Inpendence Rules – (2008)

Aquarian Weekly 2/27/08 REALITY CHECK


I have a dream of a new American language. – Dan Bern

Mere seconds after the Associated Press had called the Wisconsin primary for Barack Obama, a surprisingly early projection, nestled as it was within a lead paragraph describing his once unbeatable opponent’s campaign as “fading”, the young senator stood at center stage grinning from ear to ear. He waved his outstretched arms aloft in the vain attempt to silence 20,000 screaming revelers, who had crammed into a Houston arena for what was described on the program as a rally, but had long mutated into something more. The eruption of sound signified a sudden awareness that this was now the opening stride to a symbolic victory lap.

Obama In HoustonBy this time every cable news network had cut from what was the latest in an agonizing series of plodding stump speeches by Hillary Clinton, during which the beaten candidate had refused for a month of primary and caucus whippings, ten consecutive in all, to congratulate its winner. A week removed from first place and looking more like the boondoggled heroine of a Rod Sterling script, Madam Shoo-In was being unceremoniously bumped from primetime to make way for the speeding bullet from Illinois, the closest politics has come to producing a phenomenon in any a lifetime.

A black man, cheered as a conquering hero, a few giant leaps closer to becoming the president of the United States, in a city named for a slave owner who traded Native Americans like cattle and pilfered land from Mexico.

The sound of his voice booming from the television filled my outer room as I sat furiously banging on this keyboard, trying like hell to come to grips with the very real feeling that this might actually happen; that the system will be yanked from its moorings and sent packing with yesteryear’s hokum — the cynicism still beating strong in my heart, but the chills bolting up through my spine and into the weary frontal lobe.

What the hell is happening here?

I was moved to write that Wisconsin, a blue-collar state bloated with old-world Democrats, entrenched Reagonites, and far less than ten percent of its populace comprised of African Americans, had finally put the dirt on the Clinton Campaign.

But I did not. Not yet. Not now.


The numbers supported it. Obama had claimed a stake in every possible voting block, taking what the pundits described for days as a “no-excuse” prize; meaning it was not one handed on a platter of race, youth, independents and a GOP mass exodus that spinners at the rival campaign could downplay as just another fluke.

A black man, cheered as a conquering hero, a few giant leaps closer to becoming the president of the United States, in a city named for a slave owner who traded Native Americans like cattle and pilfered land from Mexico.

Ah, but if you spend enough hours hanging around the subject of big-time politics, and are forced to unfurl random thoughts under a byline, you had best be prepared to dismiss the looming danger of “real feelings”. That’s when instinct kicks in, what I call “the reporter’s wince”; you’re left calmly conjuring too many false alarms, too many bad prognostications, and far too many failed stabs at giddy prophecy.

Step back and exhale, remember that the blood and guts of the Arkansas Mafia is thick with dark history and the skeletons in the Democratic Party will rattle when you least expect it. Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, Hubert Humphrey, Ralph Nader were all its blindside victims.

But then I was moved to turn away from this infernal word-machine and glance over at the tube to see that, incredibly, the man kept smiling and the crowd kept cheering.

What the hell is happening?

Wait, I told myself, inching closer to midnight on what had clearly morphed into Victory Lap Tuesday; this was no time to deal in absolutes.

Not now. Not yet.

At least not on the Democratic side.

The Republicans have come to different conclusions. Whatever Mike Huckabee is doing, it has little to do with 2008 or presidential politics. He is working emptier rooms in the hopes of making a case for speech time at the convention, a place on the ticket, or bigger checks on the lecture circuit. For weeks now this has been about John McCain, even if until this past Tuesday he was reticent to say it out loud.

All of that changed after his own convincing Wisconsin triumph, where the embattled Arizona senator pulled an even 45-45 percentage tie in conservative voters, a pertinent factoid for a Right Wing punching bag in a critical fall swing state.

It was enough motivation for him to launch into the first of what will be hundreds of national election speeches aimed at identifying himself as the protector/anti-tax warrior/experienced candidate in the face of a mind-numbing socio-political sprint the likes of which has not been hinted at in the checkered history of this great nation.

It was a rusty presentation, appearing to be more a test-model for the big time than any tangible platform, but it was nonetheless a fair glimpse into the difficult task before the Republicans this summer; make people ignore the sweeping radiance of Master Barack and a groundswell of two-to-one voting for Democrats. He will most certainly need to do better than piss-raining on everyone’s Hope Parade by couching this momentum-charged press frenzy as “an eloquent, but empty call for change.”

This has been a losing strategy for what is left of the Billary Charge, which was on display two nights later in the Austin debates. More of the same “solutions” and “readiness” mantras garnished with a smatter of insults and accusations, couched in last-minute semi-passionate and “human moments”. Pulled in all directions, her camp in fighting on whether to mud-wrestle or take the highest road to a political future beyond this speed bump campaign, she was uneven in one of the last televised chances to stop the steam train, and drew no real blood.

Some of my colleagues went as far as calling it a conciliatory performance, her final sentiments a valedictorian moment.

But perhaps the smarter of the Clintons has seen the writing on the wall, much of it on the front page of the NY Times, which in a desperate grapple to stop the rapid decline of subscriptions has turned into the London Mirror by plastering salacious innuendo about the Republican frontrunner and a sexy lobbyist running wild in 2000 on its historic front page. This caused every last one of his Republican “enemies” to reunite against the evil liberal monolith, just as they will against the other one; CLINTON.

What the hell is going on here?

Hillary knows.

And this is why the man keeps smiling.


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