Anything I write now might be obsolete by Wednesday morning, but such is opinionating. So here goes …
From today’s Observer:
The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s 100 Club dinner is a staid affair, attracting the main candidates as speakers in an act of shameless fundraising. But on Friday night extraordinary scenes unfolded there that captured the mood of a party suddenly filled with the desire to kick out its old guard.
Barack Obama was so mobbed by supporters that a security announcer begged people surging towards the stage to retake their seats. Many were chanting Obama’s new signature slogan: ‘Fired up! Let’s go!’
In stark contrast, Hillary Clinton had been booed twice. The first time when she seemed to borrow from Obama’s main theme of ‘change’. The second was when she made a veiled reference to her greater experience. ‘Who will be ready to lead from day one?’ she asked the 3,000-strong crowd. But she was forced to pause to let the resulting boos die down. A few weeks ago, such a spectacle would have been unthinkable.
Right now most polls are saying that Clinton and Obama are tied in New Hampshire. And you know that if she wins by even one vote on Tuesday she’ll be re-crowned “Ms. Inevitable.”
But I wonder if that “inevitability” shtick isn’t part of her problem. It sent a subliminal message to rank-and-file Dems that you’ll take what the party gives you, and you will like it. But what the party has been giving us in recent years — well, for a long time, actually — hasn’t been all that wonderful. We put up with it because the other guys are worse. Maybe what happened at the 100 Club dinner is a dawning realization that “Hey, we don’t have to put up with it! We can demand something different!”
It’s called “empowerment,” I believe.
The Clintons, especially, have seemed baffled by the winds of change. They mounted a peculiar argument against Senator Obama, acknowledging that voters wanted change but insisting that you canâ€™t achieve change by doing things differently.
Ain’t it the truth? If you didn’t see this meltdown moment in last night’s debate, take a look at the transcript:
SEN. CLINTON: Wait a minute now, wait a minute. I’m going to respond to this because obviously — making change is not about what you believe. It’s not about a speech you make. It is about working hard. There are 7,000 kids in New Hampshire who have health care because I helped to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program. There’s 2,700 National Guard and Reserve members who have access to health care, because on a bipartisan basis, I pushed legislation through over the objection of the Pentagon, over the threat of a veto from President Bush.
I want to make change, but I’ve already made change. I will continue to make change. I’m not just running on a promise of change, I’m running on 35 years of change. I’m running on having taken on the drug companies and the health insurance companies, taking on the oil companies.
So, you know, I think it is clear that what we need is somebody who can deliver change. And we don’t need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered. The best way to know what change I will produce is to look at the changes that I’ve already made.
To me, this exemplifies the whole problem with Senator Clinton. She probably has had some impact on some policies, but it hasn’t been good enough. Maybe she did take on the drug companies and the health insurance companies, but seems to me that the drug and health insurance companies won. If she honestly doesn’t see that, then I do not want her in the White House.
I’d be much more comfortable with her if she could admit efforts have fallen short, but if we could get a big Dem majority in Congress and have a Dem in the White House, we could accomplish something significant. But if she defines “significant” by what she’s already done, she doesn’t get it.
Frank Rich’s column today is all about how conventional wisdom fell apart in Iowa.
What was mostly forgotten in these errant narratives were the two largest elephants in the room: Iraq and George W. Bush. The conventional wisdom had it that both a tamped-down war and a lame-duck president were exiting so quickly from center stage that they were receding from the minds of voters. In truth, they were only receding from the minds of those covering those voters…
…Itâ€™s safe to assume that these same voters did not forget that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards enabled the Iraq fiasco. Or that Mr. Obama publicly opposed it. When Mrs. Clinton attacked Mr. Obama for his supposedly â€œirresponsible and frankly naÃ¯veâ€ foreign policy ideas â€” seeking talks with enemies like Iran â€” she didnâ€™t diminish him so much as remind voters of her own irresponsibility and naÃ¯vetÃ© about Mr. Bushâ€™s Iraq scam in 2002.
Again, it’s a bit clumsy to run on “experience” if your track record is spotty.
As for Senator Obama, there’s no way to know if he’s for real or just packaging. At the Guardian, Armando Llorens (yeah, that Armando) expresses doubt that a President Obama would actually move the nation in a progressive direction.
But I don’t think that’s the way to look at it. It’s not as if America is sitting on its hands waiting for the next President to lead it somewhere. After having witnessed the colossal failure of “movement conservatism” I think the nation is poised to move in a more progressive direction. The question is, how will the next Congress and the next President respond to this? And I don’t think there is any way to predict that.
Historically, presidents in particular often turn out to be very different products from what was advertised. Often they are disappointing — I certainly think the Clinton Administration promised more than it delivered, except on the economy. Woodrow Wilson ran on a “he kept us out of war” platform, then sent troops to Europe.
On the other hand, in the 1860 campaign, Abraham Lincoln tried to defuse the secession crisis (and possibly pick up southern votes) by promising to support a constitutional amendment that would have protected slavery in the slave states. Many northern abolitionists refused to support Lincoln because he wasn’t tough enough on the slavery question. You might remember how that turned out.
Let’s face it — we’re buying a pig in a poke, no matter who wins.
There are only two things I can say with any certainty. One is that if a politician is tone-deaf to the nation’s mood as a candidate, winning an election is unlikely to improve his or her hearing.
And the other thing is that real, substantive change will be driven by the empowerment of the people, not from leadership in Washington.