Friday, 4 January 2008

Ironies of Iowa

I watched the Iowa caucus proceedings on C-SPAN for a while, and the sight of average folks shuffling around high school gyms and church basements trying to express their political will was heartwarming. It’s a flawed and unrepresentative process but a democratic one, and last night was an excellent example of its potency in channeling a popular statement of considerable weight. My hardly original take on the outcome is that the country is in a rebellious mood and ready to kick serious butt.

Question: Strip away from triumphant Mike Huckabee the abortion nastiness, the antigay pandering and the sudden, born-again hostile stance on Mexicans, and what do you have?

Answer: a liberal.

While some of us smile nervously at the strength of the Bible-thumping social reactionaries, Republican Wall Street must be even more uneasy at the class undertones of the thumping it got last night at the hands of the prayerful.

The bankers and CEOs should have known better than to anoint a slick standard-bearer like Romney who so patently tailors his message to the political exigencies of the moment. It looked too much like an expression of contempt for their long-time evangelical patsies who have patiently supported their own pauperization (and ours) in exchange for anti-sex education and a state religion.

It’s still hard to imagine Huckabee getting much further in this suddenly entertaining election cycle, given his many rough edges and lack of a serious war chest. But the disarray among the Republicans as they, for once, fight over the Titanic’s desk chairs will be most amusing to watch.

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So the youthful hordes said to be swarming to the Obama banner were not an illusion. No doubt they will be treated much more kindly by the media than were the Deaniacs of four years ago since the Obamians are as politically bland and vague as their candidate’s speeches. Whereas Howie the Screamer actually had positions that threatened the status quo, Barack gives out a string of thundering commonplaces and cozy bromides.

But the image of the skinny black guy riding the shoulders of American youth towards the White House is irresistible, and it seems obvious in retrospect that the symbolism should have moved the depoliticized teens so deeply. Having spent a lot of time in the southern U.S. this last year, I can attest to the complete dismantling of the color bar and the eagerness of many white Americans to distance themselves from the blatant forms of racism of our recent past.

This says very little about the more institutionalized racism in things like housing, education and health that persist quite merrily there and elsewhere and do not stir local youth to any particular signs of dismay. But symbolism is real, and now that the Clintonoid machine has been dealt what we can only hope was a deadly blow, the possibilities for something new are legion.

A lot depends on what is really going on in the mind of Mr Obama, which so far has not been at all evident.

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Summary: The vast sums of cash oiling the Republicrat juggernaut could not stop the expression of popular will. Neither Romney nor Clinton, H, were served by their careful, focus-group-driven phrases and their systematic courting of the nomenklatur and the elites. The stock rhetoric doesn’t add up, and people want something new. Good for them.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Re: Obama's bromides. Well, I'm still waiting, too, for more, but what he does say is we can and must get beyond the politics of our precious little group interests. That in itself is cataclysmic. But what is his idea beyond that? Will that be enough? This year, maybe.

As for Hillary and Romney being ill served by their focus groups, elites and nomenklature? YES!!!! But will Edwards cling on with his organized groups? There is desperation out there, as well as "hope," so he might go the distance. Already Democrats are talking about a brokered convention...