The Democrats and Republicans would like us to believe that this election is about change. In fact they repeat the word like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz clicking her heels three times chanting theres no place like home except they hope their mantra will get them to White House rather than Kansas. But just saying the word change doesnt mean youre committed to it, and this election is quickly turning into another case of the same old crap. So far weve seen racism, pandering, lying and crying and we still have ten months to go. The Big Picture is coming into focus.
During the week I came up with an analogy that described the Democratic candidates as the Justice League and the Republicans as the Legion of Doom. I said this not because the Democrats are good while the Republicans are evil, but to say that because of the lack of substantive policy differences between the Democratic candidates (all want universal health coverage, all want to pull troops out to Iraq, with slightly differing timetables), they have the opportunity to focus their attention on their Republican opponents. This led to a pretty dull debate last Saturday that only policy wonks could bear, as Tim Russert and Brian Williams prodded the Obama-Clinton race issue with a rusty screwdriver, leading one member of the audience to shout out enough with the race-based questions. Obviously that member of the audience didnt get the press release that racial warfare means ratings. If anyone is particularly interested you can find out what lead to all of that here, but in the last week both candidates tried to make nicey-nice on that end, implicitly agreeing not to inject race into the campaign. That didnt stop Hillary from using the Nevada Teachers Union, who supported her against the powerful Nevada Culinary Union that endorsed Obama, from suing the Democratic party for allowing voting sites in places like casinos. Although the plan had been passed nearly a year ago, and it would have allowed hundreds of people a chance to vote who couldnt leave their places of business, the Teachers Union claimed that it would give the casino workers more votes in the count, many of whom belonged to the Culinary Union. When Bill Clinton was questioned about this by a local reporter he had a minor meltdown and blamed the criticism they received on this issue on a, and Im not making this up, right-wing conspiracy. Hillary lost the suit, but she did win the primary, making giving her a three to one lead in primaries to Obama, although he does have two more overall delegates than Hil. Or maybe he doesnt. Primary math has a difficulty range somewhere between calculus and quantum mechanics. Regardless, the race is still very, very tight. Oh and somewhere in the middle of this John Edwards said something.
The Big Picture
First off, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich are going to fight this one out to bitter, bitter end, and while I happen to like Kucinich a lot, hes got to realize when its over. In Nevada Kucinich got beat by uncommitted 31 to 5. When youre getting beaten by None of the Above and Richard Pryors not running against you, its time to head on home. Sadly, all of Mike Gravels supporters tell him hes in the lead, so he has no idea whats going on.
I still believe John Edwards has a shot, but his window of opportunity is shrinking quickly. Somehow hes got to find a way to bring attention to himself, but the bad news is that the only way he seems to be able to do that is if he sets himself on fire. Hes been pretty good in the debates and on the stump, and he makes a convincing case for his populism. But for some reason this message doesnt seem to resonate with the press or with the voters. As the most pro-union candidate, Edwards wasnt even able to get in double digits in Nevada, which is one of the most pro-union states in the whole country. In a way John Edwards is getting defeated by change. As the leading white man for the Democrats in the election he, viscerally, is anti-change. If he can pull off a win or a second place showing in South Carolina then hes got a shot of staying in, but if he cant place soon hes going to have to make an exit and hope for a VP spot if Obama wins. Not so coincidentally, this probably is the reason why Edwards is implicitly endorsing Obama.
Hilary and Obama are going down to the wire with this one, and depending on your perspective its either very close or Hilarys got a massive lead. After the surprising Iowa defeat and the even more surprising New Hampshire victory, Hilary seems to have straightened out her ship and taught us that polls dont mean a thing. As long as she can keep voters divided by using Obamas middle name and race against him, and as long as she can make the case that her experience beats his youthful exuberance she will win. On that tip, what she needs to do to further streamline her campaign is, at least for now, stop injecting racism into the race for at least for a week or two. Hil, youve reminded all the white folks that Obamas black. You got Richard Cohen over at the Washington Post to loosely tie Obama to Louis Farrakhan and thus make Obama look like an anti-Semite, and this has benefited you very well. This may have lost you the black vote but you werent really concerned with them anyway. You consolidated your white votes and now that theyre back you dont want to end up playing your hand to a bust. And rein in Bill while youre at it. His attacks against Obama look pretty disgusting and reminding us that youre married to Bill is only going to lose you more votes then you gain.
