Friday, January 4, 2008

The Morning After

The good news, of course, is that Hillary came in third. Too bad it wasn’t a weaker third or, as I wrote two days ago, fourth or worse. However, the danger of a full-fledged Clintonite restoration remains. The field has narrowed too. I’ll miss Chris Dodd. Excluding the media’s non-persons, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, he was among the top two or three candidates. Joe Biden’s departure from the race is another story; he surely won’t be missed.

Sadly, John Edwards, in second place, lost his best chance to gain what Poppy Doc Bush used to call “the Big Mo.” He was seriously outspent in Iowa by both Obama and Clinton. Now he’ll have an even harder time raising the money that our “democracy” runs on. If only the outcomes for Edwards and Obama were reversed! Why didn’t it happen? Edwards was outspent, but he certainly spent enough; and he’s been working the state hard almost continuously since 2004. He had as good an organization in Iowa as Obama did. So most of the explanation must lie elsewhere. On this morning after, two thoughts come to mind.

The first is fairly obvious. Edwards was all but ignored by the corporate media and NPR. They obviously don’t take well to anti-corporate “messages.” On the other hand, the media couldn’t get enough of Edwards’ first-tier rivals. To be sure, on the “issues,” Edwards and Obama, and even Clinton, don’t disagree all that much; on foreign policy, including the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, they disagree even less. But their similarities mask important differences. Clinton, like her husband and his (now her) entourage, stand pretty much where liberal Republicans would, if there were any of them left. The difference is that liberal Republicans would be more principled. They would also be less accountable to the constituencies whose pain the Clintons “feel,” even as they add to it. That’s why Democrats like Hillary and Bill can’t quite win the hearts and minds of the plutocracy; it is their fate always to be wannabes. But that’s good enough for the shapers of opinion to deny them no opportunity to promote themselves. Much the same is true for Obama. It’s hard to say where he stands – on anything. His “message of change,” insofar as it has content, is perhaps not quite so corporate-friendly. But he has taken great pains not to turn the plutocracy against him. His shtick is that, though he’s not the traditional (white male) contender, he’s safe as can be. Obama is good at being safe. He’s so safe that he won big time in a state with a population less than 5% African-American. He’s so safe that the plutocracy, so far at least, is not standing in his way. More than his “celebrity” status, more than the inherent interest of his “epoch struggle” with Hillary, there’s his anodyne persona. Corporate America appreciates that; so does its media.

But the bigger factor revolves around the point, reported in all the polling, about the importance caucus goers in Iowa attached to “change.” Apparently, this is what brought nearly twice as many people to this year’s caucuses as to those of 2004. This is all to the good, I suppose; as is the fact that many of the new participants were people in the 18-25 age group demographic, and that many described themselves as “independents.” How much better would it have been though had these new participants come equipped with a political compass! Then they would realize that there’s change and – well, change. Edwards talked about setting in motion a dynamic that would empower working people and the poor, and that would take on the contemporary counterparts of Teddy Roosevelt’s “malefactors of great wealth.” That would spell genuine change. On the other hand, Obama’s “change” reduces to inspirational drivel. It sounds good. It was hard not to be moved by his victory speech. Obama entrances people across the political spectrum – even David Brooks, the New York Times’ (most) right-wing (and least brainy) columnist, who was impressed enough to declare Edwards’ “angry cries” against corporate greed “old fashioned” in comparison. The truth, though, is that not since Bobby Kennedy’s final days has there been the prospect of installing in the White House anyone nearly as progressive as John Edwards. Were he to win, real change would, at long last, be on the agenda. Now that cause has now been set back.

But it ain’t over till its over. As of now, it’s not looking good for Edwards; but it’s looking even worse for Hillary. If Obama is the price we must pay to rid ourselves of the Clintons, then so be it.

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The other good news is that Mitt Romney has been dealt a serious blow. Preacher Huckabee’s win, unlike Pat Robertson’s second place finish in 1988, is probably more than a flash in the pan. Despite what the punditocracy was claiming barely a month ago, our homegrown Christian Taliban are still very much at it. This might seem like a blessing for the Democrats, and indeed it would be if Huckabee were to get the nomination. The Democratic candidate would then be running against a character conjured up by the writers of the Andy Griffith Show. But the bad news is: Huckabee won’t be the nominee – not if the plutocrats who run the GOP have any say. John McCain, the least risible but most bellicose (or second most, after Rudy G) of the Republican candidates, is now more likely to move ahead, as the plutocracy throws its weight – and money – behind him. Or Huckabee’s win, if it holds up in the next few primaries, could encourage Michael Bloomberg, a plutocrat unencumbered by ties to the Republican Party’s useful idiots, to run on a third party line, introducing a wild card into the race. But it probably doesn’t matter who the Republicans nominate or who runs independently of them. After Bush, the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, ought to be and probably is undefeatable; unless, of course, they defeat themselves by outdoing themselves in pusillanimity or in sheer vacuity.

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