Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Weird Primaries

Perhaps there is some reason why Iowans -- and citizens of New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina -- should have more influence in selecting the Democrats’ and Republicans’ presidential candidates than the rest of us or why, for the Democrats at least, citizens of Florida and Michigan should have no say at all. But I’ll be damned if I know what it is. Neither can I imagine how such gross inequalities of political influence can be reconciled with any plausible notion of democracy. But this is how it is in the Land of the Free. So let us hope that the good people of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina rise to the occasion by dispatching the Clintons from our political life. I have no idea why it must be them. But somebody has to do it – or else we’ll find ourselves saddled again with the political heirs of Gerry Ford, Brent Scowcroft, and Ronald Reagan, clothed as kinder, gentler “liberals.”

I’m also mystified by the Oprah phenomenon. Maybe I’m too far out of the housewife, daytime TV demographic. To me, Oprah, along with Peg’s bonbons, is just a running joke on “Married With Children.” Yet, all the pundits in captivity report that hers is a uniquely magic touch that could transform the dynamic of the campaign. Well, in this case too, if by backing Obama, Oprah helps knock Hillary out of the water, then – Go Oprah! I can’t explain it, and I certainly can’t justify it. But it’s the bottom line that counts.

Even before Oprah, the media have been pumping Obama more than usual. They’ve also been busy ignoring John Edwards almost as much as they do the “non-electable” candidates -- including the two, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, who have something worthwhile to say. Could that be because Edwards is more threatening than Obama to their bosses and to the interests the “liberal” media serves? It’s because I think he is that I hope he, not Obama, is the one who benefits most from any Clinton decline, whether occasioned by Oprah or anyone else. Now that Edwards is polling better than Obama or Clinton against all the Republican candidates, maybe he’ll get more attention. That should register with the pundit wannabe Democratic voters who, as in 2004, think they should vote for the candidate most likely to beat the Republicans, no matter how Republican Lite that candidate’s politics might be. Hillary has been riding that train until now because somehow the pundit wannabes never quite figured out that Hillary is all the Republicans have going for them. Perhaps, as polling data accumulates, the obvious will finally dawn on them. But I’m not holding my breath.

The other recent “news” is the remarkable rise of Mike Huckabee – in Iowa and nationally. Maybe, it’s just that since our elections are little more than popularity contests, his vaunted “likeability” counts. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t “believe” in evolution. For whatever reason, among likely Republican voters, Huckabee is now up there with Rudy Giuliani. In their own unique and special ways, all the Republican candidates are extremely implausible. None of them excels at anything except making George Bush look good. But surely Giuliani and Huckabee are the two most implausible of all. Go figure.

Against Huckabee or Giuliani or, for that matter, any of the others, how can the Democrats lose? It won’t be easy. But if there’s a way, be sure they’ll find it – just as they did in 2000 and 2004. If they don’t dispatch the Clintons ASAP, even if only for Obama, they’ll be well on their way.

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