On Politics and Change

In 1987 Peter Parker married his long-time, on-again/off-again girlfriend Mary Jane Watson. As with many young married couples their life was not without its share of struggles — Peter had a side-career as a costumed superhero, Peter had a serious health scare (and discovered he might have been a clone of the original Peter), MJ became pregnant and miscarried, Peter and MJ separated for a time, yet through it all, their marriage worked out in the end.

Recently, however, things changed for Peter and MJ. Peter and MJ moved into the Avengers Mansion, he revealed his secret life as Spider-Man to the world, and when he repudiated Iron Man and the Registration Act he became a wanted man, forcing Peter and MJ on the run from the authorities. An assassin’s bullet, meant for Peter, caught his aged Aunt May instead, and she was on the verge of death, because he was Spider-Man and because he’d revealed his identity to the world. Medical science and magic couldn’t save Aunt May, but someone could. That someone was Mephisto, and he made Peter an offer — trade your marriage to MJ so that it never happened, and Aunt May would live and his secret identity would be restored.

Peter and MJ took the deal. They gave up their marriage — essentially selling it to the Devil — in exchange for the life of the eighty-something Aunt May.

Within the narrative framework of the Marvel Universe, that’s what happened.

Why it happened can’t really be explained within the narrative framework of the Marvel Universe. Spider-Man is a street vigilante. He doesn’t deal with god-like beings, like Mephisto. And while the build-up to the story is lacking, the new status quo doesn’t lend itself toward exploring the ramifications of Spider-Man making a deal with the devil.

But I’m not here to debate the merits of the storytelling of “One More Day.” Rather, I want to discuss why it was done in terms of narrative.

It has to do with change.

A married Peter Parker, in the view of Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada and a number of other comic creators, changed the fundamentals of the character. Peter Parker was no longer a hard-luck, love-lorn loser.

Change, it seemed, was bad.

The appearance of change, however, was good.

Peter Parker could age slightly. He could have relationship troubles. He could try to improve his lot in life… and not succeed. Rather than real character change, an appearance of character change was the order of the day.

Hence, “One More Day,” a storyline that washed away two decades of changes, to strip the character of Peter Parker down to an archetypal baseline, where change was impermissible but an appearance of change would henceforth be the order of the day.

Change = Bad
Appearance of Change = Good

At least, that’s the message of the Marvel Universe. (Also, the Marvel Universe is teaching kids the message that it’s okay to make deals with the Devil so a married man can play the field. Who will think of the children?)

I bring this up because of an e-mail I received today from the John Edwards campaign.

Admittedly, they are not a disinterested party. Edwards is running on a platform of change. The system is broken. And Edwards is a Viking berserker out to change that.

In the Marvel Universe, Edwards would be a bad thing. Edwards wants change.

And while I would support Senator Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, I cannot help but feel that she represents a status quo. An appearance of change, at best. Which is fine — though wrong — for the Marvel Universe. But not for this universe.

Because the system doesn’t work. Income inequalities. Corporations oppressing the middle and working class. A health care crisis. Energy dependence. The intractable war in Iraq.

I feel that Senator Clinton would be able to change some of these, but hers would not be great changes. We would have an appearance of change. At best.

But what about Senator Barack Obama?

Sadly, I also believe that he would be, at best, an appearance of change.

And the reason is very simple.

Bipartisanship.

It’s like when the Democratic Party took control of the House and Senate in the 2006 midterm elections. The leadership of Congress changed, but what effectively has changed? Where is a strong stand on Iraq? Where is a strong stand against judicial and executive appointments? Where is a Congressional oversight with teeth? What we’ve had is a year of an appearance of change.

Not real change.

And I’m not certain that Senator Obama understands that. Because he speaks of the need to build consensus. To be bipartisan in his dealings with Congress.

We’ve already seen that’s a dead path.

To my mind, then, Obama represents an appearance of change. Things will be tweaked, but will remain fundamentally at the status quo.

I think that’s the last thing we need right now.

Instead, I think back to Aliens — “Nuke it from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.” That‘s what John Edwards represents to me.

And that’s the message the e-mail from his campaign put across:

The choice in this election is simple. If we want a president who will lead America to the big, bold changes we need and change the conversation in America, Democrats should choose the candidate who has led the field in ideas and shaped the conversation in this race so far.

In this campaign, John Edwards has led on the issues — the other candidates have merely followed.

But don’t take it from me — let me share with you some of the things people are saying about John.

As Paul Krugman writes today in The New York Times:

“On the Democratic side, John Edwards, although never the front-runner, has been driving his party’s policy agenda. He’s done it again on economic stimulus: last month, before the economic consensus turned as negative as it now has, he proposed a stimulus package including aid to unemployed workers, aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, public investment in alternative energy, and other measures.”

And as Christopher Hayes writes in The Nation:

“The fact remains that the Edwards campaign has set the domestic policy agenda for the entire field. He was the first with a bold universal health care plan, the first with an ambitious climate change proposal that called for cap-and-trade, and the leader on reforming predatory lending practices and raising the minimum wage to a level where it regains its lost purchasing power.”

