On Monday night, I joined hundreds of Oakland residents to listen to Mayor Dellums’ state of the city address. I’m not going to get into the details too much here, mostly because V Smoothe already did a much more thorough job then I could ever hope to. Really, go read her analysis if you want to know the real facts behind what Dellums said on Monday.
But something clicked for me on Monday night. Watching the crowd hang on his every word, as Dellums threw out clever lines and attacked the evils of the media and crime, I finally realized why I’m worried about the possibility (maybe probability?) of Barack Obama being our president.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike Obama. I think he’s overall been a good senator (much as Dellums was a great congressman), and I’d choose him over Hillary any day, but what scares me is how he speaks and how his supporters speak about him.
Just as Dellums campaigned on making Oakland a model city, Obama is heavy on the rhetoric of hope, change, and unity. But what does this really mean, if anything? Hope alone is not going to get us anywhere, as we’ve seen in Oakland. And unity with right wing Republicans and corporate lobbyists isn’t going to get us the change we’re looking for (at least not the change I’m looking for).
But his supporters (and the media) constantly fawn over his inspirational speeches. On the night of his win in Iowa, the pundits couldn’t stop praising him, saying it was the best speech of his they’ve ever heard (it sounded to me like the same speech he gave at the DNC convention in ’04). At a progressive event here in Oakland, one of his supporters kept going on and on about how if we would all just attend an event and hear him speak, we’d put our support behind Obama.
You know what? I’m not interested in a president who’s inspirational without being specific. And I’m certainly not going to support a candidate whom you have to see in person to be convinced about his/her message.
And on Monday night, I saw such a similar phenomenon. Before Dellums spoke, a young African-American man (sorry, I didn’t catch his name and he never explained his affiliation) got the crowd pumped by talking about “getting down to town business” and how he “hella loves Oakland”. Dellums followed, talking about setting the record straight, and saying that Oakland is and can be a model city.
I looked around me, and really, people were eating this up. I’m not going to lie – for a bit there, I was reminded of my pride for this city and was falling into the trap of equating this city pride with support for our mayor.
But all of this inspirational speaking is ultimately just talk. And I’m worried that an Obama administration would look all too similar to a Dellums administration.
So on February 5th, I’m voting for John Edwards. I don’t care if people think he can’t win. The truth is that Edwards has been shut out of the race by the media, much more than Dellums has ever suffered from. And he talks about real issues – like health care, poverty, agriculture, and labor conflicts and I believe he brings real solutions to the table. And regardless of whether he wins or not, he’s done a great job of forcing both Clinton and Obama to at least talk about the issues I care about and to keep them from swinging even further to the middle of the political spectrum.
I’m guessing there are some Obama supporters reading this so go ahead and have at me – I’d be happy to be convinced I’m wrong, especially since I’ll eventually be voting for him if he’s the nominee.