is plentiful on YouTube), and, before the start of the convention, they infiltrated protest groups and raided meeting spaces. In other words, some casual introspection shows that the Democracy train is on shaky rails right here at home.

One might wonder what we would think if the Iranian administration “certified” our elections as free or not free.

Our advocacy of democracy seems flat when we remember that, in 1953, our government subverted democracy by aiding a presidential coup in Iran.

Our clamors about the Iranian “threat” are inverted. It was the U.S. that actively supported Iraq in its bloody eight-year war against Iran – a conflict that killed up to 800,000 Iranians. It was the U.S. that declared all military options against Iran “on the table,” including nuclear weapons on a first strike basis. It was the U.S. that invaded Iran’s neighbor, Iraq, toppling its government and destroying its infrastructure – without a sufficient justification and without world support.

Then there’s the issue of nuclear development, likely pushed for by Iran as a deterrent (the same reason that Israel created its own arsenal).

President Obama, in his celebrated Cairo speech, expressed hope for a nuclear-free world. He also said that “any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

Obama could take an immediate step toward a nuclear-free world by supporting the movement to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, an effort started by Iran in 1974, backed by states like Egypt and Syria. We know with certainty that the president’s rhetoric is empty. He would never support a nuclear-free Middle East because it would mean that Israel (which has refused to sign the NPT) would have to disarm.

One might wonder why Obama demands Iranian compliance with the NPT, considering that the U.S. is currently in violation of multiple sections of the treaty. In its 2005 report, Foreign Policy in Focus identified these (ongoing) violations:

The United States refused to uphold its previous arms control pledges, blocked consideration of the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, refused to rule out U.S. nuclear attacks against non-nuclear states, and demanded that Iran and North Korea—but not U.S. allies like Israel, Pakistan, and India—be singled out for UN sanctions for their nuclear programs.

Where are these facts in the “debate” about Iran? One need only read the speeches of Bush and Obama to see who is threatening who, and one need only glance back to the last century to discover our imperial bullying of Iran and her neighbors. Democracy is flawed in Iran, as it is here, as it is everywhere, but it’s certainly not helped by foreign interference. Our past, in Iraq and elsewhere, shows us that we need to leave the Middle East alone.

Flickr photo by Daniella Zalcman

15 Comments

  1. Chris

    Clint,
    I think the criticism coming out the United States, at least from the government, has been thankfully restrained.

    While I can’t read minds, I think the White House understands that this is an internal matter for the Iranian people, and any interference on our part would only hurt the cause of reformers.

    Unfortunately, there was a lot left unsaid in Obama’s Egypt speech, but he did at least acknowledge the American led coup in Iran:

    …For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government…

    Pointing out that we started the hostilities was a big step forward. It’s a part of history that has, until now, been conveniently forgotten by the Washington establishment.

  2. Chris

    For those of you interested in following the latest news from Iran, I suggest you check out Andrew Sullivan’s blog. He’s doing yeoman’s work following what might be another revolution.

  3. I’m sorry, but it does look a little fishy when Ahmadinejad wins a majority in every area of the country (he even won the cities where reformists came out to vote in droves), they count some 30 million votes by hand over the course of hours, and the “supreme” leader decides to confirm the outcome 2 days earlier than the typical three day waiting period.

    It’s also a little foolish to compare our election squables to theirs. They’re two terribly different situations. And ours were played out publicly through a system that provided lots of room for debate and discussion, and the decision was ultimately made by a supreme court who was appointed by previous presidents (elected) and approved by democratically elected congress. I’d like you to explain how that compares to a ruling handed down by the “supreme leader” of Iran.

    Also, It’s just bad form to link so many disparate arguments together. If you show poor judgement on one, it weakens them all. Particularly when they’re not intimately related.

  4. Clint

    Huggy Bear,

    The election does look fishy, but the fact is there’s no available evidence that proves it was fraudulent. Until there is, we should remain skeptical.

    I mentioned U.S. elections as part of a broader point: The U.S. record of democracy, whether in domestic affairs or in “democracy promotion” abroad, is abysmal. In just this decade, we have supported a coup in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez, who won 60% in a free election. A few years later, we were compelled by Sistani’s popular movement to accept elections in Iraq. And then we refused to accept the results of a free election in Gaza, won by Hamas, so we supported Israeli collective punishment against Gazans.

