Barney Frank has a very eloquent and passionate op-ed in the Huffington Post today, responding to a major theme of the Obama campaign -- namely that Obama doesn't want to "refight the fights we had in the 90's". (hat tip -- John Cole) With all due respect to Barney, I think he's missing Obama's point. Its not the real policy fights he wants to avoid, but the bitter, bitter silliness that went on through the 90's, that a Clinton nomination, and election, will certainly provoke.
This is a debate that has been ongoing in the blogosphere for a few weeks now and has been commented on by both right and left wing blogs. John Cole himself has been bringing this up along with his somewhat related criticism of Obama's lack of substanative policy speeches or proposals.
But Frank's op-ed gets at the heart of what I believe is the struggle for most liberals in whether to support Obama or Hillary (most Edwards supporters are flat-out Edwards supporters). You see...I think everyone is tired of the past 16 years. The past 16 years where 50% of the country hated the other 50%. Where disagreeing with someone, was not just a difference of opinions, but an admission of any number of evil personality traits (treasonous, unpatriotic, Nazi, fascist...I could go on). In fact, as Frank says:
It was Gingrich and his right wing allies who decided to inject a much harsher note of partisanship by explicitly rejecting the notion that the Democrats were honorable people with whom they disagreed, and instead decided, as Gingrich's own printed and taped materials argued, to portray us as treasonous, corrupt, immoral and otherwise vile. And when Gingrich was forced by his own flaws to step aside, Tom DeLay took up those cudgels with a little less rhetorical flourish but with an even heavier hand.
I think people who are supporting Obama and are excited by his campaign, as I myself am, really feel like this is a chance to put that all behind us. Is this naive? Probably, yes. But perhaps the feeling is, if there is a chance, the chance exists with Obama and not with Hillary. Rightly so, the counter argument is, in the current political environment, while Hillary would invite more scorn, she is also the candidate most likely to fight back stronger, harder and more successful than Obama.
So the question literally becomes "dare to hope for a change" or "resign yourself to what you know will come to pass anyway."
Glenn Greenwald had a great post about whats likely to come down the pike should Obama be the nominee anyway, and I think his points are valid.
There's a prevailing sense that Obama is not as offensive to the right-wing GOP faction as other Democratic and liberal candidates in the past have been, or that he's less "divisive" among them than Hillary. And that's true: for now, while he tries to take down the individual who has long provoked the most intense hatred -- literally-- among the Right. But anyone who doesn't think that that's all going to change instantaneously if Obama is the nominee hasn't been watching how this faction operates over the last 20 years. Hatred is their fuel. Just look at the bottomless personal animus they managed to generate over an anemic, mundane, inoffensive figure like John Kerry. At their Convention, they waved signs with band-aids mocking his purple hearts while cheering on two combat-avoiders.
The idealist in me wants to support Obama and wants to believe in the hope that he really is someone who can bring parts of both sides together and end the division in this country. Or least amerliorate it. The cynic in me wants Hillary in there to weather the eventual storm. I honestly just haven't decided yet which path I want to follow. I won't be able to vote in NJ's primary, as I'm not registered to either party, so right now, my thoughts are just those.
I do think it's a battle for most liberals/democrats between either explicitly hoping or wanting to hope he can transcend it all, just maybe, and knowing it's just politics as usual and wanting the proverbial Rocky to take the punches and bring it home in spite of them.
But as for Barney, he is dead-on. No one should be ashamed of fighting the policy fights and they should be fighting even harder now.