Friday, January 4, 2008

My Two Cents Worth

A lot of other people are chiming in on the results of the Iowa caucus, and a lot of those people have degrees in political science, they’ve studied polls and statistics until their ears bleed, they have a lot of innate knowledge about the politics of a small state that doesn’t represent the whole of the electorate any more than a chihuahua represents the Westminster Kennel Club, but nevertheless they all seem to have something to say and they all have agendas to put forth. So be it, and so why shouldn’t I just make a couple of little observations?

First, I agree with the inimitable Kenneth Quinnell at T.Rex’s Guide to Life: Calm Down, and I pretty much said the same thing yesterday; the Iowa caucus is like the Oracle of Delphi. People take away from it exactly what they want to hear, and it is such a small representation of the real electorate that even losers in the past have gone on to win their party’s nomination. That’s why I’m sorry to see people like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd give up so quickly.

Second, resist the sweet siren song of the clichés that are pouring forth: “change has spoken,” and so on. The spin is nauseating and disorienting, and it will only get worse; the New Hampshire primary is Tuesday — yet another small state with little or no macro-representation of the nation as a whole. Of course, when you have hours of time to kill on the cable shows and you’re up against Chris Matthews, clichés are the only refuge.

Now, to be completely contrary, if — and it’s a big if — there’s anything to be gleaned from the Iowa results, it is that the Republicans should have everything in the world to be freaked out about. A whole lot more people turned out for the Democrats than for the Republicans, and Barack Obama attracted a lot more voters than did Mike Huckabee. If this is an omen for the general election — and I’m not saying that it is — it would seem that the Democrats as a whole and Sen. Obama in particular drew in a lot more people both within and without the Democratic camp than Mr. Huckabee did within the Republican party. If you macroized the results to reflect the entire country, it would seem that more people, regardless of party, would be drawn to the vision and appeal of Mr. Obama than they would to that of Mr. Huckabee and his retro appeal to the evangelical wing of the GOP. No matter how much he tries to pretty it up and make it sound soft and folksy, under that velvet tone is the hard-core message of fundamental dominionism. That may win primaries and scare the crap out of the mainline GOP, but it won’t win the general election.

Finally, this isn’t the end of the Clinton campaign, nor that of John Edwards, John McCain, Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani. Not by a long shot. They may have to readjust their message, but there is still life yet left in all of them. Which means we get to do this all over and over again, and by then we’ll all be so sick of it that even Josh Marshall will be posting pictures of his kid to take our mind off the ceaseless noise.