Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Politics of Banality

One of the things that struck me about Hillary's non-concession speech was, beyond its seeming spitefulness and intractability, the essential banality of its content. As in past speeches there were multiple examples of people she met and how her campaign was all about them and how she was all about fighting for them, for their health care, for their jobs, for their education, etc, all things that the federal government has little control over. What's particularly weird about our politics is how contentious it is over what is basically nothing. There wasn't anything meaningful in Hillary's speech. She complained, as Democratic candidates are wont to do, about the individuals who don't have health insurance and can't get it; but in the case of Hillary--wasn't your husband President for eight years? And haven't you been in the U.S. Senate for eight years? If there are still people who don't have health insurance, aren't you and your vaunted experience part of the problem, or at least not the solution?

Of course this political banality isn't restricted to Hillary. She pretty much copied--xeroxed if you will--her campaign material and slogans from her husband's campaigns a decade and a half ago (although, thankfully, she didn't promise to build any bridges to the next century or generation or whatever). John Edwards ran much the same kind of campaign and Obama has taken, or been pushed by the media, to adopt much of the same vague platitudes and laments about American life with the equally dubious promises to solve them all.

Today, fresh off his elevation to presumptive nominee, Obama goes before the Likud super-cult, AIPAC. Here's hoping he takes the opportunity to engage in some much-needed "straight talk". But I'm not optimistic. Candidates' prostrating themselves before the god AIPAC is becoming a deeply regrettable campaign must-do. With all the banalities and propaganda that entails.

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