In this campaign, John Edwards has led the other candidates in standing up for progressive change.

As Ezra Klein writes in The American Prospect:

“Much more so than Obama, it was Edwards who forced a new style of politics, untethered by the fear and timidity of the 90s, adamant that liberalism was an electoral boon and economic justice a popular sentiment. Knowing they had to defend against his challenge, both Hillary and Obama edged closer to his appeal.

“It left the Democrats in a much stronger position overall, and forced them to argue for, and commit to, a much broader and more inspiring agenda than we otherwise might have seen.”

In this campaign, the other candidates have followed John’s lead in talking about the special interests — but the special interests understand the difference between rhetoric and reality. That’s why corporate lobbyists are united against John Edwards.

As Kevin Drawbaugh reports for Reuters:

“Ask corporate lobbyists which presidential contender is most feared by their clients and the answer is almost always the same — Democrat John Edwards. One business lobbyist said an Edwards presidency would be a ‘disaster’ for his well-heeled industrialist clients.

‘I think Hillary is approachable. She knows where a lot of her funding has come from to be blunt,’ said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Stanford Group Co., a market and policy analysis group.”

Want to help John’s field-leading campaign for change? Then please take a moment to forward these quotes on to your friends and family who live in the 48 states that have yet to cast a vote for the Democratic nominee. Tell them that you are standing with John Edwards — and ask them to join you.

Here’s the bottom line in this election. We need a president who has the vision to put forth bold, progressive solutions to the challenges facing America in the 21st century. John Edwards has shown he has that vision — and he has led on it throughout this campaign.

That’s what this election is like for me.

John Edwards is Peter Parker growing up, getting married, and being happy.

His rivals — Senators Clinton and Obama — are “One More Day.”

And I don’t think the United States can survive “One More Day.”

2 thoughts on “On Politics and Change

  1. Hello, Allyn.

    Sorry, politics rile me up a bit. I’m going to be quick, because I don’t want to start ranting.

    I’m a huge Obama fan, because of his bipartisan policies. The nation as it stands is divided, and the current administration took advantage of this division to push their agenda. I’m certain that anyone you ask will tell you that the government is supposed to carry out the will of the people, and when they cease to do that, the people should change the government. Obama’s platform, as I understand it, is that the process we’ve been using doesn’t work — that is to say, candidates make promises and hope that more people agree with them than with the other guy. He seems (and this is the same thing he pushed for when Kerry ran) to want to make the United States feel like one entity, instead of being divided into opposing groups, and he doesn’t seem to want to make promises based on his will, but rather the will of the people. He isn’t trying to convince us that he knows what’s best, he’s trying to convince us that he will do what we thing is best whenever possible.

    At any rate, that’s why I’m voting for the guy.

  2. Rant? Pshaw, dude, rant away. Considering that part of my reason for writing that post to begin with was so I could rant about “One More Day”… šŸ™‚

    As I wrote about a week and a half ago, “I could vote for any of the three candidates. Edwards is further to the left than either of the sitting Senators, and I feel that his positions on health care, economic inequality, and the like are more advanced and more detailed than his opponents. But, as I said, Iā€™d have no trouble, come November, pulling the lever (or rather, using the touchscreen) for any of the three.”

    “Three” being Edwards, Obama, and Clinton. In case that weren’t obvious. šŸ˜‰

    And I get where you’re coming from on Obama. I actually do, and it’s something I’ve pondered. The problem I have with it is that the message I “get” from Senator Obama is that his solution to the partisan divide sounds like sitting around singing “Kumbaya.” He’s campaigning on a message of hope and a cult of personality, and…

    That’s exactly what Commander Guy campaigned on. Hope. Restoring order and decency. The down-home, folksy personality.

    And that worries me.

    In some ways, that’s a problem that’s going to dog Senator Obama, the perception among the Democratic electorate that there’s “no ‘there’ there.” Which is actually why I’m glad that New Hampshire went the way it did, and why South Carolina and Nevada look to be serious fights.

    Because the longer the primary season lasts, the more tested the candidates will be. And the more “there” comes out.

    If that makes sense.

    I’ve been on the Edwards bandwagon a long time. I’ve given him money. I’ve attended campaign rallies. And I’m looking forward to voting for him in Maryland’s primary. Because I believe that America needs a fighter right now. Not a hugger.

    But you know? I really would be happy to vote for any of the Democratic candidates in the general election come November. Well, maybe not Dennis Kucinich, because he’s kinda daft.

    It seems to me that we’re approaching a world historical moment. A world historical event of Seldon Crisis magnitude. American politics will realign. Surprisingly, that’s what the Bush/Rove strategy was based on — but they wanted to force a realignment their way. Ironically, it’s resulted in a realignment in the opposite direction.

    I think Obama will handle that world historical moment okay.

    Suddenly I’m envisioning this election in the paradigm of 1912. Edwards as Teddy Roosevelt. Obama as Woodrow Wilson. Clinton as William Howard Taft. That actually works….

    Yeah, I think Obama will be okay. Not my first choice. But he’ll be okay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *