I'm amazed. Here we are, the world's lone superpower, holding elections at a time when we're engaged in a catastrophic war in Iraq, facing a burgeoning nuclear crisis in Pakistan, dealing with all sorts of horrible stuff. And at the crucial moment, the presidential race turns into something from the cutting-room floor of Truly Tasteless Jokes #50: "Three change-promisers walk into a bar ...."In not-unrelated news, it's interesting how the media has been increasingly ignoring John Edwards as his anti-corporate message gets louder.
I mean, is this a joke, or what? What the hell is the difference between "working for change" and "demanding change"? And why can't we hope for change and work for it? Are these presidential candidates or six-year-olds?
This 2008 presidential race looked interesting once, a thrillingly up-for-grabs affair in which real issues and real ground-up voter anger threatened to wrest control of America's politics from the Washington Brahmins who usually puppeteer this process from afar. And while the end result in Iowa -- a historic and inspirational Obama victory, coupled with a hilariously satisfying behind-the-woodshed third-place ass-whipping for status quo gorgon Hillary Clinton -- was compelling, the media has done its best to turn a once-promising race into an idiotic exchange of Nerf-insults, delivered at rah-rah campaign events utterly indistinguishable from scholastic pep rallies. "If there's policy in this race," one veteran campaign reporter tells me with a sad laugh, "I haven't noticed it."
And while it's tempting to blame the candidates, deep in my black journalist's heart I know it isn't all their fault.
We did this. The press. America tried to give us a real race, and we turned it into a bag of shit...
Both the Huckabee and Ron Paul candidacies represent angry grass-roots challenges to the entrenched Republican party apparatus, while the Edwards candidacy is a frank and open attack on his own party's too-cozy relationship with corporate America. These developments signaled a meaningful political phenomenon -- widespread voter disgust, not only with the two ruling parties, but with a national political press that smugly enforced the party insiders' stranglehold on the process with its incessant bullying of dissident candidates.
But there was no way this genuinely interesting theme was going to make it into mainstream coverage of the campaign heading into the primary season. It was inevitable that different, far stupider story lines would be found to dominate the headlines once the real bullets started flying in Iowa and New Hampshire. And find them we did.
A month ago, I was actually interested to see who won these first few races. But now that this whole affair has degenerated into a mass orgy of sports clichés and celebrity catfighting, I find myself more hoping that they all die in a fire somehow. And something tells me that most of America would hope that my colleagues and I burn up with them.
And this bit of Guardian analysis was interesting to me:
The apparent inability of the Republicans to select a candidate to replace George Bush in the White House signals a fundamental internal debate about what the party stands for.Gordon Brown is struggling to hold the UK Labour Party together in the trail of Tony Blair's stewardship, John Howard's Australian Liberals are now howling like a pack of hoons in the wilderness of political irrelevance... Does the same destiny await Bush's GOP? One can only hope so.
"This is clearly a battle for the future of the Republican party," said David King of the Kennedy school of government at Harvard. He said the fight was between Huckabee's social and moral conservatism and Romney's economic conservatism.
"They represent two sides of a coalition that was put together by Ronald Reagan and has held together only tenuously. I think it will be split apart for all time by this election, though which side triumphs within the party is not clear."