    As for elections in the U.S., I agree that they have procedural integrity. But there are larger, more basic problems with them. Since your average person can’t afford to run for office, elections are controlled by those who can put up the money to fund them — usually very wealthy groups and individuals who expect returns on their investments. For this reason, there’s a strong correlation between campaign contributions and policy outcomes. The easy example is Obama, whose primary backers came from the financial industry and who were immediately rewarded with top-level appointments, bailouts, safety nets, etc.

    So, in short, our own democracy is rather weak, and our record of democracy promotion is also weak. We need to get off our high horse.

    If you look at Mousavi’s platform, he seems to support neoliberal reforms (privatization and cuts in social spending). I suspect that’s why U.S. elites support him. It’s certainly not because they love freedom.

  5. Ian

    “Democracy”. Everyone keeps using this word and none seem to know what it means.

  6. Clint,

    While the rich and powerful may have an upper hand when running for office, we, the lowly, still get to elect our officials. Sure, from a certain point of view, we could say that it would be more democratic if everyone and anyone had the same chance of winning an elected office ––– but then we’d be holding a raffle — not an election.

    In our system everyone does not have an equal chance of becoming president, but we do all get the same vote (more or less). And, yeah, Money helps. But DOING SOMETHING helps more. Contributing to the public dialogue, working to better your self and your cause, and leading other people can gain you some loyal followers. I almost hate to say it, but Obama is a fantastic example of this. His leadership, his abilities, and his ideals earned him his following. And he capitalized on it in every way possible. You may attribute the financial bailout to croneyism, but, I think if you tone down the cynicism a bit, you’ll find you prefer it to another 1920s style depression. Although, I hear that was the event of a lifetime, and, really, who wouldn’t want to watch a couple “big bad” companies fail. The FDIC insures our money — oh wait — they’d just end up bailing us out instead and only up to 100,000. Gee, I hope that covers our retirement funds. Ahh, but who needs that, there’s always social security right? And IRAs, and …. wait…. umm… that stuff won’t look too hot either. But, you’re right, it was all because he was friends with some people.

    I also don’t like the all too convenient, blame it on the wealthy mindset. If we, low to middle class people, are going to start pointing fingers and asking “where’d our democracy go” we should start with ourselves, not the rich. Our voting turnouts are far scarier than the demographics of the people who run for office.

    And, I’m sorry, but I think there’s a larger fundamental flaw in your logic. Your argument seems to be that the US government shouldn’t voice concerns it has regarding the Iranian elections and the events that surround them — concerns that you seem to share (see paragraph two of your article). People can have ideals, express them, and not quite live up to them. It’s not hypocritical, it’s how we work towards our goals. Ideals are ideals precisely because they’re high-minded and difficult to achieve. You don’t have to retire them because you take a misstep. You learn from your mistakes, move on, and try again. And sure, the more someone or something messes up, the less seriously we’ll take them. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t express themselves. It means the rest of us need to take it with a grain of salt.

    We’ve all messed up. In fact, I’m sure we’ve all missed some minor election, failed to research all of the candidates and positions on the ballot, or voted along party, gender, or class lines instead of the merits of a particular candidate. Whatever it is… nearly all of us have done it. Are you suggesting that we don’t have the right to discuss democracy because we’ve failed at our own small role in it?

  7. Clint

    Huggy Bear,

    “we, the lowly, still get to elect our officials.”

    Yes, we get to choose Candidate A or Candidate B, both of whom represent business interests (as opposed to labor interests).

    “In our system everyone does not have an equal chance of becoming president”

    I’m not saying that everyone should have an equal chance of winning, that’d be silly. I’m saying the system as it is, which relies on massive private funding, allows business interests to essentially exercise control over the candidate field. That’s why you’ll never see Dennis Kucinich as a serious contender.

    “but we do all get the same vote”

    If you live in a state with a large population, you get less for your vote.

    “And, yeah, Money helps. But DOING SOMETHING helps more.”

    I mean, I think this is clearly not the case. The system is run on money. I don’t think you can deny that.

    “His leadership, his abilities, and his ideals earned him his following.”

    There are plenty of people out there who are good leaders, who have nice abilities and who have admirable ideals. But if those people are in serious opposition to the established order, they will not get money from the big players in this country — it’d be suicide on their part.

    “You may attribute the financial bailout to croneyism, but, I think if you tone down the cynicism a bit, you’ll find you prefer it to another 1920s style depression.”

