Thursday, June 5, 2008

Delegate Matters: Reflections on the 2008 Primary Season

Hillary finally conceded. Who'da thunk?

David Gergan, the inside political hack-turned outside political pundit-turned inside political hack again-turned outside political pundit again (I actually respect his views, I just felt a disclaimer was necessary), said on TV that when Hillary first announced her candidacy, he thought she would win. I didn't think she would win. Why? Simple. She's a woman. STOP THROWING THINGS. We've never had a woman president. I assumed sexism might be the reason.I didn't, and am still not convinced, Barack Obama could become president either. Why? Simple. He's black. PUT THAT DOWN! POLICE!! We've never had a black president either. I assumed racism might be the reason.

So what's this all mean? We've conquered racism but not sexism? Well, some of Clinton's supporters, most notoriously Geraldine Ferrara, would say that. This unconquered sexism incidentally doesn't seem to extend to blue-collar white males with no college education in industrial states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. They're cool. And they're not racists, either. They're elitistists. Or, if saying that out loud gives you a lisp, anti-snobbites --people who look down their noses on people who look down their noses. If they were to bring All in the Family back, I could see it now:

EDITH: Oh, Archie, I invited the Jeffersons over for dinner!
ARCHIE: Edith, you dingbat! I don't want those elitists in this house!

So, then, who are these sexists? According to Hillerites, they're in large enough numbers to keep her from getting the nomination, but apparently not in large enough numbers to keep her from winning a general election. The sexists, I suppose, are those in the media, and those who vote in caucuses. As for the racists, according to some Obama surrogates (and men of the cloth), they're Bill and Hillary themselves for suggesting a black can't be elected president. You're racist for suggesting that all the racists won't elect a black president! And you're a chauvinist pig for suggesting that chauvinist pigs won't elect a woman president!

I'd prefer to think that maybe the racists and sexists canceled each other out, and this was a fair fight after all. Of course, in the general election, there will be no canceling out, and the racists and sexists (if Hillary's also on the ticket) could join forces. One consoling thought: some of the most racist and sexist people I've known in my life don't even bother to vote (I'm a blue-collar white male with no college education myself, and back in the olden days I use to run into racists and sexists every now and then).

Of course, you can have a dirty fight without resorting to racism and sexism. Both sides screamed bloody anti-democracy. The voters of Michigan and Florida were disenfrancised, as Hillary argued to that undemocratic body known as super delegates. Obama wanted those same super delegates to honor majority rule. As long as those majorities weren't in Michigan and Florida.

Speaking of democracy, just how democratic is this dictatorship on the left and the right that we call the two-party system? The primary season, I suspect, was designed to hide this ideological censorship. Third parties may never have made it to the Oval Office, but they often did make their point, and were a lot more common, back in the days when conventions chose the candidates. Don't mistake this as a pitch for Ralph Nader. That would be throwing away a vote. It would be illogical. It would be irrational. But let me ask you, suppose someone pulled a gun on you and said "Your money or your life?" What would be your most logical response? What would be your most rational response? You'd hand over your money? Now you know how I feel about the two-party system.

At any rate, how did Obama beat the awesome Clinton machine? Well, there's your answer right there. If you want a machine for president, vote for R2D2, with C3PO as his running mate. On the cable news blab shows, the Clinton surrogates all gave the same assembly line talking points, while the Obama crowd's spin was much more customized (this occasionally backfired, as when some poor sap of a surrogate in Texas couldn't tell Chris Matthews what exactly Obama had achieved in the Senate).

The Clintonites best talking point was, "What part of peace and prosperity didn't you like?", a reference to the nineties. Well, Hillary herself must not have liked the peace part, as she voted for war. The prosperity part is a little harder to dismiss. Although a sophisticated argument may be made that the Clintons are at least partially responsible for the current economic catastrophe, most people judge a president by what happens on his or/and her watch. Curiously, Hillary never emphasised economics until Obama won ninety-thousand or so primaries and caucuses in a row. Contributing to the delay, I suspect, was that when her husband was president, the economic differences between Democrats and Republicans were downplayed, and the social differences played up. So much so, that this became the accepted way to tell the two sides apart. God and Guns vs A Woman's Right to Choose. But Hillary soon found her voice--or Dennis Kucinich's. She attacked NAFTA, which her husband had wholeheartedly signed into law. Hillary claimed she had been against it all along, as George Stephanopolis's book confirms (she thought it might distract from her health plan). For his part, Obama struck out (and failed to throw a strike) with blue-collar workers. He belittled the little guy's fondness for guns and God (on the latter: I've seen quite a few blue-collar guys with satanic imagery tattooed on their arms. Are they Libertarians?)

Too little, too late. Hillary went down anyway, amid cries of media bias. And the media was biased. Not against women, or for blacks, but for the underdog. Even when he was ahead, Obama seemed like the underdog. Hillary had that effect on him. If he should put her on the ticket, it'll be four, perhaps eight, years as the underdog. Longer than Wally Cox.

Now, let's review the Republican primaries. Uh, did they have primaries? Yes, yes, now I remember. There was a lot of fuss about Mitt Romney, and Rudy Guliani, and the guy from Law and Order, but when the dust settled, there was John McCain standing and singing, "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran!" Of course, before we do that, there's the little matter of Iraq. McCain was pounced on for saying we'd be there for a hundred years. People assumed a century of roadside bombs and suicide attacks. This was a misrepresentation. He was talking about a Korea-type occupation. However, this was a misrepresentation of a misrepresentation. After all, the violent part of our stay in Korea lasted only three years. We've had five violent years in Iraq. If there's still violence this time next year, it'll be twice as long as Korea. If there's violence past that, it could last longer than MASH, except that John McCain is no Alan Alda (though the Bush administration has had no shortage of Frank Burns).

I recently interviewed Republican strategist James Backus Snopes about the problems facing his party in the fall.

KJ: What do you think your chances are in the fall?
JBS: I'd say they're pretty good. Great, in fact.
KJ: Really? You guys have controlled two, sometimes all three, branches of government for the last eight years. As a result, we have a war with no end in sight, a busted housing market, high unemployment, skyrocketing prices at the pump, and an entire planet that hates our guts. Yet you think you're going to win?
JBS: As we Republicans like to say, it'll be a cakewalk.
KJ: You're not worried?
JBS: Nope
KJ: Not even a little?
JBS: Nada.
KJ: Why?
JBS:(smiling) Because Barack Obama has the MOST LIBERAL VOTING RECORD OF ANYBODY IN THE ENTIRE U.S. SENATE!

So what if there's war and recession? At least we've been saved from folk music.

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