Friday, January 04, 2008

Democrats Win In Iowa

What is with Chris Matthews? I’ve just spent most of the night watching the MSNBC coverage of the Iowa caucuses and Matthews would not get off of his anti-Hillary diatribes. He’s been doing it on his show for a long time – spending weeks criticizing her for such things as clapping – clapping! – at her rallies. When it was clear Obama would come out on top tonight, he imagined the Clinton brain trust scheming to make dramatic conversation-changing news in her concession speech (she didn’t). He scoffed at the crowd gathering for her speech in front of the cameras. Why, those people weren’t there a half-hour ago! They are plants of the campaign, not real Iowans! That cynical Clinton stagecraft. Why, no one else does that, right? He made a big deal out of the fact that two-thirds of the caucus attenders rejected her. Well, two-thirds of them also rejected Obama and Edwards (as pointed out by Rachel Maddow of Air America on Matthews’ panel, after I thought of it) – what’s his point? Matthews fevered harangues even unhinged Keith Olberman, who could barely get a tirade in edgewise.

But Matthews’ sour Clinton fixation could not diminish the enormous victory for the top three Democrats and the party itself in Iowa. The Democrats drew more than twice as many to their caucuses as the Republicans did to their straw polls – this in a state that made the mistake of going red for Bush in 2004. While the Democrats reveled in the spirited-but-respectful competition over who would best carry the banner of Change into the general election, the Republican were mired in a bruising mudfight over who could be more regressive, more pro-war, more anti-immigrant, more religious-nutty. The GOP went for an evangelical flash-in-the-pan, Mike Huckabee – a nice enough guy for someone who is so wrong about so much – who was obviously in over his head as he underwhelmed a room full of his supporters (maybe they were blinded by Chuck Norris’ teeth over his shoulder). The GOP had one winner (who has already been rejected by party leaders and lackeys, such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes) and many losers. All three top Democrats were winners, coming out fighting but united behind a common cause.

Barack Obama was, in the immortal word of Shelly Duvall in "Annie Hall", transplendant in victory. My impression of Obama in the various debates had been that he hadn’t yet found his voice – he looked like he was too cautious, almost afraid to say anything, perhaps over-consulted (a common disease). I had heard he found his voice lately on the stump and, indeed, he kicked ass tonight. The speech had everything – the call for change and hope, the historical perspective, call-and-response, perfect pitch and pacing, joy – it was one of the best speeches I’ve watched in some time. If he can carry this momentum for a couple of weeks, he may well be the nominee of the united party.

Clinton was as gracious in defeat as John Edwards was just slightly rude by not congratulating Obama. (But the award for classlessness goes to Mitt Romney, who spoke at the same time Huckabee did, meaning no one would see him on TV as he slunked out of Iowa’s backdoor.) For all the snide comments in the chattering class about Hillary’s mean streak, sense of entitlement, etc., she talked effectively about a Democrat – and not necessarily her – winning in November. For the first time, you could almost see her applauding the torch passing to the next generation. Edwards gave the firebrand speech of the night, giving live examples of the victims of corporate greed, but, alas, Edwards takes little momentum or anything else out of Iowa.

With the field already winnowed by the end of the night (Biden, Dodd out. Richardson?), the debates will gain focus and intensity. I doubt any of the Dems will go negative on each other – all of them seem to have a good sense of the unity necessary for the ultimate prize. The next frantic couple of weeks will be when the messages get massaged and the candidates start aiming for the other side.

I always thought Hillary got too bad of a rap from those who would be for her if she was anyone but Hillary Clinton. The strongest case for her electability is that she really has been beaten and flogged by the full GOP machine for over 15 years. There is nothing new for them to dig up about her – she has been tested and has won most of the battles she has fought. Remember: the only way Bush won in 2004 is by making Kerry look as bad as possible, and they did it by swift-boating him – scandalously attacking the very heroism that was one of his primary strengths.

The same bastards will do the same with Obama, and, having lived a full life, I’m sure there is lots of material to work with. This isn’t a reason not to make this remarkable man the nominee – there is a limit to how much power we should give our opponents to use fear to control our choices. But we should walk into this choice with our eyes wide open. The Obama you see now will look different by November, to the general public, if not to you. You think the right-wing echo-chamber has been hard on Hillary? Watch what they do to try to define Obama now that he has a serious chance, starting on mainstream radio tomorrow.

The exhilaration of all the Democratic campaigns as they celebrated in Iowa was palpable on our TV screen tonight. Whether they finished first, second or third, they know they have gotten a great start in the beginning of the end of Republican rule. In Denver this summer, Obama, Clinton and Edwards will stand on the podium of the convention and raise their joined hands in unity. Then one of them will step up, accept the party’s nomination and go on to thump whatever hapless Republican gets in their way in November. And it all started in Iowa.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

So Mike, where's the power of the big conservative radio megaphone now?? I thought all of the Republican lemmings got their directives from Rush, Hannity, et al? Looks like talk radio doesn't have the power you claim it to have as Rush and Hannity largely downplayed Huckabee and pointed out his negatives. If it had the power you claim it to have, then Guiliani, Romney, or Thompson would have won.

