The country could be at a transformative moment politically speaking unless campaigns revert once again to a “politics-as-usual” mode. If that’s what voters have come to expect, is that really what they want, and what voting patterns suggest? Maybe.
In West Virginia and Kentucky race and class played major roles providing Hillary Clinton with huge margins of victory. Black voters in other states have swung heavily in favor of Barack Obama. But the two campaigns approached regional demographics in decidedly different fashion. Obama points out how remarkable it is that a young man of color could actually be taken seriously as a presidential candidate – – a sign that at last the country had moved beyond some of its more divisive racial constraints.
The Clintons, on the other hand, employed old-style techniques with their undertone of race, gender and class to advance Hillary’s political fortunes, losing much of the black support that had been hers at the outset as well as a portion of the moral high ground in the process. So there’s Clinton, a comfortably middle-class Wellesley graduate, dropping her “g”s comin’ and goin’ on the Appalachian Trail and making the case that ‘some people’ have jobs and health care. On the stump hubbie Bill was making similar points and being dismissive about college-educated folks.
The hypocrisy of this very well educated political team using such strategies and the double-edged insult implicit in their remarks seems to have been lost on the targeted voting bloc. To suggest that higher education is a suspicious elitist state and that a poorly educated population would accept improbable solutions to complicated problems, as if their condition were a badge of courage, is a cynical approach unworthy of a candidate like Senator Clinton who knows better. But then again what works, works.
Meanwhile, Senator McCain appears to inhabit an alternate universe where he confuses Iraqi religious factions and is wrong, for example, about where the governmental base of power in Iran resides. Having been credited with long experience and expertise in the area of foreign relations it is more than a little disturbing to observe him fumbling around regarding matters about which he should be well informed.
Perhaps because Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory speeches make him a juicy target, McCain tries to undermine Obama’s credibility by suggesting he is naïve to entertain any notion of meeting with him. However, Ali Khamenei is actually Iran’s head of state not the fiery Ahmadinejad. At a press conference, Joe Klein of Time Magazine pressed this point only to have McCain reply that ‘if you asked most Americans who the leader of Iran is they would say Ahmadinejad’ as if an uninformed public should have the final word about matters of fact and substance in foreign affairs. After seven years of White House-induced delusions, Democrats need to make the case that one change they offer is a government that is not only transparent but knowledgeable and competent.
Members of Congress may not be so impressive when catapulted out of their comfort zone onto the national stage. McCain is said to be a “formidable candidate”, yet he is often foggy about the basics of pressing foreign and domestic issues and is slow as well to recognize ethical bumps in the road to the White House. Touting “market forces” and tax cuts as the prescription for a healthy economy and fielding a campaign staff riddled with lobbyists (until public clamor forced him to unload some of the more outrageous influence peddlers) aren’t exactly the marks of a reliable leader-in-chief.
Joe Lieberman continues to make Republican talking points backing Senator McCain in op eds and interviews, but logic is turned on its head when everything is viewed through a political prism rather than a principled lens. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to informed decision-making is conscienceless political rhetoric – – just saying stuff no matter what the facts are. Republicans always claim they are the guardians of National Security, but what are the victories to which this administration can lay claim?
Joe, Hillary and Barack all call themselves Democrats. It is important for the Democratic Party to make clear to the electorate in November that politics as usual will not do this time around and that the party’s candidate must liberate a nation held captive by a duplicitous government that has made them neither safer nor economically secure.