M.O.W. voted twice for Senator Obama yesterday. The first time we used one of those new-fangled electrified machines and the second time we signed our name to a list. We have to admit that we had never caucused before now--we are relatively new to Texass, after all. We found the caucus slightly disorganized, but we believe that it only appeared disorganized because most of the people there had also never been to a caucus before and we none of us quite knew what we were doing. Thankfully there were a handful of folks there who had been doing the Texass Two Step seemingly for decades and they kept things organized.
We waited in line outside of our polling place and Founder-stalked for a while (was Jimmy Buck really the worst president or has GWB out done him in suckyness, we wondered and discussed with our line colleagues), then we filed into our church polling place (most polling places seem to be churches in Texass, they being in such abundance) and stood around for a while. There was an awkward moment when the dozen or so Republicans outted themselves and were asked to hold their caucus elsewhere. Then once the Republicans had removed to another location we Democrats got in line to sign our name and declare our candidate. After so doing the votes were counted (and witnessed by second parties--no shenanigans here!) before the Chair made his announcement:
SENATOR OBAMA WON OUR PRECINCT! Hooray!!
Now we divide up Clinton supporters on one side and Obama on the other and we elect our County Delegates (M.O.W. is proud to say that we will represent Senator Obama at our county convention later this month--step one in our master plan to get to go to the DNC). After a few resolutions were proffered from the floor and many handshakes and congratulations were exchanged we Democrats parted the scene to watch how the rest of the state(s) voted in their own precincts.
As you would expect, M.O.W. enjoyed our time at our caucus. We love being among the politically active people. We love when old, young, white, black, brown, rich, and poor come together to act politically. We saw that they who caucused were respectful of one another, interested in politics, hopeful for the future, angry about the past. We talked, laughed, stood, and sat together. We acted together to make decisions.
We formed a community last night--however briefly--and we knew it.
We shared a lot of information and opinions. We talked, in particular, about why we supported Senator Obama and how we felt when we were told that we were mere members of a herd that did not know rhetoric from reality. As you can imagine, our fellow caucus members were a wee bit sensitive about this question.
Once we returned home and turned on the news M.O.W. quickly lost the afterglow of our political community building experience. 3 AM phone calls. All rhetoric. Unprepared. No plan. Meetings in Canada. Ug. It seems as though HRC would win Rhode Island, Ohio, and Texass and that she would do so by nasty and negative invective against our hero.
After our experience at the Texass caucus we wonder about the wisdom of HRC's choice to try to win the Democratic nominee at all costs. As we have already discussed, rhetoric is nothing more than a tool of language; rhetoric binds a community together; rhetoric allows us to avoid violence. They who critique rhetoric are really critiquing the people because they are implicitly arguing that the people do not know right from wrong, true from false. They who critique rhetoric presume that the speaker is a manipulator and that the audience has been easily manipulated. The good folks that we spoke to at the caucus last night were very aware that the criticisms of Senator Obama's rhetoric were actually criticisms of them and they were hurt by them. They defended their choice, they defended their right to choose, they defended their judgement.
Senator Clinton's attacks on Senator Obama put the citizens on the defensive as much as they put Senator Obama on the defensive.
And M.O.W. wonders at what cost? Senator Clinton is squandering the peoples' opportunity to unite the nation and re-invigorate the political process and she is so doing for her own benefit at the expense of the people and the nation. We would remind you, dear founder-stalkers, of the founders' original understanding of patriotism. According to Henry St John Bolingbroke, from whom the founders learned about patriotism, a true patriot would defend the the peoples' liberty by defending the constitution, would reject party and faction, and would seek to unite the nation behind one vision so that all could work toward the common good. The patriot did not do any of this for her own benefit--we must never seek power for our own sake--but, rather the patriot acts for the good of the people.
We ask, dear fellow founder stalkers, by these criteria who is the patriot? We believe that it is clear that Senator Obama alone possesses true patriotism. One candidate is a war hero, yes, but that is not the same as being a partriot by Bolingbroke's (or the founders') standard. Another candidate is a party hack, a policy wonk, who claims that her experience with her party gives her the credibility that Senator Obama lacks. Senator Clinton is mistaken. Her experience makes her a part of the problem, not the solution. The true patriot rejects party in order to unite, Senator Clinton embraces party in order to divide.
And divide she will if she continues these attacks on Senator Obama and the people. She cannot divide Senator Obama from his supporters without alienating them from the political process. Alienated voters do not vote. If Senator Clinton thinks that she will defeat Obama with negativity in the primary and then re-gather together his constituency to support her in November, then she is seriously misguided.
Alienated voters do not vote. And Senator Clinton is practising the politics of alienation.
As we witnessed in our conversations at the caucus last night the people are very aware that they are being insulted by Senator Clinton, the media, and the Republican Party (this is the company you keep Senator Clinton?). They are tired of politics as usual. They want to believe that we can make a difference in politics and improve all of our lives. Calling the people stupid followers of empty rhetoric is a failing strategy because it will only alienate those Americans who are excited about politics for the first time in a long while.
All of the pundits last night urged Senator Obama to find a way to respond to Senator Clinton's attacks while still staying on message as the uniting candidate who stands for hope, change, empowering the people, and the end of politics as usual. M.O.W. believes that his strategy is clear:
Senator Obama must draw from the founders' understanding of patriotism to win this election.
Senator Obama already behaves as Bolingbroke described the Patriot. He already seeks to protect the people's liberty by defending the constitution, he already rejects party and faction, he already seeks to unite the nation for the common good. He needs to stay on message and be more clear about why Senator Clinton is NOT a Patriot and why her attacks on him only prove precisely how far away she is from the founder's ideal of patriotism. In other words, Senator Clinton's negativity needs to be turned against her to show that it is precisely the thing that makes her unworthy of our trust.
Senator Clinton stands for politics as usual, Senator Obama stands for patriotism.