Thursday, January 03, 2008

One more night

I’ve felt a little disengaged from this campaign cycle – the primaries came up quickly and I’ve purposely tried to keep my distance for my own sanity as well as the sanity of everyone around me. Also, much like the 2006 campaign, in which the Democrats were only victorious because I was not involved in any campaign in any way, I felt like my heavy involvement (even as a spectator) in this campaign would have resulted in former Senator Mike Gravel becoming the Democratic nominee for President.

That being said, I still have paid a lot of attention (read: done nothing at my job) to this campaign, culminating in a marathon of media ingestion over the last week. So, I will finish my countdown with the thing I love most about primary season.

1. Barack Obama

My love for Obama goes back to the spring of 2004, just after Kerry won the nomination and I was looking for a job. I read an article in the New Yorker chronicling Obama’s recent primary victory, and sent a letter to his campaign asking for a job. Normally, a story like this has a happy ending. The candidate, reading my resume and my letter, is moved by my prose and personally asks me to join his campaign, a la Primary Colors. In my case, I got a letter from the deputy campaign manager telling me that there was no room at the inn.

But my love for Obama didn’t wane, and after his speech at the DNC and the many jokes that my friends and I made on election night in November that Barack Obama would be the only democrat ever elected again, it grew. His name constantly came up regarding national office, and he flashed his teeth, blanched, and waved it off. I finally got to see him speak (in Hackensack, New Jersey) in November of 2005. Just over a year later, he was off.

I was sold, very early on. But then, it seemed that he would be the proverbial flash in the pan, both in rhetoric and reality. He seemed cautious, and oddly non partisan – what kind of democrat was this guy? He seemed to have fully bought into the idea of broad campaigning, and through that broad governing and broad coalition building. While Clinton and Edwards were whacking away at the President (and each other) Barack was certainly doing some of that of his own, but either through political calculation or pure political belief, he was looking past partisanship. A weird way of winning a purely partisan election.

I waffled. I left home and went to Hillary, for nebulous reasons, in retrospect. She seemed more polished, more... ready? But ready to do what? To be President or to look like the President? To lead or to react to the public? I was torn. But, I came back.

He caught fire. Maybe it was the arrival of a candidate who seemed to have it all – the looks, the intelligence, the “gravitas”, the charisma, and the ability to connect to crowds both large and small. He filled in all of the holes that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards left empty. He was young and energetic like Edwards, but more of a heavyweight. He had the intellectual ability of Clinton but was actually liked by people. Plus, he was black.

It’s a tough topic to discuss, Obama’s race. Could he win if he was white? No. Could he run if he was white? No. In no way does his race make him more or less qualified for the presidency, but it does tell a story. Of an intellectual giant who could have done anything he wanted with his life, but he decided to devote himself to his community. To help those that looked like him but didn’t have the gifts that he had. He could tell similar stories – of being called names, of being looked at suspiciously, of always having expectations of himself skewed through a racial prism. Obama’s blackness will not make him a better or worse President, but in many ways, it may make him a better Presidential candidate. He comes from a completely different place than everyone else, he has seen the world (literally and figuratively) differently than nearly anyone who has seriously run for this office before.

I don’t know what any of that means. I know that in my most aware previous Presidential primary (2004) I used complete pragmatism to pick my candidate, the ultimately unsuccessful, flawed, yet talented Wes Clark. Sure, I believed in him and his ability to win and lead, but not like Dean’s supporters did for their candidate. John Kerry won Iowa because voters begrudgingly realized Kerry was their best shot to dethrone President Bush, not because of some deep-seeded belief in John Kerry. So while I had very little appreciation of Dean the candidate, and at the time had a lot of animous towards Dean the movement, when I look at the campaign four years removed, I envy the devotion they had for their man.

Barack Obama moves me. Not in that mystified John Kennedy way, not that in heavenly Dr. King way, and not in that unexplainable Bill Clinton way, but we can only hope for so much. I am so cynical, now, and it has been rare and almost nonexistent for me to encounter a politician who makes me feel like he believes what he is saying. That there is so little dissembling and obfuscation. But like Bill Clinton, Obama reminded me that oratory can still shake me. But more important than just speaking words, he means them. I know he does.

Which is why I’ll vote for Barack Obama on February 5. Clinton, Obama, Edwards, and the rest (minus Kucinich and Gravel) and nearly the same on almost every significant piece of policy. They try to shine a magnifying glass on nuance, but it’s nearly invisible. They all want universal health care (in some form). They all want out of Iraq. They all want to realign our foreign policy to a time when not everyone hated us. They all want change, a drastic change at that. It’s time, for me at least, to vote for a candidate I really believe in, in a character I really believe in, and in a conscience I really believe in. I believe Hillary Clinton would be a fine president, an even decision maker, and will keep us safe. I feel very similar about John Edwards. But I will feel proud about voting for Barack Obama, and every day while he’s President I’ll think about what a country we live in, where a skinny kid with a funny name has not just a place in America but a place leading it.

Iowa predictions

The Republicans (Cobra Kai)

1) Mitt Romney
2) Mike Huckabee
3) John McCain
4) Fred Thompson
5) Ron Paul
723) Rudy Giuliani (Yes!)
982) Alan Keyes

Huckabee has had a run and has the Christians on his side, always a plus except when fighting Pontious Pilate and/or lions. Although I hate to echo conventional wisdom (or use the term "conventional wisdom") I think he may have peaked -- Plus Romney has HAMMERED him over the past two weeks. No matter what they say, Iowans seem to take to negative ads. Romney has so much money; I think his GOTV will be very good. However, I could be really wrong because Huckabee really seems to have genuinely committed supporters. I'll go with Romney, who if he wins by more than 5 points should feel good, if not bruised and battered, heading into New Hampshire next week.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, after seeing the results from his multimillion dollar house, will choke on a piece of fruitcake.

The Democrats (The Good Guys)

1) Barack Obama
2) John Edwards
3) Hillary Clinton
4) Bill Richardson
5) Joe Biden
6) Chris Dodd
7) Dennis Kucinich

Once again, I feel very odd going with the masses here, but I feel like 2008 will be very different than 2008; there is a general assumption among the Democratic Party that we will win the general election; electability is talked about sparingly. The electorate seems concerned with picking the person that would make the best leader and the best President. That translates to who they feel most strongly about.

Which means bye bye to Clinton. She could win, and I wouldn't be too surprised -- her turnout operations could be better than expected, but with Edwards longstanding relationship with Iowans and Barack's overall likeability, buzz, and momentum, who seems more likely to cause a bunch of people to stand in a hot room for two hours and try to convince Chris Dodd supporters to switch sides?

Also, within the past two days, Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson (El Gobernador Gordo) have both instructed their supporters to switch to Obama in case of not reaching viability. In 2004, when Kucinich did the same for Edwards, he got a bump of around 4 percent. Assuming even a 2% bump and a few percentage points from Richardson's folks, and you've got a cushion that Obama can work with.


Post a Comment

<< Home