2008 Iowa Caucuses: What Happened?

Aquarian Weekly 1/9/08 REALITY CHECK

Obama Rises, Hillary Skids/GOP Field Swings Wide On A Holy Huckabee Blip

Huckabee Illustrates ChancesIn this most historic of election years, with no incumbent and a primary season beginning as early as any before, and its candidates for both major parties ranging from an African-American, an Hispanic, a Mormon, an Italian Catholic, a Fundamentalist to a woman, the first salvo was fired across the frozen cornfields of Iowa on the first Thursday of the new year. And although it is a minor shift in the system – these oddly constructed caucuses so early in the process – the results may have vaulted one winner into the kind of momentum that cannot be slowed and another sending his party into an all-out gang fight or at least a fairly entertaining skirmish between an insurgent eccentric and the fat-cat establishment.

A half-year ago the victories of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, even considering the queer vagaries of the Iowa Caucuses, would have seemed daft. Huckabee was an ill-coached religious nut and Obama was a flavor-of-the-month young black man who’d been senator for five minutes. They were both way behind in the polls and their campaigns seemed lost. Both are now something extremely binding in this business of politics; they are winners.

What this means for either of these men, their party’s final choice for a national candidate or ultimately the presidency, or even what the people of New Hampshire might do five days out or South Carolina soon after is anyone’s guess.

For now, they are winners. Moreover, they are underdog winners, a perilous position to be in at kick-off. This is especially true when considering both of their prime opponents’ money, organization power, and insatiable madness not to lose.

Make no mistake; Mike Huckabee is not going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States, any more than Pat Buchanan was going to be in 1992 or John McCain in 2000, or George H. W. Bush way back in 1980. Huckabee’s Iowa stand will be his Alamo, a mere blip on the rest of this exercise. But what Iowa managed to do for the Republican Party was provide suitable tread for the drag-ass McCain, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani campaigns, ostensibly opening wide the door of opportunity for the entire field.

Particularly, it is McCain who remains a dangerous counter-offensive for a party that has never embraced him, in fact, mostly despises him, but may have to decide he is the only Republican candidate who could stave off an unavoidable Democratic take-over on the national stage.

Had Mitt Romney, the party darling and fabricated money pit, won, there would have been an inevitability to the coming weeks which would have made campaigning something of a pathetic dirge. Instead, the insanity of the Huckabee victory is like some kind of free pass for every GOP candidate, including the mercurial Ron Paul run. It literally put the fear of God into the party powerbrokers, who watched their golden shyster piss away nearly eight million dollars for the right to be flogged like a musk ox by a Bible fanatic.

Unlike Huckabee, Barrack Obama is no joke, no mere blip or strange eruption of angered extremists sending a message to the party platform. He is a rock star.

RNC Chairman, Mike Duncan, looking more like someone who wandered into a dangerous neighborhood with a fat wallet than the party’s staunch figurehead, clearly had a hard time coming to grips with it, and probably should not have been coerced to appear boondoggled on national television. Before long, wide-eyed and sweating profusely, he was making weirdly formed cases for Duncan Hunter and the ghost of Strom Thurmond.

“Anything, Jesus, anything but this!” he screamed into the camera.

But it was a joyous yawp compared to the fallout at Clinton Central, where phone calls from New Hampshire did not bring good news. These are the tough inquiries when the wheels begin to come loose. The ones from under-whelmed fundraisers in Manhattan and Southern California who need to know what the fuck happened to promises that “the worst that will transpire in Iowa is a cheap Edwards victory, which we’ll wipe clean in five days.”

Unlike Huckabee, Barack Obama is no joke, no mere blip or strange eruption of angered extremists sending a message to the party platform. He is a rock star. He is a revivalist voice from some remote outpost; a phenomenon of youth, race, and indescribable energy. He looks like he was created for the stump, a modern-day Moses in a power tie; something the Democrats have been begging for since Robert Kennedy was murdered, his younger brother left a woman to drown in his car, and Gary Hart danced away on a yacht.

Obama’s speech election night was pure inspiration. Coming as it did on the heels of Senator Rodham’s robotic concession drone, it was political theater. Worse still for Clinton, Obama obliterated the once impenetrable suit of Hillary armor, the fallacy of the Electable Inevitable, the all-important national poll numbers which had her guffawing at the silly notion of these annoying little primaries. Madam Shoo-In’s defeat is compounded by a count of 41 to 17 percent of independents and the ridiculous amount of women, particularly young women, who voted overwhelmingly for her surging opponent.

Traditional wisdom by early morning after the Iowa Caucuses had the rural, predominantly middle-class, white, working class Midwesterners leveling a stark repudiation on the status quo; a weakened president, a flaccid congress, and a heap of economic and foreign policy woe to come: A barely one-term senator with no experience (little blood on his hands and less skeletons in the closets) and a down-home Baptist preacher, a true GOP outsider/underdog (not a corporate puppet) crushing the two more entrenched national frontrunners.

It is a theory certainly co-opted by a shaken John Edwards, who had more or less spent the past four years banking on Iowa to jettison his last hurrah. He stood before his stunned constituents and shouted, “Tonight there is a vote for change!”

But it was certainly not a vote for Edwards, who, unlike the Republican clan, can only endure one more defeat before surrendering. Then, what does he do with his formidable support? Hand it to the woman he has been thrashing relentlessly for months or to the rocket ride from Illinois?

It is true that the Iowa turnout broke records in all demographics, including youth, women, and independents. Sixty percent of the participants were first-timers. Lines formed early. People were turned away. Well over two-hundred thousand participated, an eighty-nine percent growth from 2004 in a swing-state that split between Al Gore in 2000 and George W. Bush four years later.

It was arguably the most powerfully resonant Iowa Caucus in history, but all of it means little without New Hampshire’s outcome in less than a week. It sits there like a firewall, a Waterloo, or a launching pad of historical proportions.

Obama wins there, then he will surely take South Carolina and begin to put the squeeze on things. Huckabee shows up and he will make life hard for the GOP big boys, and if McCain makes his stand, there will be hard decisions coming.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Social tagging:

Leave a Reply