Thursday, December 27, 2007

7 Days To Iowa: America at a Crossroads

President Bush has approval ratings which rival any former President, and not in a good way. And the only solace President Bush can take from his record low numbers is that the Democratic Congress is viewed with even more skepticism and disdain by the American people. Americans are sick of the President, sick of Congress and sick of politics as usual. Too much bickering, too much money spent on bridges to nowhere, too much partisanship.

In seven days, in Iowa, Democratic voters have a chance to change that. Democratic voters have a chance to turn the page from the fights of today and yesterday and instead look to the promise of tomorrow. This is the part I will never understand about voters, about how our political system works. Everyone hates the President. Everyone hates Congress. Everyone is looking for a new idea, for a new politics, for a new way forward. But, yet, nationally, is it that new way forward that is leading the polls for the Democratic nomination? No. Barack Obama, despite making up tremendous ground over the past months, is still well behind Hillary Clinton nationally, and is tied with her in the critical states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Why are people falling back to the status quo they hate so much? They want experience, but yet, decry the current Congress, and rightfully so. They want change, but they are afraid of where that might lead.

Chris Matthews, on Morning Joe Wednesday morning, and again on Hardball Wednesday night, said that if Barack Obama won the Iowa Democratic Caucus, it would be the biggest worldwide story in US Politics in at least twenty-five years. I'd say it would be the biggest story since President Nixon resigned (or perhaps, his pardon). Matthews is absolutely right. If Obama wins Iowa, a man from Kansas and Kenya and Hawaii and Indonesia, with a largely atheist African father and Muslim grandparents and a white Christian mother and an Indonesian step-father, who was educated in California and Columbia, NY and Harvard, and who was a lawyer, and professor, and community organizer, and state senator, and United States Senator, it will be front page news not just in Iowa, and New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But South Africa and Indonesia and everywhere in between. It will be the giant step forward that everyone is looking for. It would be a sign of great progress, and a message that America isn't settling for the same brand of politics that has divided us over the past 27-years, during which time there has been either a Bush or Clinton as President or Vice President.

And even though conventional wisdom is that if Hillary Clinton wins Iowa, it's over. That's far from the truth. New Hampshire made Bill Clinton the "Comeback Kid" in 1991, despite him finishing second in that contest, after he skipped Iowa entirely. If Obama loses Iowa, but somehow comes back and wins New Hampshire, and then uses that momentum to take South Carolina, he may not need Iowa. That's obviously not the conventional wisdom, and everyone assumes that if Obama loses Iowa, his support will become soft in New Hampshire, but maybe it won't. Maybe New Hampshire has "comeback kid" saved again. I'm not sold on conventional wisdom for New Hampshire anyway. Conventional wisdom says a John McCain surge in New Hampshire is bad for Obama because McCain will take a lot of independents who will choose to vote for him in the Republican primary instead of voting for Obama on the Democratic side. I can't see that being true though. Is an Obama supporter also a McCain supporter? The two have radically different issue profiles. McCain and Clinton, who are both much more hawkish than their respective opponents, would seem more likely to draw from the same crowd. Using that logic, Obama should maintain most all his independent support, while Clinton, who didn't have much to start with, would lose almost all of her support to a surging McCain. Not the conventional wisdom, but to me that makes sense.

Americans don't just want change. They are starving for it. Yet, they are afraid of it. Afraid to take chances, to trust their country and their future on the unknown. But if Iowa Democrats don't take that chance, then they don't get to complain when the next four or eight years result in the same partisan gridlock, the same spite and hatred and bitterness that defined the past eight, sixteen, twenty, twenty-seven years.

There was a great line once on an episode of The West Wing. Josh's assistant Donna was trying to get out of jury duty, and after explaining to her the value of serving, he said something to the effect of "Serve, don't serve, but if you don't, then you don't get to complain about the OJ verdict." Iowa Democrats, in seven days, have a choice. They can caucus for change, or they can caucus for experience. And maybe I'm wrong, and change isn't important, and experience is. But I'm not. Americans are unhappy with the President and unhappy with Congress at record levels for a reason, yet, with a chance to change things, with a chance truly make a difference, and truly change the shape of our country for the better, and not only that, but change the world for the better, there's no evidence that Iowa Democrats are going to take advantage of that opportunity. If they vote for experience over change, if they caucus for Clinton over Obama, that's fine. But then they can't complain about what the next four, or eight years will look like.

Add To: Digg! Reddit Del.Icio.Us Stumble


todd brakke said...

Hi. Just wanted to say I've been reading your blog for the past month or so and am enjoying the hell out of it. (I'm a Michigan native displaced to Indiana.)

I'm also a big Aaron Sorkin fan, so the West Wing references, blog title and your recent review of Charlie Wilson's War are very much appreciated as is your political commentary.

I just can't get off the fence with this year's crop of democratic candidates. I want to like Obama, but I wish he'd spend as much time demonstrating actual leadership as he does talking about it. I do like Dodd, but I know that's a pipe dream. Clinton... the next time she takes a stand on something without consulting polling data will be the first time, and I really hate the prospect (as you noted) of Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton. Edwards? I don't know. He says all the right things, but I worry he's got too much of a used car salesman look to win a general election.

But I digress. Keep up the good work!

Scott Warheit said...

Thanks for reading and commenting Todd, I appreciate it. I agree, it's hard to choose between the Democratic candidates. I supported Edwards in 2004, but I'm supporting Obama now. And even though I knock Clinton a lot, she's not a bad candidate. I just think Obama has a chance to really bring everyone together where Clinton can't. And everyone talks about Obama's inexperience, but does Edwards really have more experience because he served one term in the Senate where Obama has only served part of a term? Will Obama really be more experienced in four years? I don't know.

You mentioned Dodd, personally I've really been impressed with Biden. I think he's been very sharp in the debates, and his knowledge of foreign policy is top notch.

todd brakke said...

I absolutely agree with you there.

I only watched one of the democratic debates from beginning to end. It was the CNN debate with the ridiculous CNN-planted closing question to Clinton about "diamonds or pearls." Biden was very strong in that debate. He impressed me a lot.

One of the main reasons I've been high on Dodd is his commitment to stopping the legislation that would grant telecommunications companies immunity for helping the government illegally spy on its citizens. A lot of the candidates came out against it, but he seems to have been at the head of the line on that.

Anyway, it'll be very interesting to see how Iowa and New Hampshire shake out. I may not be a big fan of Clinton's, but I'll certainly vote for her should she end up getting the nomination.


© New Blogger Templates | Webtalks