The Other One said...

Matthews was unbelievable last night. Even for him, it was over the top. He specifically thought this to be the death nail for Hillary. When if you look at the numbers, she has 2, yes one more than 1, less delegates than Obama. Matthews anti-Hillary tirade, almost made me sympathetic towards her.

Madison Progressive said...

Great piece, Mike.

To answer the first anonymous comment, the "big conservative radio megaphone" hasn't been turned on one candidate or for one candidate yet, so it hasn't been effective. It has been as fractured as the GOP as a whole. It doesn't mean that it won't be effective once they have a posterboy to glorify and punching bag to hit. Hope the Dems learn how to hit back this time around and not let themselves be swift-boated.

As to why Huckabee, well, I'm a lefty and I respect him because he seems to respect differing points of view. That line, "we fight not because we hate who's in front of us but because we love those who are behind us" is something I could never ever imagine coming out of the mouth of the GOP bush/cheney/rove fearmongers. That quote talks as much about the war on terror as it does about civil discourse in debating divisive domestic policies in the public square.

Of all the Republicans running, I respect Huckabee and then McCain the most. Which means neither of them will win their party's nod. The "clubs for growth" and the WMC's of America will never allow it.

Re The Other One's comment, I was a little taken aback by Matthews as well, but I think everything he said was fair. Everyone on that stage, Matthews, Robinson, Olberman, Maddow, were doing all they could do, report honestly that Obama had one hell of a night, and if that makes them seem anti-Hillary, well, that's by necessity. They were as moved by the result and his transplendent speech as anyone.

Finally, count me as another who is not ready for another 4-8 years of the continuation of a different legacy. A new broom sweeps clean (forgot who used that line last night), and his name is Barack Obama.

Madison Progressive said...

Great piece, Mike.

To answer the first anonymous comment, the "big conservative radio megaphone" hasn't been turned on one candidate or for one candidate yet, so it hasn't been effective. It has been as fractured as the GOP as a whole. It doesn't mean that it won't be effective once they have a posterboy to glorify and punching bag to hit. Hope the Dems learn how to hit back this time around and not let themselves be swift-boated.

As to why Huckabee, well, I'm a lefty and I respect him because he seems to respect differing points of view. That line, "we fight not because we hate who's in front of us but because we love those who are behind us" is something I could never ever imagine coming out of the mouth of the GOP bush/cheney/rove fearmongers. That quote talks as much about the war on terror as it does about civil discourse in debating divisive domestic policies in the public square.

Of all the Republicans running, I respect Huckabee and then McCain the most. Which means neither of them will win their party's nod. The "clubs for growth" and the WMC's of America will never allow it.

Re The Other One's comment, I was a little taken aback by Matthews as well, but I think everything he said was fair. Everyone on that stage, Matthews, Robinson, Olberman, Maddow, were doing all they could do, report honestly that Obama had one hell of a night, and if that makes them seem anti-Hillary, well, that's by necessity. They were as moved by the result and his transplendent speech as anyone.

Finally, count me as another who is not ready for another 4-8 years of the continuation of a different legacy. A new broom sweeps clean (forgot who used that line last night), and his name is Barack Obama.

John P said...

As a conservative republican, it pains me that I must agree with Mike on his post. I really believe that a democrat will take the white house and I believe that it will be Obama. I also anticipate losses in the Senate and the house.

But, I would suggest that the all of the progressives out there savor this time, because, Obama reminds me a lot of Jimmy Carter (a new fresh face), but when the economy goes into the tank, with the hefty tax increases that will be in store, the tide will change back. It always does.

On another note, if people listen to the jabber-jaws on the radio in order to form their political opinions, we are doomed. I form my own opinions, I do not need Rush, Mark, Charlie or the Air America wing-nuts to form my opinions. I would hope more people would take them for what they are. Entertainers, pure and simple.

I disagree with you 99.99% of the time Mike, you are right on here.

Keep up the good writting.

Anonymous said...

Mike has always insisted that conservative talk radio is unfair because it's a big mouthpiece for the right and that conservatives follow what they say like lemmings. That being said people like Rush, Hannity, etc did their level best to show their disdain for Huckabee, they pointed out his negatives far more than they did for someone like Thompson, Romney, etc.

Mike likes to blame conservative talk radio when it's convenient to do so and helps to prove his opinion.

Mike Plaisted said...

Anony, I don't think talk-radio listeners "follow what they say like lemmings". I do think that those who craft the GOP talking-points for the unimaginative squawkers prey on the prejudices, self-interest and (yes) ignorance of their listeners. See any "discussion" of immigration for crass appeals to prejudice; any discussion of global climate change for self-interest ("they are coming for your SUVs") and any praise of Junior Bush is stictly for the comfortably ignorant.

