Friday, December 28, 2007

Why is the Election Up in the Air?

The presidential election is up in the air, a week before Iowa, because "Iowa" is much too soon. We cannot one year choose the person whom we will support for president a year later. It's too long a time span; tipping point is reached. We need a rotating primary, four groups of states chosen by lottery, states in the last group last time are in the first group this time. Once a week during May, convention around 4th of July. Something like that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hillary's Achievement

Paul Krugman in today's NYT continues his refinement of a political argument (as distinct from an economic one) in a very perspicuous column; whether one accepts all of his premises or not, the point is very clear. Real change will require leaders who are willing to confront the vested interests in the status quo. Krugman goes on to say that Edwards looks better than Obama when viewed in this light. That may be so (I guess I do agree with Krugman on both the general and the specific point in fact), but it got me thinking about Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton has no visible advocates in the "chattering classes" media. The liberal media (Chris Matthews/MSNBC, The Nation, NPR, the cybersphere) disdain her at best, and do their best to test her weaknesses at every opportunity. No self-respecting bohemian sort or bourgeois intellectual would openly back her. There are "pundits" who allow of their support of Giuliani, or Obama, or Huckabee or Edwards, but not a Hillary-advocate is to be heard. Meanwhile on the right it is as it has ever been: Hillary Clinton is Stalin, a blood-sucking vagina dentata or whatever they call it, a liar, a thief, the Mafia. But that of course is exactly the political climate in which the Clintons have always lived. And they have led and through the 90s the Clintons accomplished the third Democratic regime of the second half of the 20th century (after JFK/LBJ, and Jimmy Carter). And today Hillary Clinton, after weeks of late-campaign tightening-up erosion at the polls, is still, folks, in the lead. She leads without the backing of the media, just like the Clintons always have done.
And that's what was striking me reading Krugman's column. Obama, Krugman's argument goes, is too naive in his advocacy of conciliation (a la Woodrow Wilson and Carter?), while Edwards recognizes that progress will require some political contest to determine whose interests will prevail over whom. This dovetails with a theme of this blog, that a Clinton victory is important because, among other things, that would be a symbolic defeat for the movement conservatives, and they are the ones who need to be defeated for liberal government to move forward. But I think that Clinton is the best alternative here. The Clintons use the system to fight the battle, the way the Republicans do. The resolve is there at the bottom of things.
And there's a "silent majority" effect here too. We're not hearing from Clinton supporters in the media, but they are the largest plurality of voters among likely Democratic voters than any other candidate has of voters in their party. But then there's another item of old news: people always underestimate the Clintons.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Huckabee's Sting, Pt. II

Today we hear that Mike Huckabee, currently dusting it up with Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, asked the question, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus Christ and the Devil are brothers?" The answer, for the record, is no, they don't. Apparently it's an old anti-Mormon canard. Asked about it on MSNBC this morning Romney showed a good ability, and not for the first time, to take the high road. I expected him to pounce on this, and the other shoe hasn't dropped yet in terms of the response from the Mormon community. Remember them? They have some millions (between four and five million? I'll check) of members in this country, who vote overwhelmingly Republican in case you didn't know. Imagine if a leading candidate said something like that about a Jewish candidate, or a Catholic one. This glimpse inside Mr. Huckabee's mind ought to get the message across that apparently failed to register when he talked about gays, and guns, and science: he's not ready for prime time. Maybe I shouldn't be pointing this out. After all, I want the Democrats to win.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sting Like a Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is now a serious contender for the Republican nomination. Of course, so are maybe four other people, and the lurch to Huckabee may be just that: another symptom of disarray and desperation in the GOP. Be that as it may, here's a suggestion: nominate Huckabee, and the Republicans lose the election. I don't think, at this point, that the Republicans can't win the election under any circumstances. The Democrats' true virtuosity seems to lie in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and it could very well be that in 2008 they'll swing their third strike in a row. But to nominate a candidate whose national political profile is anti-gun control, statements very close to advocating internment camps for gay people (check that out for yourself, I'm not exaggerating), Southern Baptist preacher, that has got to be political suicide.
On the other hand, the party bosses were worried about a too right-wing candidate in 2000, so they looked around for someone "electable" who wouldn't frighten the children, and the rest is history. I think that it's important this time around not only that the Democrats win, but that the conservatives lose (not the same thing), which is why I'm for Clinton, so maybe Mr. Nice Guy bass player right wing nutjob isn't such a bad idea. How many points does one lose in the general election for being a homophobic bigot in America in 2008?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Will Chavez Be Strong or Weak?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez does not get entirely fair press in the US. His work to really benefit the poorer classes of Venezuela is discounted, his narcissism and obstreperousness are distracting, and his Fidelismo and anti-Americanism that once seemed clownish is now at least a little bit threatening. His own ability to alienate people is the main thing holding him back on the international scene, not the opposition of Washington (He has closely studied Castro's art of using the US as a Great Satan, and like Castro he relies on hostility from Washington for political fuel).
There is a basic question, though, that we might ask of any charismatic leader: is he committed to the rule of law and democracy in a constitutional republic, or is he committed to the rule of himself? People on the right and people on the left all tell themselves that their project of social transformation, and the power of their evil enemies, justifies suborning the democratic process. Castro, Pinochet, Guzman (Sendero Guzman I mean), Franco. I fail to see the difference. And anyway, if Fidel Castro is not smart enough to be the executive of The Just State, then Hugo Chavez sure as hell isn't. So will Chavez go down in history as a democrat or a despot?
This is the question on the occasion of the narrow (51% vs. 49%) defeat of his measure to centralize power more tightly on himself, and eliminate any limit to his time in "office" (dictators don't really have offices, in the formal sense. They just have buildings). He acquiesced, saying in effect, "We didn't make it this time, we'll do it eventually." So he respected the democratic process, and that's good, and that shows the rest of the world that Venezuela is not too far gone down the fascist path that they could not recover themselves politically (and neither is Iran, by the way). But Mr. Chavez doesn't help much with his manner that he respects the democratic process but just barely. The final verdict on what kind of political leader he really is lies in the future.