    The act of intervening in the economy isn’t croneyism — almost everyone will agree that some action was needed. But what kind of action? Why not temporarily nationalize the banks and insurance companies (as Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman advocates) so that the public can exercise some control and be guaranteed a return on their investments? The bailouts were structured to provide a win-win situation for companies like AIG, financed by tax payer dollars.

    “Our voting turnouts are far scarier than the demographics of the people who run for office.”

    If the elections feature two candidates who will work against my interests, what incentive do I have to vote?

    “Your argument seems to be that the US government shouldn’t voice concerns it has regarding the Iranian elections and the events that surround them”

    I reject the US government’s criticism of Iran because it’s based on pure, unprincipled self interest. Our primary concern is NOT producing a more democratic Iran. It’s about producing a government that will be friendly to us — everything else takes a backseat. Our actions around the world prove this overwhelmingly.

    If democracy is going to succeed in Iran, it’s going to come from the Iranians. Our interference, in my opinion, will most likely harm prospects for democracy — as it’s done before. Since I don’t want that to happen, I will advocate for us to keep our hands out of their business.

    “Are you suggesting that we don’t have the right to discuss democracy because we’ve failed at our own small role in it?”

    No. I’m saying the discussion so far, in the sense that it’s hypocritical and unprincipled, should be roundly rejected for a better discussion that keeps in mind history and respects Iranian sovereignty.

  8. “Yes, we get to choose Candidate A or Candidate B, both of whom represent business interests (as opposed to labor interests).”

    May I ask you what big bad corporations the senior citizens run? Their interests get a disproportionate amount of air-time and discussion on the house and senate floor compared to so many other demographics. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, it’s because they make their concerns known by voting consistently, by volunteering, and by writing letters? I think you’ll find most candidates try extremely hard to court their vote, and to keep it by acting on their issues.

    And, maybe I misread this… but when you say “as opposed to labor interests” are you suggesting that all of our candidates are bought by big business at the expense of labor concerns? If I were to admit that all of our candidates were bought (which I don’t, but if I did), I’d have to think that at least half have been bought by labor unions. In fact, now that the democrats control the house, senate, and white house, I would venture to say that the labor unions might even “own” more candidates than “big business.” Particularly since the bulk of democratic legislators still come from areas with powerful unions. Of course, this is pure speculation predicated on an argument that I mostly disagree with and guided by an equal but opposite dose of cynicism to your own. Well, maybe not opposite. I suppose opposite would be totally controlled by the unions…. but to say all or nothing just seems too utterly ridiculous to me — even if just for the sake of an academic argument.

    ———

    “I’m not saying that everyone should have an equal chance of winning, that’d be silly. I’m saying the system as it is, which relies on massive private funding, allows business interests to essentially exercise control over the candidate field. That’s why you’ll never see Dennis Kucinich as a serious contender.”

    Wait a minute, if memory (and by memory, I mean wikipedia) serves me right, good ol’ Dennis was a serious contender. He made it to the presidential primaries twice… not once (which is oh so easy — even I could do it — oh wait, I gotst no cred — haven’t really done anything yet) but twice! And, who messed that up for him? Oh right, big business, who made it impossible for people to do their civic duty and research the candidates before placing their vote. So, who’s at fault for his loss? The voters, with instant information at their fingertips, libraries, and candidates web-sites (or my favorite congress.org) or big business for blinding us with colorful ads and snappy dialogue? Sorry, but shame on us. The information is there, free, and easily accessible. And that’s truer today than at any other time in history.

    In short, while the people might not be the ones who are directly “messing things up” (not quoting you, just your sentiment), we have definitely turned our back while others screw the pooch. At least in the example you gave (Dennis), it’s not the candidates, it’s not the system, it’s the people who are failing at their duties.

    ———

    “If the elections feature two candidates who will work against my interests, what incentive do I have to vote?”

    Why not vote for a third party, a write in, or a what-have you? The only signal not voting sends is one of apathy and disregard. As a politician, the bad kind, the kind you’d like to reform, the kind that only wants a job, power, and an intern, why would you waste your time and effort on someone who you don’t think is ever going to get off their sofa and vote. Non-voters are a non-issue. They’re like the kid who never comes to class and then complains about their F. Their attempts to place themselves above it all allow others to pull the ground right out from under them.

