Jan 31, 2008

January 6, 2008: High and Dry, Huckleberry Launches His Raft, On to New Hampshire

“High and Dry
I’m up here with no warnin
High and dry
Well, I couldn’t get a word in”—The Rolling Stones

Meanwhile Mike Huckabee, lately of Arkansas and the town of Hope’s latest entry into presidential sweepstakes launched his presidential raft by sweeping the Republican side of the Iowa contest. Outspent nearly five to one by the well-oiled, if not outright greasy machine of Willard “Mitt” Romney, lately of Massachusetts, the former Baptist preacher turned politician co-opted the fundamentalist base from Fred Thompson and stormed ahead of the pack in a last-minute dash to the finish line. John McCain hoping to reclaim some of the magic that was the 2000 campaign finished a distant third.

The best quote of the night came from Democratic candidate John Edwards who said that the real winner on this night was change. With Obama and Edwards fighting to claim the legacy of Robert Kennedy and prevail over the party regulars represented by Hillary Clinton, the upcoming contest has all the earmarks of the RFK, Eugene McCarthy challenge to the party stalwarts in 1968. There have been challenges since: 1972’s contest between McGovern and Humphrey in which the insurgents won but were forsaken in the general election and the ticket went down in a smoking ruin. 1976 saw another storming of the ramparts but Carter quickly proved distasteful to the liberal wing of party. Both in 1980 and ’84 the factions again fought for the nomination with the old RFK wing represented by Teddy in ’80 and Gary Hart in 84. The party stalwarts prevailed at the conventions but lost the ensuing general election. There has not been a serious challenge to the party regulars since, with Bill Clinton---leading the Democratic Leadership Council and moving the party toward the mythical “center”—carrying the standard for the party regulars. The Democrats have won three elections over the last 11 election cycles leaving an ever growing number of faithful to look for something other than “Bush Lite” to quench the party’s thirst; someone to pick up the mantle of Robert Kennedy and speak of social justice, someone to staunch the middle class hemorrhage, and someone to restore the New Deal. In 2004 it was John Edwards, in this election cycle it is increasingly the voice of Barack Obama.

Interestingly the same thing is happening concurrently on the Republican side. Already the party stalwarts are lining up to decry the temerity of Huckleberry Mike to steal the thunder of the chosen. The day following his victory Rusty “Rush to Judgment” Limbaugh was on his megaphone decrying the Huckabee victory and challenging his conservative credentials. Pointing out that Mike had not drunk of Goldwater and had committed the cardinal sin of raising taxes to build roads and schools in Arkansas, Limbaugh railed on that he could not be the true heir to Ronnie. Perhaps, Giuliani, improving threefold on Ronnie’s marital record better fits the bill. Certainly Christian Conservative leader Pat Roberson and the big Texas oil money that greased the Bush political machinery think so. Clearly the party regulars had a rough go of it on both sides of the political isle, for on this cold January night the good people of Iowa spoke with one clear voice leaving the regulars singing

“She left me standin here
Just high and dry”

So now we move on to the snows of New Hampshire, The Granite State. Here Hillary must establish some legitimacy, other than gender, for she is no longer the President-in-waiting. Here John McCain must recapture the magic of a now fading past, and Mitt must win in his own back yard if he is to establish viability.

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