Distinctions without Differences & Protective Imitation

Cross-posted at the Brave New Films Blog.

Primaries are about differentiation. Differences in the candidates' records; differences in the candidates' policy positions; differences in the candidates' ideologies. Well, at least they should be. Sadly, the more and more (or less and less) I watch/listen to political dialogue and commentary about these Presidential primaries and this upcoming Presidential election, I'm hearing a vague message of "change" that is doing little to concretely differentiate the candidates or further this country's dilapidated political discourse.

Real differences are likely not being drawn between candidates on the Democratic side because there may be few real differences between the remaining candidates (I can't see much). The question is: why? There are some distinctions in their voting records, but the differences are minute. Do they?

Ralph Nader doesn't think so, and he offers an interesting take on why. He calls the messages from Obama (and in my opinion Clinton by extension) about "change" and "one people" and "one nation" as ideas that live on a (my emphasis added):

…high plain of generality and abstraction…that doesn't do much for the productivity of the political dialogue. He does not get specific enough. Therefore, I think his main problem is he's censoring himself, and that is not sufficiently rationalized by saying that's just a tactic to win the primaries and get elected. After awhile, day after day, week after week, when you self-censor yourself, you become a different person, and it's a reflection on character.

He also goes on to call Obama's positions "protective imitations" of Clinton's positions, which I too believe are distinct in some instances, but not different.

My real problem is that the candidates that represented real differences have dropped out or suspended their campaigns. I want change and inspiration and all that good stuff. I just want it to be a result of the changes that will be made in poor people's lives, in Black people's lives, etc. I don't want to down-shift into "I'll support whoever the Democratic nominee is" mode so easily. I want to push the candidates to take forceful, meaningful stances on issues, not unmarkedly "different" positions at levels above average citizens' day-to-day lives and struggles. Those candidates of difference I referred to earlier did that. Who's going to do that now?

The people. The voters. The activists. That's who. The question is, will the candidates listen and do something real? We'll know soon enough.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

One response to “Distinctions without Differences & Protective Imitation”

  1. Pat says :

    Change as escalation.

    As someone who supported Shirley Chisholm in the 1970’s I don’t consider myself either anti woman or anti Black. But I cannot support either Clinton or Obama.

    I would love to support Obama but I am morally committed to opposing all political supporters of the crime fostering and terrorist funding Jim Crow drug war. Obama is a staunch drug war supporter. Sure, Barack talks change but the change he legislates is the opposite of the change he implies in his rhetoric.

    See my brief essay yesterday on my blog: Barack Obama Supports Drug Gangsters

    Differences without distinctions of the perfect metaphor for the Obama v Clinton matchup. Clinton promises to return America to the halcyon days of Bill Clinton’s world record prison population. Hell, the reason the Democrats have such a hard time winning today is because they mass disenfranchised so many millions of minorities and poverty oppressed urban Americans under the guise of the war on drugs. The Dems hate Nader for the 86,000 votes he took in Florida in 2000 while they ignore the nearly 300,000 Floridians criminally disenfranchised. Mostly by the drug war. Drug war advocate John Kerry lost nationally by 3-million votes in a year that had more than 5-million Americans criminally disenfranchised. Mostly by the Jim Crow drug war.

    These right-wing drug war Democrats are eating our young and demanding that we thank them for it.

    Nader is right!

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