January 3, 2008 by lonbud
Four Dead in Iowa
I know Neil Young actually wrote the lyric about Kent State and Ohio, but I just couldn’t resist.
Barack Obama came away with an exhilarating win in tonight’s Iowa caucuses, taking nearly 40% of the Democrats’ overall delegates from the state that produces a lot of the soybeans consumed in China. It only produces 7 of the 270 electoral votes needed to elect a President of the United States, however, so we will have to wait a while longer to parse the larger meaning of his victory.
What appears inescapable in the wake of tonight’s result is the campaigns of Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel are finished.
Bill Richardson, who garnered just 2% of the vote tonight, should probably call it a day as well. But while Mr. Biden and Mr. Dodd have both already indicated they will quit the race, the former governor of New Mexico appears keen to round out a quixotic trio with Mr. Kucinich and Mr. Gravel. I didn’t even realize “Mad Mike” was still around, but there it is.
Get ready for an avalanche of speechmaking, punditry, editorializing, and analysis focused on themes of change, hope, healing and unity.
Mr. Obama certainly laid out from the very beginning a campaign rooted in promises to represent those ideals, and his speech tonight embracing victory in Iowa proves he’s got the chops to work a crowd like few public figures in recent memory. His campaign in Iowa galvanized the activisim of large numbers of young voters and others previously insufficiently inspired to participate in electoral politics. Should he prove able to replicate such interest in his message nationwide, it can only serve the country well.
John Edwards, who finished in a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton, also stokes a populist flame on the campaign trail and may in fact pose a greater threat to shape-shift the status quo than Mr. Obama. But the early book on him, and one sure to become something of a mantra for the talking heads and typists of the mainstream media (also, in time enough, for his competitors), is that his brand of change comes with too much anger, too much negativity, too much divisiveness for a country in need of healing and hope for a better tomorrow. He is sure to work hard at softening his image while continuing to make the case for a fundamental reordering of our processes and priorities.
Ms. Clinton, the one-time prohibitive favorite, whose prospects for victory seemed not long ago buffeted by an air of inevitability, will remain undeterred by her third-place finish tonight. She will take up the change-hope-healing-unity banner and wave it right alongside the ones she has for experience and gravity and sound judgment, but any honest assessment of her performance in Iowa has to note some wind has been taken out of her sails.
My sense is we are on the cusp of an invigorating journey into uncharted territory.
Even the Republican winner in Iowa, Mike Huckabee, sounded notes in his victory speech tonight of hearing the nation’s call for an end to partisan rancor, with words on a page thematically mirroring those of Mr. Obama. He will surely ride his unexpected victory into the next wave of primaries trumpeting visions of bringing all Americans together ’round the warm and fuzzy hearth of Christian family values, which is decidedly preferable — in concept — to the prospects offered by his Republican rivals. But George W. Bush has left his party in tatters. That race can only be viewed henceforth for its high shock and mild entertainment value.
The show promised by Obama-Edwards-Clinton, on the other hand, ought to raise the level of debate and spark interest in tackling the real challenges facing this nation to heights the vast majority of voters have never seen in their lifetimes. The Democrats are suffused with more smarts and more energy and more inspiration than at any time since the days of Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.
Which is a good thing, because the eventual winner is going to need all that and more to face the world he or she will inherit from the outgoing tenant on Pennsylvania Avenue.