Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Importance Of Being Early

You may have missed the artillery between the jilted Clinton camp and Hollywood mega-mogul David Geffen if you were either a) without an internet connection or b) in a coma for the past several days, and the sniping's continued re-verb serves as a kind of sonar with which we can already sketch the outlines of the 2008 Election. This election is the biggest in three-quarters of a century.

I'll recap the little picture briefly so we can move onto the Big Picture. Li'l picture: David Geffen threw a fund-raiser for Barack Obama and called out the Clintons about their gigantic hypocrisies in the New York Times; the Clinton campaign responded by demanding that Obama denounce Geffen's effrontery; Obama said he didn't think it necessary to apologize for someone else's opinions. Add lots of left- and right-wing spin, and a media corps which must fill 24 hours of empty, gaping airtime every day knocking over water-coolers, streaking down hallways and yelling, "Catfight! The Dims are having a cat-fiiiighhhht!!!"

But let's surface for some air. Big Picture Time. It used to be said of countries, "The land and the king are one," and I'm not sure the same notion doesn't apply to democracies. So let us look at future kings or queens, and, to use that Clintonian phrase, "parse the question."

1) Who here would like a President who isn't prone to reckless, unsavory behaviors, and who doesn't give so much ammunition to the enemy they have to adopt the opposition's agenda to stay in power? Again, the Geffen sonar shows the contours of those ravines correctly. Ahh, Roger-that. Pun intended. Check.

2) Who here thinks that the Reich Wing desperately WANTS Hillary Clinton to win the Dimocrat nomination so they can proceed to sadistically beat the snot out of her? Geffen put that moose out on the table, too. Roger wilco. Check.

3) Who here wants a President who voted for Big Oil and Spreading Dimocracy (translation: the Iraq War)? Geffen nailed the Clintons on Hillary's war vote. She's going to be equivocating around her vote to send in the clowns from now until the day she dies. Hillary can admit it was a terrible mistake, she can enter re-hab and say a serious heroin problem clouded her thinking at the time. She can become a Methodist minister, but she's never going to shake that vote. Politically, she is thoroughly deflowered. She's "icky." Check.

4) Finally, who here would like a president in 2008 with a different last name than the two we've had for the PAST TWENTY YEARS? David Geffen, our free man in Paris, said, "Obama is inspirational, and he’s not from the Bush royal family or the Clinton royal family." Right. Double check.

The reason the 2008 election is happening early is because everybody wants it to. Obama was able to already go to a Hollywood fund raiser and make out like a bandit. Why? Because nobody else could. Iraq is flopping around like a gaffed marlin in the bloody bilge-water of Gilligan's yacht, and everybody wants the Professor to walk across the pitching deck and calmly shoot the damned thing in the head. The Clintons' time has passed; they're mosquitoes stuck in 1992 amber. Admittedly, given my druthers, I'd trade these perilous times for those. But I can't, and like the Clintons, they're over. The rest of us out here in Sane World are ready for a New Direction.

Tides change in American politics, and we are at the point when the conservative counter-revolution, seeded by Goldwater in 1964 and birthed by Reagan in 1980, has crested. That revolution, intended to dismantle FDR's social-program nods to communism a half-century before, so burdensome to capitalists and corporations, has succeeded so well that an anti-consumer lobbyist now heads the Consumer Protection Agency and the EPA is quite literally run by the chemical industry. But speaking of chemistry. Politics is like a chemical reaction, with formulas which work until they don't. Karl Rove knew he could deliver the electronic votes in November 2006, you have to know he had every single county and turn-out figured in hard numbers. Republican corporations supplied the voting machines, which were set with vote-shaving or leavening subroutines, only Rove reckoned wrong. The normal rules no longer applied, the surveys were skewed, and voters just didn't do what he thought they would. That's why there were so many razor-close races and re-counts. Ground which had been stable, the loyal Base so proven and able, turned mushy underneath Karl's feet.

As de Toqueville observed, elections in democracies are really about how to apportion wealth. When one regime is installed, it naturally takes wealth from elsewhere and re-distributes plenty to its kinsmen and to its cronies. The losing side is aggrieved after every election, for now it must scrape and accomodate, holding onto whatever it can where once it succored and bathed like a flower in a sunny hothouse. Every once in a while, however, something more fundamental occurs connected to elections. An established mechanism of wealth generation, a currency if you will, over-leverages itself and fails. During such elections a whole economic basis is in question; these elections share a revolutionary tone, and not uncommonly the proverbial "whiff of grapeshot," or air of violence. Such an environment presages a serious re-shuffling of wealth factors, and also a re-ordering of basic ideology. Such was the state of affairs preceding FDR's election, and preceding the New Deal.

Post-1929, someone wrote a poem containing the line "One match to start the fire, one to light the funeral pyre." Government was required to not just posture and exist, but to come up with solutions to serious problems. As a woman wisely pointed out to me recently, FDR's New Deal was in large part a New Energy Deal. Like FDR, Obama is a symbolic actor of deep significance for our time. FDR was disabled, if you recall. He was a wheel-chair bound champion of the disabled. From a distance of 75 years, his detractors today tend to forget how the portent of that fact, and how psychologically important it was back then.

Obama is disabled in a different way. What do I mean by that? Race. He's black. He's even more diverse than black. He's half African. Half muslim. As such, he can help this country heal its race wounds. If you think the comparison with FDR's disability is frivolous, then listen to this: Obama's wife was asked on 60 minutes (I paraphrase), "If your husband wins the election, are you afraid he'll be assassinated because he's black?" Her answer: "As a black man, you know, Barack can get shot going to the gas station." These people are very, very different political animals than the Bushes, the Romneys, the Richardsons, and the Clintons. They come from a fundamentally different place outside the failing Establishment, and they don't need to set a New Direction. They are the New Direction. To solve its greatest problems, those of equity, race, and energy, America needs to be led by a natural, by someone who didn't emerge from whatever insular chrysalis produces white CEOs. Someone who isn't given a king's sword by custom, but who can free it from the stone in which it's stuck.

Here's the Biggest Picture I can draw. Think "Camelot" as a movie directed by Cecil B. De Mille. In that movie, Obama is Arthur. Hillary is Morgana. He's a political messiah who will unite the kingdom. She's a sorceress with some serious baggage. She will extract a horrible price from Arthur, one which he must pay down the road, but she can't stop him from fulfilling his destiny. If Obama the actor is somehow struck down, central casting will find someone else an awful lot like him to play the same role. The movie gets made.

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