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.


  1. Gary - January 4, 2008 @ 9:26 am

    Superb as usual!

    I’ve been waiting a painfully long time to get this race under way! Looking forward to a rollicking party on January 20, 2009.

  2. Tam O’Tellico - January 4, 2008 @ 10:14 am

    Children of the Corn

    The Children of the Corn carried the day for Barack Obama. Last night, youthful Iowa caucus-goers sacrificed several far more experienced candidates including Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. Even Hillary Clinton, the anointed successor to the Bush-Clinton dynasty, was left wounded. Whether it was a mortal wound remains to be seen, but no one any longer presumes her ascension to the throne.

    The other clear loser was Mitt Romney who spent like a drunken sailor in Iowa but still lost badly to virtual unknown Mike Huckabee. If nothing else, Romney seems to be proving that buying the Presidency isn’t that easy – at least for now.

    I went to bed last night not knowing the preliminary results because in my own house I have become something of a social pariah; I stand accused of being “obsessed with politics”. If so, it is apparently a grievous fault. Why do I bring up this unflattering bit of personal business? Because I believe there is a larger lesson in it.

    Gutter politics has so littered the electoral landscape, so permeated the body politic that the vast majority of Americans (including my wife) are no longer listening because they no longer believe in their own government. I understand the impulse to tune the bastards out, but how can anyone make an informed decision without putting forth at least a minimum effort to separate the leaders from the liars?

    The truth is, they can’t – as was proven quite conclusively in 2000 and 2004. We say the past is predictive, but I haven’t met one person in a thousand who took the trouble to check out the resume of George W. Bush. Had they done so, they might have realized that a serial bankruppter might not be the wisest choice to run the world’s largest economic enterprise – as the plunging dollar and huge budget deficit confirm.

    But instead of finding out for themselves, voters relied on sloganeering, punditry and propaganda passed off as “news” by the Republican Party’s shady PR firm otherwise known as Fox News. Granted, the public didn’t and doesn’t get much help from the “deregulated” mainstream corporate media, but that’s all the more reason for voters to dig out the truth for themselves.

    The depth of ignorance of the typical voter is appalling, and the worst fear of our Founders has come to pass: these days the only qualification that matters for election to public office is whether a D or an R is tied to a candidate. And from what can be determined in Iowa, the candidates with an R tied to their name are in big trouble this time around. It’s tempting to say good riddance, but there is a strong suspicion that the government is really run by the K’s, as in the K-Street lobbyists.

    In any case, now that a handful of Iowans have chosen the likeliest suspects, the real battle will begin. Voters will be programmed by pundits, the airwaves will be inundated with innuendo and lobbyists will begin spreading their licentious larder. Worst of all, political gutter-snipes like Karl Rove will begin the ugly business of digging up dirt and manufacturing manure about the main candidates.

    As much as we’d like to think otherwise, the average voter will do little digging on their own. But I suppose it would be asking too much to take precious time away from American Idol or Desperate Housewives or the latest graphic-violence video game passing itself off as a movie.

    In Iowa, it appears the Children of the Corn were swayed by a slogan even more simple than Bill Clinton’s infamous dictum “it’s the economy, stupid”. Obama has reduced his message to a single word: Change. That appeal may be irresistible, given that the most Americans now realize that the Free-Market Neo-Conomics of Bush, et al, has been an absolute disaster.

    As for the Republicans, they don’t seem to have learned much from that disaster. Once again, they seem bound and determined to put their faith in faith. Well, last I looked, God wasn’t on the ballot. Yes, Huckabee seems to be a kind and gentle man; he may even be the compassionate conservative Bush claimed to be but certainly wasn’t. But like the current occupant of the most powerful position on Earth, Huckabee is profoundly out of his depth.

    Those who don’t want to be fooled again would do well to read either of Obama’s revealing books, or do some research into Huckabee’s views on Creationism to determine if those views will affect his decisions about such things as science education and stem-cell research.

    But hey, what do I know? My mind is clouded because I’m obsessed with politics.

    ©2008 Tom Cordle

  3. lonbud - January 4, 2008 @ 11:00 am

    Tom, great to see you again! Yours is always commentary par excellence. Would that more people were similarly obsessed.

    In conversation with just a few people thus far this morning, it appears friendships are to be tested over the Obama-Edwards-Clinton choice facing Democrats now.

    As usual, I find myself leaning farthest to the candidate painted “left,” though I like to believe it’s because I honestly feel he’d be best for the country. In truth, I’ll be voting for whomever those with a D attached to their name put on the ticket.

    Happy New Year, my friend!

  4. Paul Burke - January 4, 2008 @ 11:01 am

    Thanks for the shout out on your last email blast. The “stuff” video is required viewing and should be run instead of american idol – can you imagine one night if that got preempted. It would do a world of good.

    You are the man – what a great post – hit the nail on the head as usual.

    Have a great weekend!

