Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Campaign Hurdles and Rhetoric, Past, Present and Future

OK, so the national primary "system" is a mess.

And the Texas backroom plotted hybrid primary AND caucus makes the national "system" look like it makes sense (especially if you look at the actual apportioning of delegates).

Hillary says grown men are weeping about it, and Jason Linkins called it the "Texas Primacaucus/Caucumary" at the Huffington Post. No wonder Will Rogers said, famously, "I'm not the member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat." Well, it may be that the party is overly "organized", or should we say organized to the point of self-parody. Yes, absolutely, and let's not use the word sensible in the same sentence as either the primaries or the party.

Sometimes, the entrenched old-timers of the Democratic Party especially, seem not to have all their meetings to optimize cohesion and/or power but to see what mediocre bureaucrats it can attract. That is why I am truly not a member of a political party. I'm not a Democrat, can't really even stand that sort of bickering, trickle down system, it's clubbiness and, most of the time, disgruntled yet almost sedate status-quo. Change? No wonder it's got to come from a candidate like Obama, not Clinton. She's paid (and been paid) too many dues. He's of the Howard Dean School of On the Ground Insurgency. Even John Edwards, in our Facebook/My Space times, makes Barack Obama seem like a populist, a modern populist (the one we've been waiting for since the '60s). Edwards was a populist of the old-fashioned sort, and I suppose even his fans, myself included, came to see him as a product of the past, tethered to it, and we (it seems millions of us who are politically charged these days) want to be tethered to the future.

The Clintonistas are, it turns out, a lot like the Bushites: old school, top down, big donor, divide and conquer types. Hillary doesn't smoke cigars, for good reason, but she hasn't saved any breath spending so much time kissing up to the party machine, and now that there's a meltdown/showdown in her camp, it's looking a little mafioso. Meanwhile, the Howard Dean/Barack Obama political model is ascendant. In 2003, Howard Dean set the stage, and in 2007, Obama took it and ran with it, right to the top.

The big difference: Dean was a little old-fashioned and parochial himself. He wore some crusty and even angry Yankee frumpiness. He wonked from Vermont as if it were inside the Beltway. Obama is cooler, leaner, more worldly, downright international.

So from Obama, no divide and conquer rhetoric, no rhetoric of the trickle down. There is plenty of "I", but there is much more "We". The urgency is a little cultish and a little idealistic and a little fierce, but it is careful and controlled and reaching out. Bravely, it really does seem to be all encompassing. Or at least all encompassing enough, forward thinking enough. And so it is not much about yesterday. It's saying the time is now.


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