I went to a meeting of 62 students who gathered in the Coop on September 8 to discuss involvement in Barack Obama’s campaign. I wanted to find out why they supported him. The leaders of the discussion, sophomore Max Weiss, first-year Molly Emmett, and senior Carly Turro sat at a small table while students stood close to listen. Obama pins, stickers and campaign posters covered the table.
Weiss listed the events that they could put together. They included joint meetings with Hamilton students, debate-watching parties and most popular of all, “phone banking,” where students call undecided voters and lobby them to vote for Obama.
I asked Weiss after the meeting why he supported Obama.
“He’s a positive figure,” Weiss said as he flipped through posters for sale in the COOP. “He’s inspiring…and I like his message of change. Change is a positive outlook on the future. Obama also wants to go away from the ‘you’re either with us or against us’ attitude.” But how did Obama’s policies reflect that change? Weiss considered his answer, and then declared that he “just likes [Obama’s] policies better than McCain’s.”
Weiss defines himself as somewhat liberal. Like many supporters, he is attracted to Obama’s charisma and message of hope. Much of Obama’s rhetoric is empty.
He wants to leave 50,000 to 60,000 troops in Iraq, and transfer 10,000 to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. When asked how he felt about this, Weiss said, “no comment.”
Obama supports a health care program where insurance companies still make profit. Asked about this, Weiss said, “no comment.”
Obama received $275,000 from telecommunication companies swaying him to vote in favor of the FISA bill. This bill protects companies that gave the government information about their clients after the passing of the Patriot Act. It is a giant step towards fascism. The bill means that tens of millions of Americans will have all of their personal correspondence and communications monitored and stored by the government.
I also asked first-year Audrey Pallmeyer, who attended the meeting, about these policies. She said that his plan for the war was “a horrible idea,” and that she hadn’t known his policy beforehand.
Pallmeyer also said that “we should reduce our military spending,” and felt that Obama would do this most effectively. An article in The National Bellwether began “Barack Obama’s national security plan…urges a 65,000-troop increase in the U.S. Army, and 27,000 additional Marines.” He does not want to decrease military spending.
“I’m not 100 percent sure why I support Obama”, Pallmeyer admitted. One reason was “because he’s the most likely to get elected.”
So if most Obama supporters have not closely examined his position, why do they hold one? Group mentality. A hopeful public rallies behind a cardboard figure. In the same way that nationalists support the nation, or baseball fans support their teams, Obama enthusiasts support Obama without reflection. He has become a catalyst for their ideas of change. I asked Weiss what change meant to him.
“It’s an attitude,” he answered. “Look, change does get generic.” The “Yes, we can” slogan fulfills people’s desire for simplicity and false strength. It is a campaign that touches the surface. The rallies do not address the issues. It is just feel-good language.
The issue is the corporate state. Until we defy the corporate state, which neither John McCain nor Barack Obama does, we are doomed. Voting for true change is voting for someone outside the two-party duopoly that is hostage to corporate interests. Someone who will provide single-payer, not-for-profit health care. Someone who will withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Someone who will fight corporate fraud and corporate welfare. Someone like Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney.