Conservatives: I know you’re depressed, so think about this:
After voting with his wife and daughter Tuesday morning in Chappaqua, New York, Bill Clinton was drawn to the TV cameras. He hesitated, to create the dramatic effect and then blurted out, “It’s one of the proudest days of my life.” Classic Bill: he was clearly thinking, “It’s all about me, and you can think of all those other women, er, days I can be proud of because I got away with them.” Sigh.
And with that brief, self-indulgent comment, he disappeared into the dense fog of Westchester County. But as he left the polling place, there was mischief in his eyes.
Did he, or didn’t he? What did he get away with that we didn’t catch him red-handed doing? Ok, sorry. The Clintons have that effect on us. (But if I were Barack Obama, I’d ask for a recount of the Chappaqua vote.)
Never mind. Enough chuckles. Time to figure out what in Sam Hill is going on out there.
Check out the alphabet soup of Super Tuesday results:
CLINTON: AR, AZ, MA, MO, NY, NJ, OK, TN, CA (50.2% of national vote)
OBAMA: AL, CT, CO, DE, GA, ID, IL, KS, MN, ND, UT (49.8%.)
HUCKABEE: AL, AR, GA, TN, WV (20%)
MCCAIN: AZ, CT, DE, IL, MO, NJ, NY, OK, CA (40.6%)
ROMNEY: CO, MA, MN, MT, ND, UT (34.5%)
This is Division, Squared. Maybe Square Rooted.
Senator John McCain, the all-but-certain Republican nominee, made a respectful entreaty to conservatives with his speech at CPAC, addressing the thorniest of issues, including illegal immigration, the Bush tax cuts, and judicial appointments. He emphasized his 25 year record of tax cutting, federal spending slashing, national security hawkishness, and pro-life consistency. He still has some work to do with the base, but his speech began to reassure them as to how he would govern.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is now gone from this race, but he’s not going anywhere. With his powerful and wide-ranging intellect, his business acumen, his executive competence, and his noble character (five sons, none of whom have been in rehab or jail), he is now the leading national Republican, outside of the President and McCain.
On the Democratic side, Queen Bee tried to “Tonya Harding” the Natural and failed.
Yes, she won most of the big states, but in delegates, it’s a draw, and in the popular vote, she only won by 50,000 votes. NATION-WIDE. He lives to fight on.
Clinton made the mistake of running as both inevitable and as the incumbent. In this democracy, voters don’t enjoy being dictated to by a monarchical presence with an overbearing sense of entitlement.
Obama is Bill Clinton in 1992: young, dynamic, charismatic, representative of a new generation, armed with the appearance of new ways of looking at the world. He is doing what Bill did so well in ’92: he has hooked into that wispy sense of “hope,” that wishful thinking that “if only” we had him in office, all of our bothersome enemies and problems would evaporate.
The Clintons are trying to recapture that for themselves, but it’s too late. They are much older now, and the “hope” routine is being done by someone new, who has the ability to update and embody it.
Hillary still may win, because of the residual force of the Clinton war machine. But if she wins, she will be known as the “hope-squasher.” And no candidate has ever become president with a record of squashing hope.
Another thing is clear: for all of the hype that Americans want “change,” an “outsider,” the New Guard, it appears that voters are actually choosing status quo, the insiders, the Old Guard.
McCain and Clinton are Old Guard candidates. They are Washington incarnate. And they are winning.
Romney and Obama are the breaths of fresh air, the outsiders riding on waves of enthusiasm by their bases. They are New Guard candidates. They are New Energy. And they are slipping.
The Southern Populist, Mike Huckabee, surprised people with his victories, but he remains a regional candidate who will influence the nomination but not win it.
If you looked carefully at Tuesday night’s rallies of the Outsiders, you may have noticed a significant thing: Romney’s and Obama’s speeches were remarkably similar in tone and attitude. Even Romney’s posters looked eerily similar to Obama’s: “Change Begins With Us” vs. “Change We Can Believe In.” Lots of “change” and lots of “us” and “we.”
But it’s only going so far for them. What happened to the notion that the rest of us want “change?” McCain and Clinton? Representing “change?” Not so much. And when they try to use the “change” theme — whether it’s Hillary co-opting some of Obama’s soaring rhetoric or McCain reviving the “maverick” brand — they look like they’re trying frantically to keep up with the tempo set by the New Guard.
Politics is always a lagging trend indicator. But I had thought by now — by 2008 — that we had finally gotten to the first election of the 21st century. I may have been wrong.
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