James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Clinton, Obama and changing politics

Posted by James McPherson on May 24, 2008

Some now believe that Obama’s inabililty to put away Hillary Clinton–indeed, she blew him out in West Virginia and Kentucky–proves she has a better chance to win in November against John McCain because she attracts voters who just won’t vote for Obama. Some of those voters are women, upset with how the media and the Obama campaign have treated Hillary. Some are racist idiots. Some are essentially conservatives in Democratic donkey clothing who recognize that her politics align more closely to theirs.

As I’ve noted previously, most of the voters who consider themselves to be progressives or liberals likely will vote for the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, come November. Some immature short-sighted idiots won’t (except in the unlikely instance that Clinton becomes Obama’s VP candidate). Still, despite the fact that Clinton has virtually no chance of winning the Democratic nomination, I don’t think she should drop out. She should not try, as some suggest she is doing, to sabotage Obama’s November prospects, but as I’ve said before, I think an extended race helps Democrats more than it hurts. 

Though we cannot know how many of Clinton’s voters will stay home or vote for McCain, the fact remains that we also still cannot know how many Obama supporters will turn out in November. Critics rightfully point out that every election is supposed to be the one in which young people make a difference, but they never do. Some of those critics suggest that Obama’s support is artificially inflated by infatuated youngsters who will vanish in November. I happen to think those critics are wrong for three reasons:

  1. Those voters have already turned out for primaries and caucuses, which always draw far smaller crowds than do general elections.
  2. They’ve been voting with their money. Obama has generated amazing amounts of cash from people who have never before donated to campaigns, and because they’ve invested financially, they’re likely to want to see their investment pay off.
  3. Change. This is Obama’s buzzword, but I mean it in a different sense–not that we need change, but that change has already come. Every pundit recognizes that the Internet and YouTube have had influence, but I think most Americans over 40 still underestimate how dramatic the change has been.

One example comes from Kansas State University’s mediatedcultures.net a class project that has demonstrated in fascinating (and public) ways how young people view the world. Many of the videos have much to teach the rest of us, too. I’ll share another favorite, about modern education, some other day.

Spreading of Ideas on YouTube (Curtis Schwieterman)

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7 Responses to “Clinton, Obama and changing politics”

  1. Frank Malone said

    Jan Baker directed me to your site. I am troubled by the name calling on it. So, I should agree with Hillary because her supporters will take their ball and go home or they are racist anyway and Obama’s supporters will use sound judgment seems farfetched.

  2. James McPherson said

    You’ll notice that I haven’t endorsed either Clinton or Obama, and my progressive family and friends seem to be split about 50/50 between the two. Since I was out of state during our state’s caucus and so have had no electoral voice in the process, nothing has forced me to choose. I like both candidates and recognize that both have some flaws, and therefore have mixed emotions about the near certainty that Obama will be the nominee.
    My point is that if someone claims to be a progressive and then votes in such a way that s/he helps elect John McCain (who has pledged to nominate Supreme Court justices modeled after Samuel Alito and John Roberts), that person is voting against his/her own interests (in the same way that Nader voters in Florida helped elect Bush). And since the first definition of “idiot” in my online dictionary is “a foolish or stupid person,” I don’t know of a more fitting term for such a voter.
    Incidentally, I feel the same way about anyone in a contested state who claims to be a conservative but then votes for Ron Paul in the general election, helping Obama win.
    Thanks for reading and for your comment, Frank.

  3. James, Thanks for your thougths and your blog. I saw your post on Utah Phillips passing at the Spokesman-Review Community Comment blog today. Like you and Frank Malone who just commented on this thread, I also have Spokane-based blogs. Mine are Spokane Police Abuses, Spokane Racism, and US Hands off Venezuela.

    I want to start by saying that I have no problem with what Frank calls your “name calling”. First of all, Frank, Rod Stackleberg and Bart Haggin — who collectively run two local yahoo groups (SpokaneProgressives and SpokaneDemocrats) — long ago banned me from their blogs because I insisted on raising points outside of and far-left of their slightly left of center Democratic consensus and because I engaged in what they considered name calling, though they usually choose to call it “ad hominum” attacks, in line with the participation of several academics there. It is interesting to note that their yahoogroup participation has dropped massively over the last couple years.

    I also want to point out that I proudly accept being one of the “idiots” you refer to. I am in fact the idiot who one week after the 2004 presidential elections put a home-made Nader 2008 bumper sticker on my car. I intend to vote Nader again unless clear statements are made on global poverty, imperialist wars, corporate corruption and innumerable subjects of grave importance to me and the nation and the planet.

    Here is how I see it and said so in anot S-R blog, A Matter of Opinoin, back on May 7, 2008 .

    A new day has dawned. The two terms of President Bush have been the birth pains of that new day.

    What is needed now is for people of conscience and commitment to support endeavors which are built on solidarity among the peoples of this planet.

