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Monday, March 3, 2008

Campaign Promises, Promising Campaigns

March 3, 2008

I've seen a lot of races for the United States Presidency, but nothing like this one.

A lifelong Liberal Democrat, who has veered from that position only when the Democrats weren't liberal enough, I knew from the outset I knew that I would not be supporting Hillary Clinton. Painted as a Liberal by the Republican party, she always seemed pretty much a cipher to me -- she would go the way the wind blows and alienate tons of people on both sides in the process. I wanted her to state her positions.

To her credit, she did. Forced out of her cocoon of protective handlers, she has had to speak up and even take interviews that were not scripted. She has proved herself a thoroughbred, with her expensive haircuts and makeup (take that, John Edwards!), and, despite veering toward fishwife from time to time, she just may come up trumps in the primaries tomorrow. She is unflappable and seems to be undauntable as well.

As for those positions, well, they are almost identical to those of her opponent, Barack Obama. Their "debates" looked as if she were trying to define how many angels could dance on the head of pin to prove that her policies were more valid than his, even though there was little difference, and everybody knows there is not much chance that the policies either one advocates will ever get past the Republican opposition.
But I have come to see that she has the right stuff as a campaigner, something that no matter how she talks about experience, she really hasn't shown us before. Her 35 years were mostly spent in supporting that wastril husband of hers, and the fact is she hasn't had all that much legislative background, nor all that much experience in electoral politics herself.

What has made the race unusual is her opponent. Seldom has such a star as Barack Obama come onto the political scene in this country or anywhere else. Where Sen. Clinton was proclaimed "inevitable" to win the Democratic nomination in a walk, his organizational talents and personal charisma began shellacking her as soon as he won Iowa.

No one could have anticipated his meteoric rise. The press, said by the Clinton forces to be favoring him, were only reporting what they saw. Crowds of 20,000 in Boise? The word unprecedented comes to mind.

Politicians have always talked about change. It used to be a cry of "I'll clean up the mess in Washington," or "It's time to throw the bums out!" Obama talks about something else entirely. He talks about personal transformation, not unlike the kind his supporter Oprah Winfrey espouses, but his vision is that such change can take place for the whole country, at once, if "we" work together and commit to make it happen.

A glorious vision, obviously. One that cannot be defeated by calling it a fairy tale or by mocking it with the strident sarcasm Clinton used in a recent speech in Ohio. It made her look as if she didn't understand. She is pragmatic, businesslike; he has his head in the clouds. She is competent, he is näive. In other words, she doesn't get it. The fact is, probably she does, and is in her heart of hearts, scared to death that she might not win.

The crowds that respond to Barack Obama are not all impressionable youngsters. Look behind him when he's making a speech -- look at the faces, all colors, all ages, men and women. They are not all fainting. They are not gullible losers. They are America, they are tired of not being involved, being ignored, being treated as important only in the trivial power of the vote. They want to matter, and whatever happens tomorrow, they will matter in a new way, because of Barack Obama, from now on.

It's been an exciting campaign, and will continue to be so until November and beyond. This one was not dreamed up by a couple of ad agency guys after Scotch and cigars. It was dreamed up by us.

13 comments:

Elmer Gantry said...

Kind of reminds me of a song by Sam Cooke....

Night Stranger said...

As Ronald Reagan famously said, elmer, "There you go again."

Hmmm...Sam Cooke song? You Send Me? Twistin' the Night Away? Timing? Am I getting warm?

Elmer Gantry said...

It might be Cooke's best song...

A Change is Gonna Come

Elmer Gantry said...

"There've been times that I've thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh, yes, it will"

Night Stranger said...

You found the one Sam Cooke song I never heard. But you're right, it fits! Wish Sam were still around to sing it for us.

Daniel Spiro said...

It will be fascinating to see what happens tomorrow night. I keep coming back to this -- she's down by 155 pledged delegates. It will be really hard for her to win net delegates in Texas, and she'll lose more in Wyoming, Vermont and Mississippi. She might well gain a net of 20 or 30 in Ohio and Rhode Island, but that will still leave her well over 100 behind Barack.

So how can she win? Only with the help of Superdelegates voiding the results from the pledged delegates. At that point, wouldn't the Party be obliged to change its name?

Night Stranger said...

As usual, Hillary will try to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat if she wins even one contest tomorrow (and it looks as if she's going to win Ohio).

It seems that she is going to use Ohio to catapult herself somewhere or other, basically to say that she has won all the states important to Democrats.

It's getting a little scary, but at this point we've all got to wait and see what happens and if it is decisive enough to anyone to change the situation. Not all of us live in Hillary World.

coach said...

I can't recall ever being as truly concerned about an election as I am about this one. I've been wondering why and came to the conclusion that I'd love to see if Obama can actually change the people of the nation in a fundamental way. I have my doubts, but I'm willing to take the dice Monica's boy friend offered and roll 'em. The game's bigger than just the same old Shinola.

sinjap said...

i'm also very concerned about this election but at the same time think it's all the same old b.s...i remember back when the clintons first ran in '92 and i got caught up in the 'hope' and 'change' and 'the future' craziness...it was my first time voting and i was an admittedly very impressionable youth...my friends and i drank the koolaid, campaigned on campus and got all our hippy colleagues to take a deep gulp...so then he was elected, the climax was over, we all metaphorically smoked a cigarette, i graduated, got a job, went out into the real world and honestly didn't care about politics again til '96...what i'm trying to say is that in any election, whether it's for president or the next american idol people get caught up in the excitement and celebrity worship of it all and everyone wants to back a winner, or at least a very charismatic contender...then when the decision is made, the contest is over, it's back to the 9 to 5 grind, tv dinners, and pta meetings and nobody even cares who won

Night Stranger said...

A very cynical view, sinjap. Some of us have seen 'em come and seen 'em go, and it's difficult to remember how the Clintons once used "hope" and "bridge to the 21st Century" as ad fodder, and how well it worked. That time I didn't buy it, but I don't think that's the kind of change Obama is promulgating.

I'm not so dumb as to believe absolutely that he can pull it off, but he is a very different animal from what we expect a politician to be. This doesn't mean that I think he lack political instincts, but that his motives are less for personal power than for transformation of a dispirited electorate. I think he deserves a shot at this. However, I am well aware that the Establishment is still in place and will do what it can, in the person of Hillary Clinton, to thwart his success and wrest the nomination from him and actually bring the party to defeat in November.

Elmer Gantry said...

Whatever the results of the 2008 primaries and general election (and I'm assuming Obama, Hillary or McCain will be the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania), we are certain to be better off than we are now.

Night Stranger said...

An' you can take dat to da bank.

Anonymous said...

Hello Night Stranger,

Just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading this blog and the dozen comments that followed. I love your writing and your crisp and humerous analysis. Thank you and keep writing! See you at the next Hoboken for Obama event...and perhaps on the bus to Pennsylvania to help get the vote out in April!

Kathryn