They don't direct or convince so much as they poison. They have managed to make brave and good Americans like John Kerry, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore and Howard Dean into laughing-stocks by sheer repetition of lies and exagerations, defining us in ways and with the kind of repetition only their extraordinary monopoly on mainstream radio can make possible.

The GOP heirarchy called for a hit on Huckabee and Limbaugh and the local bozos complied. It didn't work in insular Iowa, but he is damaged nationally and is going nowhere. Likewise, Fox Noise and the talk-radio demogouges continue to prop up Rudy, despite his damaged personality and inconveniently progressive social stances.

They seemed to be holding their fire on Obama today as they gratuitously chuckled at Hillary's showing in Iowa. But, if he wins in New Hampshire, just see what happens. As they have with the Clintons, they will use the shot-gun approach, shooting indiscriminately until something stick. It will be ugly, but that's all they have.

Jay Bullock said...

Anon, the talkers got exactly what they wanted to through to their target audience. How many of the Charlie Sykes Storm Troopers (the right-wing Cheddarsphere, mostly) support Huckabee? None. They hate him. Sykes and Belling and Limbaugh and O'Reilly and Savage all tell them to, and, sheeple-y, they do.

The Huckabee caucusers were never the talk-radio listeners; they took their marching orders from he pulpit. Usually the pulpit lines up with the talkers--where did the professional Christian Pundit class line up this time? Not with Huckabee--but this time the local pulpits sided with the preacher, not the freakishly plastic east-coast man-whores.

Anonymous said...

So again, conservative talk radio only works and is unfairly influential when it's convenient for the left to say it does.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is placing way too much emphasis on the Iowa results. Before criticizing the Republicans, Obama has to overcome the Clinton dirty trick machine. Slick Willy has trained Slick Willhelmina to be a first rate attack dog--aka bitch. After all, hiLIARy has 35 years of experience to lead from Day One.

The problem with Huckabee is that he is Mick the slick hick and the dope from Hope. All this country needs is another second rate governor from Hope Arkansas.

Mike Plaisted said...

Congratulations to Anony 7:02 for the stupidest comment ever made on Plaisted Writes. The sheer breadth of its idiotic and sexist sloganeering is stunning. I'm going to spend the rest of the evening trying to catch my breath and the rest of this thread sending any comments this punk chooses to favor us with in the future -- to the extent I can figure out which anonymous wimp he is -- to the trash bin.

elrond hubbard said...

Plaisted Writes has had many comments even more stupid and obnoxious than 7:02's. Hell, just read jay bullock.

Anonymous said...

It's only deemed stupid if Mike decrees it as such. His lefty friends who chime in are above reproach.

What was so wrong with what Anony 7:02 said? He said Hillary is a liar and b*tch and that Huckabee was just another hick from Hope, Arkansas. It's just his/her opinion. You, Mike, have said A LOT worse things when speaking about certain conservatives both male and female.

Mike Plaisted said...

Please identify what's worse that I have said than calling someone a bitch and a liar. I haven't.

What's the problem with Bullock? "Stormtroopers"? I don't have a problem with that. If the shoe fits...

Anonymous said...

You're kidding, right Mike? You've never said horrible things about people like Jessica McBride, Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, President Bush, Sean Hannity, the "wing nut echo chamber", etc...etc..etc

Anonymous said...

Jeesh, let's get back on track a bit here.

About Chris Matthews, his Hillary hatred did hit new heights the other night in his nonsensical math, and good for Rachel Maddow. I have read that the reason for his hatred is sour grapes, that he was up for but rejected for the post of Bill Clinton's press secretary.

I agree that Hillary Clinton's speech was the model for the night in its graciousness, a speech about the party instead of the person. And she not only congratulated Obama and Edwards (although he ended up behind her in the delegate count, because her staff showed good strategizing in understanding the rural dominance of the arcane Iowa process), but she also acknowledged the contributions of others who came in behind her -- Dodd, Biden, etc.

All that needed to be said, and it ought to have been said by Obama, too. I was surprised that he didn't do so; if he is going to be the party leader, he has to start talking like one.

Too often, he sounds like he is starting a third party. That is not a good sign for "electability," as he cannot get elected with crossover Repubs and independents alone; he needs longtime Dem party stalwarts and the party structure.

(His voting record in the Senate also bothers me -- not just a couple of wrong votes but so many missed votes, almost 40 percent in the last year alone, far more than any other members of Congress who are candidates, so the campaign is not the reason. Put that together with his inability to call any meetings of the committee he chairs, plus his only voting "present" so many times in the state legislature, and the question becomes whether he likes to campaign and make speeches more than he likes to get down to D.C. and do the job.)

AnotherTosaVoter said...

"n Denver this summer, Obama, Clinton and Edwards will stand on the podium of the convention and raise their joined hands in unity. Then one of them will step up, accept the party’s nomination and go on to thump whatever hapless Republican gets in their way in November. And it all started in Iowa."

It's like religion, but with a party as your God.

Partisans are funny. And scary. But mainly funny.