I watched the Clinton-Obama debate last night, the first one I’ve tuned in for. It’s pretty funny to see the two of them trying to convice people that there are actual differences between them when clearly there aren’t: both are DLC-beholden, centrist Bill Clinton-oids. Which is to say, ideal CEOs of the neoliberal state. The candidates themselves think that their positions on health care are, as Obama said last night, “substantively different.” Indeed. Clinton’s plan makes people who are unemployed or don’t receive insurance from their employers buy government insurance that they can’t afford so that they can pay copays they can’t afford so that they can maybe eventually receive care from a doctor. Obama wouldn’t make people buy government insurance and take on the burden of premiums and copays, but if they don’t and they show up at an emergency room to receive treatment, they will be fined, severely, as he made clear last night. These are the politics that are inspiring such great passion among Democrats this year.
(As an aside, it’s hilarious to hear Clinton rail against medical profiteering, since the lone accomplishment of her health-care reforms of the early 90s was to set in motion the process by which HMOs and drug companies, those mind-bogglingly profitable administrators of life and death in the United States, came to rule the delivery of health care.)
Some people think it’s significant that the two finalists for the Democratic nomination are a woman and a black man. Apparently the candidates don’t, as race and sex seem to be off-limits topics for them. That is, unless you count Obama’s passing references to his growing up without a father (read: I’m just like every other black person) or Clinton’s intimations about her essentially nurturing nature (read: I’m just like every other woman) as vigorous discussions of race and sex. Obviously, I do think race and sex are significant, but the discursive terrain on which this discussion is taking place is so debased and idiotic — Clinton’s voters and supporters are racists, and Obama’s voters and supporters are sexists — that it’s hard to find any purchase that doesn’t entail buying into the banality. The debate about the intersections of race and sex inspired by Clinton-Obama, a debate that should be about difference and dissenion, has already, in its singular way, erased difference and dissension. It’s now about who is the better American.
The Thomas Frank inside of me wants to get worked up about the awfulness of the Democrats. But that would be insincere. They are, after all, just doing their job. It would be like getting angry at leopards because they have spots.