Saturday, January 5, 2024

Urgency Trumps Inevitability--What Iowa Means To Me

Having been in Iowa four years ago as a volunteer for the Howard Dean campaign, I have some measure of insight into the events of the last few days. Then, as now, a small army of out of state volunteers had descended upon the hick Midwestern state that gets to play kingmaker every four years in America. Then, as now, an ardently anti-war Democratic candidate had managed to harness the power of the Internet to build a presidential campaign war chest from small-donor grassroots support. But four years ago, the insurgency campaign of Howard Dean ended in a beer hall.

The Mainstream Media may have put the shiv in Dean's back with the infamous (and entirely manufactured) "Dean Scream", but they were only finishing the job started by the coalition of corporate interests and Democratic Party power brokers who had decided that John Kerry was the "safe" choice. Whether or not he was the best choice to beat George W. Bush, Kerry was certainly the best choice (after Bush himself) to preserve status quo on behalf of the corporate ownership class that actually owns this country.....and, for the most part, gets to run it.

This time around, things may be a little different. While Barack Hussein Obama is by no means the most progressive candidate for the Democratic nomination nor in any way represents a revolutionary break with the current state of American politics or policy, he is certainly a figure of evolutionary change--and certainly not the anointed choice of the power brokers who did in Dean. His claim to Martin Luther King's "fierce urgency of now" stands in utter and stark contrast to Hillary Clinton's arrogant (and now discredited) claim to "inevitability."

A lot of things are different between now and four years ago. Dean's people may have figured out how to tap the 'Net for money, but they never turned it into the virtual ATM Obama's people have created. Dean was in exactly the same situation John Edwards is in now--facing a make or break scenario in New Hampshire before the money runs out. Four years ago, the outspoken agent of change was a former doctor and former New England governor with enormous appeal to what he himself calls "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party"--the educated liberals and urban professionals who connect with their heads first and their hearts second. This time around, the principal proponent of change is a former community organizer and occasional law professor who clearly won his first presidential nomination contest on the ability to appeal beyond the largely white and upper-middle-class confines of the Democratic Party base.

But what is more different than anything is Barack Obama himself. In the aftermath of his caucus night victory speech, I was amazed to see the practiced "media professionals" covering it--people like Chris Matthews, Rachel Meadow, Howard Fineman (yes, I was watching MSNBC... big surprise there)-- with visible tears in their eyes. Yes, it was an inspiring speech. But to have a visible impact on people who pride themselves on their jadedness and cynicism took more than an inspiring took an inspiring (and perhaps historic) moment. Perhaps not since the inception of America itself has anyone had quite the opportunity Barack Obama now has to become a living embodiment of the American Dream itself, much less possessed the necessary gifts to seize that moment.

Obama is not alone in his claim to the mantle of "change" or its use as a mantra. In their speeches that night, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards made the best cases they could that they were participants in Obama's victory. In Clinton's case, the words rang utterly hollow. Edwards, on the other hand, gave one of the best speeches of his life and continues to enjoy the support of traditional populists and progressives. But even when I was in Iowa four years ago, Edward's trial lawyer career, pandering self-reference as "the son of a mill worker" and studiously manufactured image were already the topics of endless jokes as workers from all the different campaigns gathered in downtown Des Moines hotel bars. There are significant questions about his substance and his sincerity.....even if he doesn't run out of money.

As we look beyond the nominating process and into the general election, the single biggest change is that four years ago enough Americans were still sufficiently hypnotized by the blood sacrifice of 9/11 to believe the fear-mongering mythology of the Republican Party--and believe that a swaggeringly vapid cowboy from Texas could defend them from the supposed threat. Now, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and a botched war that has dragged on longer than World War II, it is fairly obvious that the real threat to America's safety is Bush and his corporatist controllers--and that no one who enabled Bush legislatively to create this mess has any business claiming to be the reformer who is going to "change" anything.

My last and most vivid impression of the Obama victory in Iowa: that this is indeed the generational moment that Obama claims. I look at Hillary's supporters and I see old people, in either spirit or actual age. I look at Edward's supporters and I see people still fighting the class and culture wars that have racked this country for the last forty years. I look at Obama and his people....and I literally see hope. The results in New Hampshire could change everything, but right now the odds are better than ever that once again the future may belong to the young.... as it should.


At January 7, 2024 10:17 AM , Anonymous James said...

Time will tell if Obama is indeed a catalyst for change or more of the same. His positions now closely resemble those of Clinton yet his message makes one hope for a more progressive stance if he is elected...

At January 7, 2024 4:26 PM , Blogger Free Press Houston said...

Well--it ultimately comes down to 'who do yo wanna watch for the next 4 years on TV? I pick Obama..Forget about actual change; who do you wanna see spoofed on SNL.Let's face it: They all drink blood from the skulls of infants, Let's just pick a African American democrat to do the blood drinking this time. It will make things more interesting.


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