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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vote Tuesday, with recommendations

by folkbum

The more often I do these kind of posts, the more often I'm convinced that they have little effect. But I do them anyway--people grow to expect them and sometimes they even help me work out some of my own messy thinking.

City of Milwaukee
There are a handful of primaries around the city, only two of which are really getting any attention. For the city's 6th Aldermanic District, I recommend Una Van Duvall--as I did during the recall election last year. There is a great deal of speculation about whether Michael McGee, Jr., the incumbent, can hold the seat from behind bars. Let's hope this is the year he is let go. In the 3rd Aldermanic District, there are about a bazillion candidates. I think many of them would do well on the Common Council, but I think my readers could do a lot worse than electing Sam McGovern-Rowen to the post.

Less visible are two campaigns closer to my home. The 13th Aldermanic District is just across the street, literally, from me; I recommend current alderman Terry Witkowski in his primary. In the 14th Aldermanic District, which is mine, I recommend Tony Zielinski, the incumbent. I do not always agree with him, but he has got to be the hardest working man on the Common Council right now. His opponents, to put it mildly, are nuts. Arthur Kimball seems to be on a personal vendetta against Zielinski, lobbing attack after attack at Zielinski at the forum last week--most of the attacks were quite baseless. Andrew Reid seems to be running on a platform of "I don't know the answers, but I'd like to be the guy you elect to try to find out the answers." That did save him the trouble of having to answer the questions at the candidate forum, but I don't think it makes for a very good campaign. (The candidate forum I tried to live-blog--before my battery ran out--is YouTubed here. Watch it if you don't believe me about Kimball!)

Milwaukee County
Again, not a lot of primaries, and I will only comment on two. In the 15th Supervisory District, I recommend a longtime friend of this blog, Dan Cody. In the 14th Supervisory District, where I live, I recommend Chris Larson. Jason Haas, also a longtime friend of this blog, is a good guy, but this is not his time. Steven Kraeger, who told a Bay View-centric audience at the candidate forum last week that he would "have Scott Walker's back," couldn't even earn Walker's endorsement. That honor(?) went to Sebastian Raclaw, who at the forum seemed more reasonable that I thought he would be. But Raclaw also plans not to devote his full-time attention to the work of the County Board, planning instead to keep his day job as a Milwaukee police detective. Hence, I plan to vote Larson.

In my head I have a long series of on-the-one-hands, pro-con lists that go on for pages and pages and pages. In the end, I come back to a few paragraphs I've written over the last year or so:
On the Democrats' side, I will repeat what I've said before about Hillary: I really, really, really want to have an election sometime in my lifetime without someone named Bush or Clinton on the ballot. Please. (Technically, 1976 was "in my lifetime," but I obviously couldn't vote then.) We don't--we shouldn't--have an aristocracy in this country; another eight years of a Clinton would make it feel uncomfortably like we do.

I have little doubt that Hillary would make a good president--and I think she can, indeed, win--so I will vote for/ volunteer for/ get excited about her candidacy should she be the nominee. But I don't think I'll be connecting the arrow next to her name.

Obama has the potential to be a transformative candidate, a transformative president. As a veteran of the Dean campaign in 2004, I love transformative campaigns. Obama has the potential--indeed, he has fulfilled it in some early contests--to motivate younger voters and others often left out of presidential politics to vote in large numbers. His rhetoric and his tone is all about unity and hope and change, and he's a much more convincing agent of change in that sense than Clinton. Obama's Democratic majority would be larger, have longer coattails, and would look more like 21st-century America.

Clinton, on the other hand, would not be transformative. But she would be a fixer. Again, I think back to what drew me to Richardson--the idea that we'll need someone in the White House who has the ability to pick up all the severed threads of American democracy and secure them before this thing really falls apart. I have no doubt that Clinton can do exactly that.

Which is not to say that Obama couldn't also assemble a team who can handle the mundane, real, and practical challenges he would inherit next January, or that Clinton wouldn't be able to put together a wide and historic voting coalition with coattails and all in November. It's just that each seems to have a different key strength, which leaves me at this point unable to recommend voting against either one.
To be consistent, I'd have to not vote for Clinton. On the other hand (see?) I think she is the more liberal candidate, and a few of Obama's positions--like how he Harry-and-Louised Clinton, or his saying Social Security is in crisis--undermine Democrats and Democratic themes. I think Obama has the momentum, has had since Iowa, really, to win the nomination. On the other hand (I promised myself I wouldn't do this!), if Clinton and Obama both camp out for two weeks in Ohio--a must-win in November--because Wisconsin didn't settle this thing, it can only be good for organization-building leading up to the general this fall.

In short, I still don't know what to do. I will enthusiastically support Obama in November, but does his being the likely nominee tip the scales to make me vote for him now? Should I try to keep Clinton in the race longer to keep the excitement building and keep McCain shut out of the media spotlight? Should I cross over and vote for Huckabee to try to keep the Republican process extended and nasty?

I probably won't know until tomorrow afternoon when I have the pencil in hand. And even then, I may flip a coin.

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