Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Go Iowa!

If anybody can justify according so much influence to the hundred thousand or so Iowans who are going to caucus January 3, I’d like to meet that person. Ditto for anyone who can justify according most of the rest of us so little influence, and especially for disenfranchising Democratic primary voters in the key states of Michigan and Florida. But in the Land of the Free, it’s ours not to reason why. We can however hope – not that the process of selecting candidates will be reasonable, but that the outcome will be. Here’s what I hope the Iowan caucus goers do (within the realm of possibility):

First of all, I hope they hand the Clintons a sound thrashing. It looks like there’s a good chance Hillary will come out third. Third isn’t bad enough. I want her to come out fourth. [Admittedly, this does strain what I just said about staying within the realm of possibility, by which I meant not hoping for anything too grossly improbable. But permit me one free pass.] Who should be third? There’s no shortage of candidates – as I’ve argued before, any of them except Joe Biden is better than Barack Obama. Since Obama is predicted to come out first, it is almost inconceivable that he’d do worse than second. But it would be wonderful if Bill Richardson or Chris Dodd topped Hillary’s total.

Then, I want John Edwards to win – by a lot. That will send as clear a message as can now be sent that the electorate, or at least the Iowa caucus goers, have had it with Clintonism.

It is interesting to note that Dennis Kucinich is finally getting some press coverage – but only because he advised his supporters in Iowa to caucus with Obama after he, Kucinich, fails to get the necessary numbers to remain a contender. Why he did that defies explanation too, except that it’s part of a pattern. In 2004, he threw his support behind John Edwards. Back then, Edwards was not the Democratic left’s best hope. He was where Obama is trying to be – in the mushy middle. Of course, then, the “left” candidate, Howard Dean, was as phony as they come. So, arguably, Kucinich did have a point. But it’s starting to look like Kucinich, though best on “the issues,” is partial to the mushy middle. It’s an affliction of “progressives” in Congress; they feel a compulsion to be players, and they think that the way to succeed in this is by going along to get along. On this one point, they could learn something from Newt Gingrich and his Contract on America. Get a disciplined group in Congress to act coherently, get them to leverage their power, and you can accomplish miracles. Too bad, the Newt didn’t put his power to use for niceness. But niceness is what Kucinich is all about. So what was he thinking?

It’s interesting too that Ralph Nader came out in favor of Edwards, but that, unlike Kucinich’s support for Obama, this has been barely reported. In this respect, the “anti-populist” corporate media and NPR may be too clever by half. No matter that it was almost eight years ago, and no matter that there was never a defensible reproach to be made, there are still Democrats around, self-styled “liberal” ones, who blame Nader for Al Gore’s defeat in 2000. I’m not talking about the reborn environmentalist Al Gore; I’m talking about “Gore, Gore, the corporate whore.” Thus the media may actually be doing Obama a disservice by blanking out news of Nader’s endorsement. Be that as it may, Iowans – listen to Ralph, not Dennis. Nader is wise and shrewd. When push comes to shove, Kucinich is a flake. That’s why, if I were an Iowan, I’d caucus for Mike Gravel and move over to the Edwards camp when I found myself alone in the room. I can think of no better way to exercise inordinate and unjustifiable political influence.

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