Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lawrence Lessig on Obama

Lawrence Lessig, a guy who's ideas I respect, and who's book I have yet to read, despite it sitting on my shelf for three years, has created a video in response to a letter requesting an explanation of why he supports Barack Obama. His response is clear. He calls the Clinton campaign "Rovean." He explains what each campaign means by "change." Clinton wants change, but limited to the removal of George W. Bush, and the GOP from Washington, and Barack Obama, and other Democrats want a fundamental change. They want to change the way we do things. Are we going to keep taking money from large economic interests, because they represent, "real Americans?" Or, will we treat running a campaign, not as a means to censor suggestions or ideas from anyone, as Clinton may make the case Obama and others do when they refuse funding, but as a way to make the system more fair. The large financial interests already have the means to campaign for themselves, in the media and elsewhere. They are free to compete in the democracy of ideas at a level much greater then anyone else. Their voice is loudest. It has been this way through out our history. But, while the influence of large companies is strong, a candidate can make a stand regarding the impact of large corporate influence on their campaign. Does this mean that large corporations should be censored, that Barack and others are anti-business by refusing campaign assistance? No. Corporate interests already have such a large influence that they need no further help. Now, I do detest the treatment of "THE BIG BAD MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS," as something evil and wicked. Not every large organization is evil, and not every multinational organization wants to crush the worker. However, I do not find value in giving further influence and assistance to organizations who have such a great advantage in the marketplace as it is. These companies are made up of people, and doing what is right for the people who make up the company as a whole will benefit the company as a whole.

So, do we want the kind of calculated moral character of Clinton, or the principled decisions of someone willing to lead and inspire hope? I am far from a cheerleader and am always skeptical of anyone with power and influence. I do not like the idolization of political figures because is creates a sort of celebrity which involves dissection of each detail about an individual which I find unhelpful. However, this idolization at the same time simplifies a candidate. There are now single words to describe the campaigns of both candidates, we and she. It's this open ended simplification which allows people to make judgments in their own mind of how a certain person is personally, what they may do in certain situations and how they will be as a leader. Rather then selling you a complete story, it creates a pitch for a general idea you can stitch together and make your own.

Perhaps I'm wrong, and am being duped. At some level we're all exposed to a barrage of ideas, and select those ideas we value and give them a little more credit. I don't have the sense that voting for Obama is a safe vote, or a calculated vote. It just feels right. Some have argued that Clinton will be the strongest on defense and terrorism. They feel we'll be attacked again soon, and Clinton will give the strongest response. I see this as old thinking. Our strong responses do not prevent terrorism, but make it worse. Do our enemies attack us for no reason? Or, are we viewed as invasive, intolerant, and preemptive? If we had a fundamental change in our foreign policy, would that be better at preventing aggression against our interests? That's the hope.

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