    Paul Burke
    Author – Journey Home

  5. Tam O’Tellico - January 4, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

    Thanks guys, it’s getting mighty interesting. Huck is not quite the angel some think he is. He engaged in some underhanded campaign tactics by taking a swipe at Mitt’s Mormonism. But his third rail skewering of Mormonism is nothing compared to the deluge of negative ads Romney ran against him in Iowa and is still running in NH against McCain. Please don’t expect me to shed a tear for the Stepford Candidate, the true flip-flop poster-boy.

    The so-called Rich-Wing of the Republican Party has a real problem this time out because they have no viable candidate. Rudy is as close as they’ve got and he can’t win.

    Even so, the RIch-Wing is already putting out the word to shut-down Huckabee. Why? Because his record as Governor suggests he will actually practice Compassionate Christian Conservatism rather than just talk about it for political gain like Bush. Rich-Wingers are concerned that Huck will raise taxes if necessary to pay for social welfare programs and education. How dare he obey the command to “feed the poor”?

    Obviously, that’s a no-no for the No-Taxes, No-Government, No-Regulation, Free-Market Trickled-On Neo-Conomic ideology. What these Ayn Rand jungle-ethic acolytes don’t want to own up to is that even Alan Greenspan has openly admitted in his book that it ain’t workin’. It shouldn’t take a Harvard Phd in Economics to figure out that a democracy can’t work when all the money gets siphoned off at the top — that’s the stuff of third-world dictatorships.

    As for Obama, I think some are grossly misunderestimating the man. For starters, he has the most towering intellect I have seen in some time — if anything he may be too smart for the job. Because of his background, he also understands the plight of ordinary citizens. Furthermore, he has taken advantage of the opportunities offered him in life — unlike the Current Occupant who is still a dissolute frat boy pretending to be a dusty ol’ cowpoke.

    Anyone interested in the workings of Obama’s mind should read The Audacity of Hope. It’s a bit professorial, but from my reading, Barack appears to be far more conservative than most folks imagine. In fact, I will be very surprised if the big money boys don’t go over to him rather than Huckabee.

  6. lonbud - January 5, 2008 @ 11:39 am

    Well, if money talks and everything else walks — and there’s no reason to believe that will all of a sudden no longer be the case — your next president is Barack Obama.

    The Republicans are toast and the smart ones are beginning to get comfortable with the idea of an Obama administration because they realize he won’t upset the apple cart all that much. Huckabee’s run is too grassroots-based to ever succeed and for some of the reasons Tam points out above, I don’t think he will be the nominee. My money’s on McCain, who will put the best face on things but lose badly in the general election.

    On the Dem side, Edwards is the candidate who represents the possibility of real, substantive, systemic change, which means his candidacy is doomed. I’ll be shocked if he’s able to overcome the combined enmity of the money and media from both parties who will unite against him. Hillary, well, I just don’t think anyone on the left or the right has the stomach for going through what her presidency would represent.

    I should say, too, especially with a nod to Paul (who was an early supporter), Richardson shows promise as a V.P. or possibly Secretary of State or Commerce. His thoughtful and creative approach to mending our damaged polity should be embraced and put to work in the next administration.

  7. Richard - January 6, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

    LD – enjoyed your column – as usual. Would you expatiate a bit on this paragraph you wrote?

    On the Dem side, Edwards is the candidate who represents the possibility of real, substantive, systemic change, which means his candidacy is doomed. I’ll be shocked if he’s able to overcome the combined enmity of the money and media from both parties who will unite against him. Hillary, well, I just don’t think anyone on the left or the right has the stomach for going through what her presidency would represent.

  8. lonbud - January 8, 2008 @ 2:04 am

    Rich — My feeling is, tempered by the knowledge of Edwards’ personal wealth, the character of some of his investments, and his ties to Wall Street (all of which caused Dennis Kucinich to encourage his own supporters in Iowa to cast their ballots for Obama), he would in fact champion a restructuring of our relationship to corporate power.

    I believe he would put an end to corporate welfare that has produced windfall profits for the oil and gas industries; he would reign in centralized corporate control of the media; and perhaps most importantly, he would call out the insurance and finance industries for the damage their practices and policies do to the lives of everyday Americans across this land.

    I could be wrong. We won’t know what any of them will do till they get there.

    But I do believe Edwards represents the greatest real threat to the status quo this side of Kucinich, Ron Paul, and Mike Gravel. And for that reason all the monied interests will do everything possible to make sure he is not elected.

    As for Hillary, god bless her, she has her heart in the right place. I think she’s way too cautious and DLC Centrist to represent anything beyond incremental change.

    Maybe if her ass hadn’t been so huge all these years Slick Willie would have been giving it to her instead of the Gennifer Flowers of the world, and she she could be more loosey-goosey about it all. Pardon my superficial sexism.

    But beyond that, she is too divisive. So many people, especially on the right (cf: Theo Mellion), and in the media, have such an apoplectic hatred of her, she would mean an immediate descent into bad ju-ju on so many levels…I just don’t think people can bear the thought of what that would mean.

    I hope that explication is helpful.

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