    ———

    “If democracy is going to succeed in Iran, it’s going to come from the Iranians. Our interference, in my opinion, will most likely harm prospects for democracy — as it’s done before. Since I don’t want that to happen, I will advocate for us to keep our hands out of their business
    …..
    I’m saying the discussion so far, in the sense that it’s hypocritical and unprincipled, should be roundly rejected for a better discussion that keeps in mind history and respects Iranian sovereignty.”

    I’m sorry, I’m still confused. Isn’t that our nations stated position at this point? The administration seems to recognize that to exert any influence over the situation would severely hurt our chances of seeing any real change.

    ——-

    “I reject the US government’s criticism of Iran because it’s based on pure, unprincipled self interest. Our primary concern is NOT producing a more democratic Iran. ”

    You seem to think these two things are mutually exclusive. What’s amazing about this point in history is that we’re starting to realize that while democracies can be a wee bit more erratic in their policy decisions, on the whole, they make better, more peaceful, neighbors.

    ——–

    “It’s about producing a government that will be friendly to us — everything else takes a backseat. Our actions around the world prove this overwhelmingly.”

    I might be reading way too much in to this, but this sounds a bit like you’re suggesting that our leaders only act in our people’s best interest. And this is going to sound a bit callous, but: That’s their job. Until the people of our country wake up and realize that a bubble based on selfishness is bound to implode… our leaders will have a difficult time “selling” any action that is based purely on ideals and intended for the betterment of others… particularly if it’s costly (in terms of lives or money).

    Making the decisions to act in noble and beautiful ways is easy. Selling it to the people isn’t. How many times have you heard “Why are we building ________ in Africa when we need them here ourselves?”

    Why does it take so long for our country to mobilize for noble wars or wars based on principle? The taliban tortured and killed people, ruled by fear, forbid women from having an education or from moving freely. Saddam Hussein flagrantly ignored UN conditions for peace over the course of a decade, he tortured and slaughtered his own people by the thousands, but we couldn’t muster public support for even a limited confrontation to liberate the kurds. In either case, it wasn’t until the people felt threatened that they were willing to support action. (hint: that’s why we didn’t go to ______(insert a misbehaved country’s name here) instead)

    It took pearl harbor to involve us in a war that saw some of the worlds greatest atrocities on all corners of the earth. Many of which were taking place before we ever lifted a weapon. All we could muster was: “we won’t sell them anything.” (funny how big business interests were cut first, if our country worked the way you claim, we would have gone to war before we sacrificed the bottom line. Selling to both sides of a conflict is almost always more profitable than one.)

    In short, in a democracy, it’s very difficult for the government to act on controversial issues without a clear mandate. It’s not impossible… but it’s very difficult, particularly if that action will take years to be done correctly.

    ——–

    “There are plenty of people out there who are good leaders, who have nice abilities and who have admirable ideals. But if those people are in serious opposition to the established order, they will not get money from the big players in this country — it’d be suicide on their part.”

    I’ll take this as a counterpoint to ““His leadership, his abilities, and his ideals earned him his following.” Since that’s the way you framed it.

    Ok, see, I’m not sure I should even start on this one. Like him, hate him, whatever you want, his story is a true american success story. The only thing he’s missing is the log cabin. And no, I’m not comparing him to Lincoln… I’m referencing the status he had at birth. He is OF THE PEOPLE. He was not born in to wealth or luxury. Hell, he didn’t even have a father. But he worked hard, went to school, was an advocate of the people at the expense of being a high-priced lawyer, achieved notoriety, sold a few books, and ran for office.

    Now, I’m not sure where this particular argument of yours is coming from, but I’m guessing it’s that he had high-powered people with experience in certain industries campaigning for him. And that, when he gained office he should have told them to scram… and hired some people that had ideologies that opposed his own (I don’t think it’s all that bad of an assumption that you invest in the candidate you agree with the most). What’s more, your complaints also seem to list their considerable experience with the industries they came out of as a negative for holding public offices related to those industries. You’re right. It is. He should of hired farmers (no disrespect intended).

    ——–

    “‘And, yeah, Money helps. But DOING SOMETHING helps more.”

    I mean, I think this is clearly not the case. The system is run on money. I don’t think you can deny that.”

    I can, and I will. I can’t deny that money is involved, but if it was “run on money” it would be simple to buy an election. As it is now, it’s about as hard as fixing the world series (and, yes, I’m aware that that has happened — and while you may find this surprising — that’s actually why I’m using it as an example).