Obama doesnt really need to do much, and I think its a sign of his managerial experience that hes run a pretty flawless campaign so far. His ascendancy over Edwards is a sign that his politics of hope have been working and resonate with the public. The only reason hes losing right now is because hes had to deal with the race issue. On this point hes got a Chinese finger puzzle on his hands. If he responds whites will think of him as an angry black man, and if he doesnt respond people think hes not black enough or not proud of his race. The only way to deal with this is to find a mid range answer thats polite enough not to be threatening, but aggressive enough to show that you care. What we are seeing though between Obama and Clinton isnt manufactured. They honestly dont like each other and it shows. But I think that if Obama stays out of the way, on goal, and lets his surrogates like Andrew Sullivan defend him he should be alright. Oh, and maybe he shouldnt compare himself to Regan. A lot of Democrats really dont like the guy.
While the Democrats have focused their attention (that portion not involved in racial bickering) on the Republicans, the fractious Republicans have been mostly involved in attacking each other in what I visualize must be the political version of a Michael Vick dogfight. Except in this battle its the craziest one is the one who scores the most points. This of course brings us to Mike Huckabee, who so far this week has said he would like to re-write the Constitution to fall in line with the Bible, and would deport all 12 million illegal immigrants. Now either cocaines a hell of a drug or the power of prayer really can move mountains because both of these things are downright impossible. Its pandering to its basest level, and will most likely piss off more people than get them to vote for you. So why would Huckabee do it? Well what were seeing actually is a concession of sorts from the Huckabee camp. They realize that theyre catching a drubbing from both McCain and Romney but they would like to parley their Iowa success and their evangelical base into a VP or cabinet post in either a Romney or McCain administration. Dont let the Gomer Pyle exterior fool you, Huckabees very shrewd and knows what it takes to seal up the evangelical vote.
Giuliani on the other hand is lost in space, or more accurately, lost in Florida, where he dumbly decided to hedge all his bets. A Florida loss destroys a Giuliani campaign and unlike Huckabee, Giuliani has no delegates or clout to parley into anything. Hes been getting routinely drubbed by Ron Paul, and Ron practically gets no voter love.
Speaking of Ron Paul, hes going to stay in the election no matter what, but this story on Ron Pauls congressional newsletters and their messages of hate has pretty much sunk any hopes of him breaking fifteen percent. Its too bad because I really like Paul and believed in his message, but trying to downplay this was the greatest political mistake of his life.
John McCain has somehow become a presence in this election much to his (and the medias) profound joy and he is now the only think standing in Mitt Romneys way to the nomination. He won New Hampshire, and South Carolina, two hard races to win, especially against Romneys money machine. Romney has 300 million to spend and he says he will spend every bit of it. Like Mike Bloomberg, when you have bucket loads of money you immediately become a force to be reckoned with. Yet what keeps McCain alive in this race is that he is the Republican Obama, the guy who people vote for because of what he represents and, for better or worse, John McCain has retaken his maverick status. If he can maintain that and keep up his intensity (and his pulse) he may have a shot. The bad news for him? Mitt Romney has actually started to find his voice and has emerged as something more then a robotic automaton. Its going to be tighter than most people think, but Romney will ultimately be the GOP nominee.
Things to look for in the upcoming days:
Hils latest sneak attack against Obama! The Democratic primary in South Carolina! The Republican primary in Florida (Giulianis last stand)! And will Mike Huckabee have a seizure and speak in tongues at the next Republican debate? Quite possibly yes.
The Wolf runs a blog on political matters at www.wordofthepeople.blogspot.com. His first novel, The Intellectual Prostitute, will be dropping this Fall