Election Blog

The following is an exchange of letters between Benjamin Fasching-Gray, Webster Vienna Librarian and Bookstore Manager and Christian E. Newman, Head of the Business & Management Department.The conversation began when Newman sent around a video on YouTube called “Yes We Can,” that featured clips of candidate Barack Obama whose words were simul-rapped in parallel screens.

News | Vienna Review | March 2008

Sketch: Bob Winford

Christian Newman wrote:

Subject: Change!!!

Yes, We Can!  Spread the word!!!


A message from the grassroots....



A response shot back:

Ben Fasching-Gray wrote:

Dear Chris: 

Where is Obama on reforming drug laws, on single-payer health care? Why does he tip his hat to Reagan and claim Hillary is too resistant to market forces? What’s he going to do to curb emissions? What would a path to citizenship for illegals under Obama look like? What’s his stand on anything, even stuff that doesn’t matter much to me, but would be nice icing on the cake, like gay marriage?

All I hear from him is vague promises of change while mumbling conciliatory phrases to conservatives.

Songs and ‘bandwagon’ ads like this one leave me cold. Maybe it’s from too much Hannah Arendt. Then again, I’ve never read Hannah Arendt. I instinctively distrust candidates with songs and bandwagon ads. Maybe if he won the Dem nomination it might pull the party to the left.

I’m not happy with Hillary’s stance on a lot of issues that matter to me, but at least she’s made it clear what she’s about.

But 40% of the ‘Millenials’ say they’re ‘Independent.’ Maybe it’s time for a progressive third party.

Remember EV Debs,



Christian Newman wrote:

Ben - I knew you’d get back to me :O)

I agree with a lot you’re saying, mon ami, and as a bleeding heart liberal, I actually like much of Nader’s agenda (some of it more than  Hillary’s or Obama’s) buuuut, I just don’t think a Dem (or Ind) with a strong left agenda stands a chance to get elected  in today’s America.

Hillary can promise all she wants concerning universal & mandatory  Health Care (a great idea as far as I’m concerned) but it just doesn’t stand a chance given the present political reality. A split Congress sure as hell wont sign it off. If Hillary is too "left" for Congress, think of President Nader’s abilities to implement change. So why shoot blanks (which you know from the start will never hit the mark), if you have a real chance at changing things, albeit at a smaller scale, with a more centrist candidate?

Am I cynical? Selling out? Maybe, but I wonder if any president (assuming he can) has the mandate to cram social reforms down people’s throats that a majority did not want.

We just suffered thru 8 years of Bozo-the-Clown trying to change America and the world according to a game plan developed by a small right-wing fringe. Almost 50% of the nation’s voters did NOT give Bush their vote in the first place. Another sizable portion of his own party voted him into office based on misleading promises and downright lies (I’m not a Nation Builder, remember?).  How dare he hijack so many of his fellow citizens for some Neocon, right-wing schemes?

So I ask myself - why is that any worse than having someone from the left try the same?  Don’t get me wrong, if Nader had a chance at becoming President I’d probably welcome many of his reforms but I doubt the majority of American voters would.  Most people just don’t have the stomach for grand social experiments.

I think Obama is such a centrist candidate.  The nod to Reagan’s accomplishments (though it made me sick) was an attempt to let moderate Republicans know he won’t lead some Culture War against them (or maybe it was just smart tactics). Because of his background he also brings an intuitive understanding of the complexities of the world we live in and the deep divisions between East and West, North and South. This is what sells me.

He’s a Third Culture Kid, he is with the times by virtue of his birth and upbringing. Will he fulfill the hopes people around the world place in him (for he is increasingly popular even outside the US) - I don’t know. But the US sure as hell could use some good will.

I’m on the Obama bandwagon, who’s with me?



Ben Fasching-Gray wrote :


Maybe it’s all the cough syrup I’m sipping, but I don’t understand what you mean. Are you saying we should only vote for candidates who can win? That’s not a very American attitude. If we’d thought like that in 1776, we’d have the Queen on our money today.

The point of voting for Nader isn’t so that he’d win, but to send a message to the two business-oriented parties that ‘we the people’ want more than just lip service. As Nader points out in the ‘Hardball’  interview on YouTube (link in my original e-mail, did you watch it?) this strategy has worked many times before.

Many of those examples are the same ones Obama glosses over in the speech that his supporters have turned into a combination ‘we shall overcome’ hymnal with Sinatra’s ‘high hopes.’ Without pressure from third parties, would women have the vote? What about the original party of Lincoln? What rock did those abolitionist-friendly radicals crawl out from under?

Can’t vote for them, they might ‘force’ abolition on all those southerners. Just wouldn’t be right. Is that what you mean?

The notion that if Nader won – a fantastic conceit worthy of Tolkein – he would then force radical ideas on the great conservative masses, in an evil, equal and opposite reaction to the force with which George W. Baboon has forced the Patriot Act and other crimes on the Silent Majority, is bizarre. It is true that Bush represents a tiny minority of the nation. He rose to power in a system where candidates are vetted undemocratically in internal party processes, and then compete for money from big corporate sponsors, until nearly half of all US citizens have lost so much interest that they no longer vote. When the ‘election’ is over, the difference between the two Business-Party candidates can be measured in a few hundred voters.

In 2000, apparently, it couldn’t be measured at all, it had to be conceded by an environmentalist who’s oil backers  successfully kept him from introducing the environment as a campaign issue.

If we suspend all disbelief, possibly with the help of TheraFlu and Robotussin, and imagine that Nader somehow won, it would only be possible because that 50% who didn’t vote in 1996 or in 2000 all voted for Nader and the 50% who dutifully hold their nose and vote for the lesser of two evils continued to split down the middle. In that case, he’d have a clear mandate to push for things that polls show the majority of Americans want.

Things like the decriminilization of victimless crimes. Things like harm reduction instead of imprisonment for addicts.

Obama has the nomination in the bag. The senile McCain will offer no challenge if Obama even nods to issues like incarceration and AIDS, especially the latter where McCain suggests abstinence as a solution, then we’ve got our first black president.

Too bad he wants to expand and modernize the military, has no clear plan for immigration or the environment, and has hinted that he’s against single-payer health care. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot of change is in the works.

Maybe we need to Keep On Pushing. Scare him a little, with a vote for single-payer health care, clear track to citizenship for illegals, reform of the Rockefeller Laws, and the long awaited Peace Dividend (remember that? Bill promised it to us in 1992), which Obama clearly has no intention of paying.

The US military gets half the budget right now. That’s around USD 40 Billion a year. He wants to expand and modernize the largest army on earth, whose only enemy is a nebulous group of bearded clowns hiding in caves? Let’s spend some of those billions on, gee, I don’t know, poverty reduction? forgiving African debt? Libraries? (don’t know how that got in there...)



PS. you just don’t like Nader cuz he’d cut the budget for space exploration.

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