    Don’t believe me, go ask Ross Perot.

    (Note: of course, Ross Perot did have achievements, he helped build and led an incredibly large and lucrative corporation for years — they’re just not the sort of credentials that would seduce you — even though they are the kind of credentials that you claim matter most when trying to win elections (backing of big-business))

    ——–

    “‘but we do all get the same vote’

    If you live in a state with a large population, you get less for your vote.”

    I see you chose to skip the “(more or less)” bit… but, oh well, I suppose it’s just fun to argue.

  9. Clint

    Huggy Bear,

    “Do you think that maybe, just maybe, it’s because they make their concerns known by voting consistently, by volunteering, and by writing letters?”

    I don’t know much about the senior citizens lobby. Regardless, I’m not sure that we’re disagreeing. I agree completely that popular organization CAN be effective in the political realm. What I’m saying is that, right now in the U.S., “big bad” corporate interests are far better represented than popular interests.

    “are you suggesting that all of our candidates are bought by big business at the expense of labor concerns? I’d have to think that at least half have been bought by labor unions.”

    I’m not making an absolute statement. I’m observing the dominant trend, which is that corporations (indirectly) fund candidates and receive predictable policy benefits in return. If you don’t believe me, look at the readily available documentation of past candidates’ campaign contributions. Then look at legislation.

    Labor unions have been severely weakened; check the membership rates. The idea that labor unions might own more candidates isn’t supported by anything that I’ve seen.

    “good ol’ Dennis was a serious contender.”

    How do you figure? Simply being in the primaries doesn’t make you a serious contender. Check the media coverage of his campaign, from the moment of announcement, and tell me he wasn’t written off before it even started. Check how many questions he was asked during the debates, as opposed to Obama and Clinton. That’s systemic marginalization.

    “Why not vote for a third party, a write in, or a what-have you?”

    Because it’s mostly meaningless in a first-past-the-post system that discourages third party participation. I strongly support third parties, but I understand they can’t do all that much until the electoral system is changed.

    And I’m not advocating not voting. I’m just trying to explain it.

    “I’m sorry, I’m still confused. Isn’t that our nations stated position at this point?”

    Rhetorically, our government offers unprincipled criticism of Iran while lawmakers weigh the question of intervention. It’s taken for granted that, if it’s beneficial, we have the right to interfere. In fact, there’s good reason to believe we have been involved, at least since 2007, in expensive efforts to destabilize Iran from within.
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/07/07/080707fa_fact_hersh

    “You seem to think these two things are mutually exclusive. What’s amazing about this point in history is that we’re starting to realize that while democracies can be a wee bit more erratic in their policy decisions, on the whole, they make better, more peaceful, neighbors.”

    My logic is straightforward here.
    1. It’s desirable for Iran to be democratic.
    2. U.S. interventions are based on unprincipled self interest. Historically, that self interest does not correlate with democratic outcomes.
    3. Therefore, I don’t support U.S. intervention, nor do I believe we have the moral/legal right to intervene.

    “I might be reading way too much in to this, but this sounds a bit like you’re suggesting that our leaders only act in our people’s best interest.”

    No. Our leaders further elite interests, not popular interests.

    “Why does it take so long for our country to mobilize for noble wars or wars based on principle?”

    The behavior of the state is based on self-interest. It doesn’t benefit the U.S. to save a bunch of people in Rwanda — or the Gaza Strip — so they don’t do it.

    “(funny how big business interests were cut first, if our country worked the way you claim, we would have gone to war before we sacrificed the bottom line. Selling to both sides of a conflict is almost always more profitable than one.)”

    The problem with that logic is that fascism (and socialism) are often existential threats to business interests, so that takes precedence over a quick profit.

    I don’t know what Obama actually believes, and I don’t care. The point is he would not be where he is today if he was going to *do* things that seriously contested the establishment in this country.

    “What’s more, your complaints also seem to list their considerable experience with the industries they came out of as a negative for holding public offices related to those industries.”

    False. My complaint is that many of the same people who helped bring on the economic crisis are now in charge of solving it. The results are predictable.

    “but if it was “run on money” it would be simple to buy an election.”

    That doesn’t follow at all. The Dems and the Repubs happen to be roughly equivalent in terms of power so that one cannot simply buy the election.

