Wednesday, January 30, 2008

UPDATED - Thoughts on "Super Tuesday"


In the movie "The Sting" part of an elaborate con game involves a staged horse race with a pre-determined outcome. The 'mark', a wealthy gangster is tricked into placing a huge bet "to win" on the horse that will actually come in second.

Lately, it's been hard not to feel like as Democrats we are being conned into betting on a non-existant horse race that the media keeps telling us is a sure thing.

The pundits are loving the Clinton - Obama horse race. Watching CNN, MSNBC or even the un-reality show that is Fox News, you would think the contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination was effectively over. All that is left is a super Tuesday coin toss between Hillary or Barak.

There is a two horse race going on. But it is a race to see who can spread the most horse dung out for Democratic primary voters and call it "change".

Now dont get me wrong, I like Hillary Clinton. I think she is brilliant. But to say she is the candidate of change is like buying a Hummer to combat global warming. Senator Clinton is the very embodiment of "establishment". A well-intentioned and accomplished establishment. But establishment never the less.

I will also confess to liking Barak Obama as well. He was my State Senator when I lived in Illinois, and I was thrilled when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. But to be honest, I keep wating for Senator Obama say what he would actually DO if elected. His speeches are stirring, uplifting and almost completely devoid of details.

I come away from listening to Senator Obama inspired, but no better informed than I was before. After nearly eight years of "we're making progress", and "doing hard work", I find Obama's generalities, stirring though they may be, more that a little disturbing.

I guess as a voter I need more than just "trust me, I am ready from day one", or "trust me, I stand for change."

The challenges facing the next President of the United States will be massive. The GOP, slow to come to terms with reality, is still far too invested in their collective denial of the complete failure of the Bush Presidency, to allow for real bipartisan cooperation.

So for any real change to take place, we will need to nominate someone who not only can win the White House, but will have big enough coat tails to give the next adminstration a filibuster proof majority in both houses of Congress.

Meanwhile, surrogates of Hillary Clinton try to quietly suggest support for Obama makes you opposed to a woman President, and surrogates of Barak Obama try to gently assert that support for Clinton makes you uncomfortable with an African American President.

What I want to know is who is going to repair the damage of the last 7 plus years. Who is going to address the impending bankruptcy of our nation due to the costs of health care? Who is going stop writing checks from an overdrawn account and then asking countries with very different agendas than ours, to lend us money to cover the debt?

Guess what? I don't just want "change" I want competence. I don't just want someone with experience, I want someone with courage. I don't just want a nominee with ambition, I want one with vision.

I don't just want to win, I want all of us to move forward.

I don't care what demographic a candidate can claim to be "connected to". I just want a President who is connected to reality. I want a President who can address the root causes of our problems, not just try to affix blame for them.

And I really don't care how you voted on, felt about or expressed yourself regarding the war in Iraq back in 2003. I just care about how you will END this war in 2008, not 2010, 2012 or 2020.

I want to watch a State of the Union Address and feel proud of our democracy, engaged in our Republic's national debate and confident in my President's committment to preserve, protect and defend our nation, our laws and our hopes and dreams.

I have tremendous respect for both Senators Clinton and Obama. But I honesty don't see either of them able to look past their desire to become President, and clearly articulate what they would hope to achieve AS President.

For the last 3 years, I have been listening to all of those who would be our next President. I have read their websites. Heard their stump speeches, and even attended their rallies. The only candidate who was been able to answer my question "What will you do to fix my country?", was John Edwards.

We cannot afford to get stung betting on a false horse race. There is simply too much at stake.

On Tuesday, February 5th I had hoped to vote for the future, I had hoped to vote for solutions, I had hoped to vote for possibilties, not just probabilities.

I had hoped to vote for John Edwards.

That is not going be case next Tuedsday. John Edwards has withdrawn from the race saying it was time for him to "step aside and let history blaze its path."

I honestly don't know who I am going to vote for now. I know friends of mine who are very passionate about Barak Obama, say the natural alternative for an Edwards voter is Obama. I am not so sure.

Part of me worries that the Democratic Party may have just handed the White House to John McCain

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Parting thoughts on the Iowa Caucus...

"Oh, there's nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you,
When we treat you which we may not do at all.
There's an Iowa kind of special chip-on-the-shoulder attitude.
We've never been without. That we recall.

We can be cold As our falling thermometers in December
If you ask about our weather in July.
And we're so by God stubborn We could stand touchin' noses
For a week at a time And never see eye-to-eye."

- "Iowa Stubborn" From "The Music Man"

The overall importance of the Iowa Caucus is rightly a matter of some debate. After all, fewer people voted in Iowa in total than live in city of San Francisco. Iowa in general could hardly be considered a demographic representation of , well anything besides mainly white anglo-saxons. The media frenzy that decends on the Hawkeye state every four years not withstanding, the overall importance of who won or who lost in Iowa is largely symbolic.

Having grown up on the other side of the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, I have heard all manner of Iowa jokes and puns. Yet once every four years Iowa in all its Hawkeye wierdness takes center stage in our nation's poltical drama. My Grandmother on my mother's side was a native Iowan, her youngest brother my Great Uncle, still is. Iowans tend to be a slightly cantankerous bunch. If I was running for President, my Uncle Dale, a retired hog farmer from Waterloo, Iowa would frankly be the last voter I would want have to try to win over.

I recall once visiting his farm when I was a young boy. We were going to ride one of his horses. His daughter was having little luck getting the horse to raise his head up out of the grass so the bit and bridle could be put on. Dale, walking by saw this, promptly walked over to the horse and kicked it sqaure in the jaw. the horse jerked its head up and became very cooperative after that. Dale's only explanation was "You hafta get their attention first."

By giving the first primary vote victory of the 2008 election to Barak Obama and second place to John Edwards, Iowa collectively kicked two American politicians square in jaw. With the clear purpose of getting their attention.

The first was George W. Bush. The lopsided turn out of Democrats versus Republicans, including the number of Republicans who changed ranks and caucused for a Democrat is something that, were I a GOP strategist, would have me awake nights with worry. Mike Huckabee can say he "won" Iowa all he wants. But the fact is he simply was the Republican who lost the least. Iowa clearly told the GOP, the next President of the United States will not be from your party, you folks are done for a while.

The second person to get an Iowa footprint to the jaw was Hillary Clinton, and by proxy her husband, former President Bill Clinton. To a certain extent Iowa sent a kick through the national leadership of the Democratic Party. The word "change" is in many ways almost a cliche' in poltics. But with one swift kick, Iowa let it be known that just becuase the next President isn't going be a Republican, it doesn't mean it's going be just any Democrat.

Iowa clearly articulated what is exptected of the next President; Ending the war, sooner rather than later, the beginings of universal heath coverage next year, rather than 4 years from now. Addressing the global climate change crisis now not ten years from now. The recognition that there IS a difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade.

I have come away this week with a new found respect for those cantankerous Iowa voters. The American political horse needed a good swift kick to let it know that 2008 will be a year of change. For the Democrats, you can't run for President, because you think it's your turn. For the Republicans, you can't expect not to be held accountable for mess your party has made over the last 8 years.

But most of all, for both parties you will not be able to ignore the will of the American People, because Iowa has clearly shown the rest of the nation, a great way to get your attention.