“Okay people, you have heard the heavy groups. Now it’s time for morning maniac music. Believe it. It’s a new dawn.” — Grace Slick introducing the song “Volunteers” at WoodstockGoddamn I love politics. Some people dig sports, know all sorts of obscure stats on who played center for the Cowboys in the Seventies, etc. Other people play the ponies. There’s a vice for everybody, as Shannon Wheeler (who writes and draws the “Too Much Coffee Man” comic) puts it: you can’t escape addiction–choose yours wisely.
Just as every gambler taps out and every sports geek sees their team slaughtered now and again, those of us who love politics get used to being lied to and watching our ship slide toward the rocks. Don’t get me wrong: if there’s anything the last eight years has taught approximately 78% of the U.S. population, it is that it matters who wins. But for the true politics junkie, the journey is literally half the high. Which is why we get all wired on nights like tonight.
Because it wasn’t just that Barack Obama beat the supposedly unbeatable Hillary Clinton (or that other guy) or that Mike Huckabee (who?) beat the hair farmer from Mass. who spent $7 million dollars of his own bucks; it’s that they both won decisively. And there’s nothing more fun than taking the conventional wisdom and tossing it out the 27th-story window to watch it fall and shatter into, uh, 7 million pieces.
This isn’t to say Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States (and certainly doesn’t mean Huckabee will be). But it does intimate that 2008 may be one of those seismic elections where pretty much everything changes, the pros get smashed, and we wake up November 4th a little freaked.
It’s funny, because I’ve been through one of those. It sucked, unfortunately, but there’s no denying that 1980, when Reagan was elected, completely changed the landscape and left us with a legacy that we’re still dealing with. (I know Republicans liked to crown Bush II as the new Reagan, but I said all along that he was the new Nixon, and that’s what he turned out to be. I get one right once in awhile.) I was barely hatched when Kennedy won in ’60, but I watched the Democrats wander in the wilderness for years in search of a new Jack, just the way rock critics wistfully kept trying to find a new Dylan in the Seventies. There was one Jack Kennedy; there’s one Bob Dylan. End of story.
I know Obama reminds some people of Kennedy, and there’s a little bit of that New Frontier gleam in his eyes, but, in truth, Obama reminds me of Reagan. Not in any policy sense imaginable–there he’s, if anything, the anti-Reagan. But he’s got that rock star thing budding, that catch in the throat that he might be real thing, and he can speak. Really speak. Smack you in the head and nail the imagination speak. And even if you hated Reagan as thoroughly as I did, there was something goddamn infuriatingly likable about the guy that would just drive you crazy. That quality wins elections and changes political landscapes.
As for Huckabee, he might get croaked in New Hampshire, probably by McCain and Romney–though Mitt has that past the due date smell beginning to waft from him, but he’s poised to do well in South Carolina with the social conservatives, and if he rebounds out of there, he might have a chance. Which would be beautiful, man, because you will see the bloodiest civil war in a national party since McGovern won the Democratic nomination in 1972. If Huckabee somehow survives that, he’s gonna look like he’s been dragged behind a truck for a year, and the Democratic nominee, whoever that is, will cream him the way Johnson creamed Goldwater.
Clinton’s strong in New Hampshire. She might beat Obama there, which would set up an epic battle in South Carolina, where Edwards will be a factor unless he gets so totally croaked in New Hampshire that he’s no longer viable. (I like John Edwards, but, ironically enough for a famously successful trial lawyer, he just can’t seem to close the sale.) So if this is a three-act, it looks like tonight we’ve seen Act I, New Hampshire could be Act II, and South Carolina could be Act III. No matter what, it was a great night for Obama, an exciting night for Huckabee, a chance at survival for Edwards (though not a strong one), a sobering night for Clinton, and a suck-ass night for Romney, who deserves it ’cause he’s an animatronic construct.
Goddamn, I love politics.