  10. “I don’t know what Obama actually believes, and I don’t care. The point is he would not be where he is today if he was going to *do* things that seriously contested the establishment in this country.”

    This sums it all up. I no longer care to have this debate. Either you’ve misspoken, or you allow your cynicism and pride to hold your brain hostage.

  11. Clint

    Huggy Bear,

    I don’t care what Obama personally believes because, politically, it doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. I mean, you can brush that off as cynicism (or whatever other insults you want to throw at me), but that doesn’t mean you’ve come up with a real reason for why his beliefs actually do matter.

    On the other hand, Obama’s *actions* affect us. They matter.

    It’s conceivable that Obama campaigned with all sorts of wonderful, genuine beliefs about saving the world. Unfortunately, there are certain facts about the political system that limit what can actually be done. Therefore, his actions differ from his beliefs.

    Alternatively, it’s conceivable that Obama genuinely believes in everything he’s doing. Wonderful.

    Either way, the actions are the same. By analyzing his personal beliefs, I’ve gained exactly nothing.

  12. Huggy Bear

    Ok, so, maybe one more post…..

    First, I’m sorry if you took offense. But, I stand by my comment. It was not meant as an insult, just an observation.

    When you say things like “The point is he would not be where he is today if he was going to *do* things that seriously contested the establishment in this country.” You’re judging the baby before it’s born. And, if that’s not cynicism, please enlighten me as to what is.

    History is full of people who have towed a fine political line while pursuing bold plans. A persons philosophy, ideals, beliefs, etc can not only point to what they hope to do, but by sharing them, by attempting to teach, by speaking to our better natures he is able to inspire millions to action. You may disregard this as being peripheral to his job as president. But, I for one expect more from a president than simple legal gains…. I expect them to lead. And, it’s been a long time since this many people have felt as deep of a connection with a president as they do with this one. For some, it’s the first time. And, sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not because of his actions…. it’s because of his beliefs, his ideals, and his ability to share them. The amazing thing is…. he doesn’t have to do anything — so long as he can inspire others to. He actually has the opportunity to promote a base level (dare I say “grassroots”) cultural shift. What’s more, the more he energizes the populace, the more support he builds for programs that might have previously seemed like a hard sell.

    I also find it so striking (and possibly telling) that you would dare to make a statement like:

    “Alternatively, it’s conceivable that Obama genuinely believes in everything he’s doing. Wonderful.
    Either way, the actions are the same. By analyzing his personal beliefs, I’ve gained exactly nothing.”

    when you’re whole article that started this thing was about how the US govt is behaving in ways you’d like them to behave…. but that their intent was just all wrong. Intent, motives, and beliefs seem incredibly important to you… so long as they support your argument and provide you with an opportunity to position yourself as above the fray.

    It’s a dangerous thing to confuse cynicism with idealism. Idealism sees the potential in everyone, cynicism sees it only in one’s self.

  13. Clint

    “When you say things like “The point is he would not be where he is today if he was going to *do* things that seriously contested the establishment in this country.” You’re judging the baby before it’s born.”

    I’m not sure what you mean. His proposals and his previous legislative record (and his current record) confirm that he offers little substantive change. If he had a record of staunch union support or wealth redistribution or something like that, he wouldn’t be where he is.

    “He actually has the opportunity to promote a base level (dare I say “grassroots”) cultural shift.”

    The best thing about the Obama campaign was that it inspired people. I mean, I think what we need most in this country is a legitimate movement by the people. While there is a chance Obama could do that, I don’t see it developing that way.

    He inspired people to vote for him, to campaign for him and to support his policies. But he hasn’t inspired much political participation beyond that. An actual democratic movement would come up with the policies, not receive them. It would make Obama support them, not the other way around. The Obama movement, so far, is a top-down affair.

  14. “He inspired people to vote for him, to campaign for him and to support his policies. But he hasn’t inspired much political participation beyond that. An actual democratic movement would come up with the policies, not receive them. It would make Obama support them, not the other way around. The Obama movement, so far, is a top-down affair.”

    You’ve obviously never taken an art history class.

  15. Clint

    Demitri,

    Not sure what you mean by that, but I’d throw in a (possibly related) observation that the movement toward democracy in politics certainly corresponds with movements toward democracy in a host of other fields — particularly art. So far, bottom-up democracy has made progress in both areas, but its history is dominated by top-down rule.