The election is far away. Impossible to confidently assess lines of force in November. But instincts continue to shout recollections of Donkey self destruction.
Polls now show McCain ahead of Barack among independents by double digits. A strong swing from a month ago — the Reverend Wright effect.
1. I’ve never quite bought Barack’s “fierce urgency of now” argument.
To begin, the need in 2004 to depose Bush-Cheney and to restore a semblance of legitimacy to the electoral process was incomparably more urgent than the need now to keep McCain out of the White House.
(The damage has been done; we broke it and own it. And McCain is the Leftiest GOPher since … Nelson Rockefeller? Nah, he Leftier than that. Let’s see … He’s Leftier than any GOP candidate in my lifetime, which commenced late Eisenhower.)
More broadly: the American crisis began in the 80s, when its globalizing owner-operators began to separate themselves economically from the working class. The social and constitutional corruption we’ve suffered since followed that divorce as a near matter of course.
It’s not, then, that the dike has sprung a leak and we need an agile volunteer to lend a finger. Rather, the levees have burst — indeed, have been blown. The plutocratic trends are entrenched and turning them around will be like (the chestnut, but so apt) turning a tanker.
Our urgent need now, then is not merely to win this November but to end the GOP dominance of the White House that has obtained since LBJ fell on the sword of Vietnam.
2. Nor do I buy Barack’s song of unity. (But sense he may not either, in at least one important respect.)
Behind Reagan’s sparkly smile, the owner-operators of the United States resumed the class war that had subsided under FDR and Henry Ford:
– using immigration and globalization to “rationalize” US wages with the cost of Asian labor
– using “pension reform” to shed corporate responsibility for a “coddled” working class
– using debt generated by tax cuts off the top to beggar federal social support programs, and
– cutting federal funding of universities, having been taught by the movements of the 60s and 70s that an educated working class is a pain in the butt.
Reaganomics, in short, were about freeing the wealthy from taxes and regulation, while undermining the reforms of the 30s and the G.I. Bill which together by the mid 50s or so had produced a politically competent working class.
The owner-operators told us in the 80s they’d had enough competency. Then did their best to paralyze Bill Clinton when, unexpectedly, and thanks to Ross Perot, he slipped into office with 43% of the vote. Then installed Bush-Cheney. The Latin American model inspires them.
This reactionary assault on American society is largely a done deal. To what degree it can be undone is a question. But surely the owner-ops are not going to recant and rededicate themselves to Fordism after a S’mores-and-Kumbaya sitdown with Barack.
Thus, we need not unity, but a sustained Democratic response that effectively engages in the new class war, to restore a healthy socioeconomic balance. Last time the Depression provided the opportunity; perhaps the current crisis has a silver lining.
John Edwards was singing this song, but he was unable to compete for media time with the Hillary and Barack show. Identity politics again trumping the facts of life.
However: occasional glimmers in Barack’s eyes (when he utters the word Cheney, e.g.) lead me to think that he would indeed fight the Edwards fight, that his talk of unity is mostly just that: effective and cautious abstract speechmaking.
Maybe I’m wrong. It would be an interesting question to pose in debate:
Who, Senator, precisely do you hope to unify?
3. November Risk
Hillary risk is the ghost of Vince Foster.
Obama risk is (i) Rev Wright and similar as trigger of white mainstream voting booth conversions and (ii) international affairs.
Re the latter: Iran-Iraq-Turkey. Pakghanistan. Kosovo. Israel attacks Iran. If new fires are burning in November, it would hurt Barack much more than it would Hillary.
4. What’s a superdelegate to do?
Bill Richardson today gave his answer: roll the dice, in hope that the magnitude of damage done by Bush-Cheney will redound to support the relatively revolutionary vote. I think there’s something to this.
But then what …?
Whoever takes office in 2009 will catch the blast of the Bush-Cheney bomb. It will be hard for that person to repeat in 2012. Again I think Hillary shapes up better in this scenario.
Eight years of Hillary followed by eight of Obama would put an end to the nostalgic Reagan reaction and leave us finally facing the future, where clearly thru the mist it’s not Morning in America.
But a four-year Donkey tour that ends with electoral failure in 2012 would only strengthen the plutocratic trend, as the fresh air and clean hands of Carter’s four years (preceded by two Nixon victories) were followed by the Reaganite assault on the New Deal.
There were no clues in Bill Richardson’s (oddly timed) endorsement speech as to what he thinks about the nuts and bolts of November: he spoke of character, not Nixon/Reagan Democrats and the electoral college. He was close to the Clintons, of course. It would be more interesting — and even perhaps beneficial to settling this Donkey dust up — if he talked turkey about mechanics.
Meanwhile Barack himself seems mired in the tar pit. His comment about his mother (“a typical white person”) is echoing negatively all over the tube, while the GOPher OR people comb clippings and videotape for off-color remarks from his wife.
6. What a mess. The precedents have been clear, well discussed in the press:
– The 1980 convention: Ted Kennedy unwilling to compromise with Jimmy Carter. When that mismanaged show closed down Reagan found himself transformed from a curious old fogey (They say the darndest things!) to frontrunner.
– 1968. Chaos:
A big unpopular war. Eugene McCarthy runs against it — and thus against incumbent fellow Donkey LBJ.
And he does so well as to encourage Bobby Kennedy (who had thought to run in ’72 after a second Johnson term) to enter the fray.
Weeks later Martin Luther King is murdered and grey LBJ quits the race — sick with cancer, sick of the asian war and the domestic terror, and sickened by the Party’s electrified reaction to Bobby’s candidacy.
RFK’s murder then abruptly leaves the Party in pieces without a viable candidate. McCarthy’s people love him for good reason but he’s clear to get creamed by the center in November.
So Humphrey, Johnson’s Vice, gets the nod at Chicago while the kids and police are rioting in the streets.
Roughly one may draw comparisons: McCarthy and Barack. Humphrey and Hillary. But both of today’s candidates are stronger than those left standing in ’68.
I continue to worry the Nixon/Reagan Democrats would not vote Obama in the fall; thus that McCain would beat him.
I continue to worry the GOP would slam Hillary with Vince Foster; she’s answered those questions many times before, but never beneath klieg lights.
The only thing clear is that McCain is no longer an underdog.
If I were a Donnkey superdelegate, I would go with Hillary because I think she shapes up better against McCain and in the nuclear winter of 2009-10.
Obama, then, could not lose, whether or not he accepted a Hillary VP offer, and even if she lost to McCain. The Clinton saga would run its course and die a natural death, most likely after fighting the battle of Midway/Stalingrad (2009-10), leaving the party and country in better shape for Obama’s Enlightenment.