    As I have said and written on many occasions for the last few years, the real hope for the world is that there is now not a single person on the planet earth who does not know that the United States is the great obstacle to global peace and development. Here is how I made the case in The Pacific Northwest Inlander on Dec. 2, 2004, one month after the U.S. public in its infinite wisdom and absolute incompetence, elected George Bush president for the second time.

    (Published in the Pacific Northwest Inlander on December 02, 2004)

    In the 1970s and 1980s, Americans loved to say that people around the world knew it was the U.S. government, not the U.S. people, that was the enemy of peace and justice around the world and at home. That is no longer true and the recognition is growing daily around the world. This is the hope presented by the Bush re-election — that the people of the world increasingly realize that the U.S. public is not capable of and is not interested in a U.S. government that is good for the rest of the world. The opportunity presented by Bush’s re-election is that the people of the world will realize that they must challenge and defeat the U.S. government (and the people who elect it every four years) in international forums, in the marketplace of ideas and in every other forum of international debate.

    All the Democrats and “progressives” asked John Kerry to do (in 2004) was to beat George Bush. Kerry was essentially told by Democrats and so-called progressives, “Go wherever you have to go ideologically and do whatever you have to do politically. Equivocate on abortion, support the war in Iraq, do whatever you have to. Just beat George Bush.” But Kerry and his party couldn’t do even that.

    Kerry didn’t beat George Bush. Despite moving as far right as he could and becoming in the end a pro-war, ruling class, conservative Democrat, John Kerry lost. You, my fellow so-called “progressive” Americans, sold out. You — Noam Chomsky, Howard Dean, Spokane Progressives, The Nation magazine, all of you — led first-time voters and young voters to John Kerry and the ideologically bankrupt Democratic Party. Several candidates out there, Ralph Nader and David Cobb among them, could have and in fact did eloquently address every issue that you claim out of one side of your mouth to believe in. But you, yes you, silenced them and their supporters.

    Not to worry, right? Your house is warm, your bed is made, there’s food in the fridge and two cats in the yard. Yes, you sold out and the rest of the world knows it.

    David Brookbank
    Spokane, Wash.

    So, in summary, the people of the U.S. are living in their own private Idaho, largely unable to understand and analyze realities beyond their media narrowed view of the world. While the Bush administration has mired our national boots in the quick sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, the peoples of Latin America and other parts of the world have seen the devastation we wreck around the world and have had the opportunity to create their own alternatives, largely abandoning the World Bank and IMF in Latin America, forming new global coalitions, etc.

    Clinton’s 1992-2000 approach — starvation by embargo plus bombing in Iraq while dismantling the US social service network as we know it — was as deadly to human life as Bush’s bombs & Blackwater approach abroad and the continued attacks on government programs for the poor and middle class at home. The extent of property damage and the damage to U.S. reputation caused by the blatant violence of the Bush is the only real difference.

    Though it is a massive sacrifice by the people of Iraq, I believe the interests of the people of the world — which are best served by a much diminished U.S. imperialist machine — are likely to be better served by the blatant, nakedly bare iron fist of the U.S. ruling class right wing (read Republican party) rather than the velvet-gloved but no less brutally cruel and murderous velvet-gloved iron fist of the U.S. ruling class left wing (read Democrat party).

    The election of a Democrat in 2008 is taken as a given by the ruling class, including its media manifestation, the two party machines (owned by the ruling class), and corporate America. That is because after 8 years of aggressive imperialism abroad and destruction of the economy and social system at home, it is the ruling class script that the Democrats take their turn, restructure the ransacked economy, redesign the starved social programs, conduct a more ‘benevolent’ imperialist foreign policy, and put the U.S. people back to sleep for eight years. Then, in 2016, we will repeat the cycle.

    International solidarity is the key to human advancement. Solidarity — in fact the most powerful and therefore most dangerous word in the eyes of the ruling classes of the world — is afoot in the land. Those who carry it — peace organizations, liberation theologists, solidarity organizations, etc — are considered enemies of the state. In fact, if you have been following blogs here (at the Spokesman-Review) long enough you have seen some of us called enemies of the state by some of our fellow bloggers.

    “Hasta donde debemos practicar las verdades?”

    David Brookbank

    (Thanks for your blog, James, and I hope to read in more depth).

  4. I did forget to say, James, that the video from YouTube about YourTube as a means of popular mass media of, by, and for the people is very interesting and important. We are indeed at a point of transformation. How will it be coopted and/or removed from the hands of the people? Time will tell. What do you think?

  5. […] priorities and experiences than those of us who are older. Related to that, as I promised previously, here is another favorite video from Kansas State University’s […]

  6. Wreck said

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Wreck

  7. […] Posted in Journalism, Music, Politics, Written elsewhere by James McPherson on June 27th, 2008 As I predicted last month, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are quickly mending fences, and their camps seem to be […]

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