04 January 2008

I thought this might happen, tho my predictions usually err on behalf of the underdog. What Obama needed to do, as it’s now clear, was win Iowa by a large margin and make a great acceptance speech - then the money would pour in even more and the media would anoint him as the inevitable nominee. The polls were mixed as to who led in ‘likely voters’ in a way that suggested some were just wrong, and the 60% turnout of women seemed to favor Hillary, but Obama won them.

There is a common progression of Obama’s victories in that he makes a quick dash from underdog to ‘the inevitable.’ This is somewhat similar to his Senate race, where he started out third in the primary, knocked off a front runner that was arrested for beating his wife, his Republican opponent left after his divorce records of swinger clubs were unsealed, and he then took on the comfort level of a three term incumbent, beating Alan Keyes 70-27 whose job it was to remind Black America that Obama’s was an immigrant family rather than plantation descendents.

Media types have taken to calling him the likely next president in part because of the lack of a clear, strong general election opponent. The Republican result is notable in that it didn’t eliminate anyone out of the top six, and Huckabee, while still fighting uphill, is the only candidate that can seal the deal before mid-February. Thompson was the one that people thought was out the door but he edged McCain out for third. Guiliani, though not campaigning, saw what was once a lead in Iowa and thereafter double digits become four points. The setback to Romney is much discussed - anything but a win in NH will end his candidacy. This may be the perfect storm that strategically vindicates McCain’s seven years of courting the establishment, since they may call on him to take out Huckabee.

The theatrics of Obama’s speech were effective, he filled the void of Leader of America in a manner that evoked the Kennedys in the 60s, and I let myself somewhat counterintuitively to get teary eyed during the speech and enjoy it all. Whatever liberals think of his policies, we feel a sense of closure after the wrath of W. African-Americans I’ve run into today have a smile on their face and a spring in their step and their past support of the Clintons will apply to this race no further unless the news changes drastically because of the perceived electability of Obama.

The best thing the Clintons did was remove Bush from the White House. Hopefully Obama will amount to much more, but he has at least taken a major step to remove the Clintons from White House contention. I enjoyed watching Hilary and Bill with Madeline Albright spinning a loss. All the strategists of the DLC that have advised Democratic presidential losers and steered the triumphant Democratic congress to an approval rating hovering between Dick Cheney and Paris Hilton have been treated to a preview of the future of the party.

One of Sam Smith’s data dumps makes the strong case that Obama is a centrist that global finance favors with contempt for the activist left. We can’t prove whether or not Obama’s fundraising from Wall Street was necessary for this result, and time will tell what an Obama administration will amount to, but Obama spent more money on TV in Iowa than all the 2004 candidates combined and that definitely had an effect on the turnout. The fact that the three billion spent on an election cycle is not paid for by the taxpayers in exchange for honest government is both the shame and salvation of the current political class. Less funded by corporate America, the suddenly populist Edwards is calling it a two person race, and so be it.

As it’s hard to imagine the Obama juggernaut as a vote of confidence for the affections of foreign policy advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski while his son Mike is a chief advisor, it’s clearly a defeat for the neocons that Zbig trashed in his latest book. With Republicans split between the neocon ‘bomb Iran’ contingent (Guiliani the most hawkish, with McCain and Romney right there with him) and the advisorless ‘where is Iran?’ contingent (Huckabee), a general election featuring Barach will be a match between a neoliberalist caretaker and one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Obama’s rhetoric on Pakistan, perhaps Zbig-influenced, has justifiably angered peace activists but it has called the neocons bluff as to whether we are really spending all this money to combat Al-Qaeda. Neoliberalism and neoconservatism are both elitist ideologies, both facing an overwhelming popular resistance, but one can anticipate the conflicts created by neoliberalism will cause fewer people to die.

Obama’s campaign rhetoric about alternative fuels and fuel efficiency standards is backed by his voting record and is in stark contrast to Hillary’s votes and the Clinton-Gore administration, impacting both their economic and foreign policies on the whole. Obama and Edwards both cut their teeth on trade after the public had woken up to the pitfalls of secretly negotiated hemispheric treaties which, as in the case with NAFTA, Clinton had his finest hour as a congressional headcounter ratifying, restoring a WW2 tin subsidy in one Texas district in exchange for a vote. In her ‘a bunch of charts’ response, Hillary reiterated the empty ‘labor and environmental’ caveat that her husband used back then to placate the base. Hillary said “we’re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez” while Obama said he would, and Obama voted to cut off funding for TV Marti in Cuba.

Nationalism thrives on the self-image of citizens, and Obama adroitly makes people see themselves in his unspecific message of hope, inclusion, and a togetherness that seems to rely on his authority for its harmony. But his charisma and cunning has given us potentially a major step forward in American governance and policy.

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