Thursday, January 31, 2008

Surprise, surprise!

It’s not that I haven’t been following the goings on in this presidential race. My silence on the president’s State of the Union Address isn’t indicative of complacency or disinterest necessarily. No, it’s more of an acknowledgement that there have been no real surprises. Everyone involved, from the candidates to the pundits to the president himself have behaved entirely predictably… and as such, I have not been compelled to say much. I knew I would, for in this race, history will be made - I was just waiting for something a little more compelling than the painfully obvious to write about.

Tonight, it has happened. But before I get to the event the got my literary juices flowing once again, let us briefly look at what should have surprised no one - the race thus far. Actually, on second thought, that is a somewhat unfair characterization, for there have been numerous paradigmatic changes in this race compared to those of the recent past. However, these watersheds are not particularly surprising and inasmuch as there is a very good chance that a white male will not win the presidency, it was bound to happen sooner or later. For now, let’s let that stand on it’s own… we’ll come back to it shortly. Further, let us not dwell on the also-rans on the Republican ticket. There are often some of these secondary players hanging on at this point in the game - and after H. Ross Perot’s challenge and withdrawal in 1992, nothing short of that kind of showing is even noteworthy.

Although, I must say I like Ron Paul’s prodding of the Republican establishment…

I’m talking about politics as usual. It's the euphemism for “anything goes” in campaign mudslinging and right up to and through the January 30 Republican debate, there have been no surprises there. Even the withdrawal of Rudy Giuliani and his endorsement of McCain isn’t particularly shocking, however newsworthy it may be. Of course, the sniping between Romney and McCain wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly expected. Oh sure, it is interesting, exciting and even amusing to witness the turn of fortune in McCain’s campaign and the consternation it has caused those among the extreme right, but it’s not entirely surprising… it is still very early. Next Tuesday will likely be the end of Romney and the others on the Republican side, but don’t bet the farm on it - there are no sure bets.

It appears as though McCain might have served Romney a sucker punch before the Florida primary, but it is clear that he has the momentum to get away with it. Romney’s crying foul probably didn’t sway anyone. He called it a “dirty trick,” and you can be sure there’s more where that came from. And don’t believe for one minute that Romney is above that kind of race. This is a race for the most powerful office in the world - kicking sand in one’s opponent’s eyes is an accepted form of campaigning. Remember, negative campaigning works. And although it might be surprising that the Republican Party, or at least its candidates for president, would continually shoot itself in its collective foot, let us not discount the lure of power.

Which brings us to tonight’s surprise - a remarkably civil exchange between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic debate. While it is true that there is precious little differentiating the two at the policy level, the predictable sniping of late between the camps - and particularly the very un-presidential like mudslinging of our former president, has become noticed. That is a surprise. Not so much that the press has picked up on it or even that “the people” are talking about it, but that the candidates themselves have taken note. And they have changed their behavior - at least for the moment. It was a refreshing change and if the d├ętente can be sustained, it will unite the Democratic Party like never before. Indeed, the most egregious slights came from the moderators themselves.

Now a little about the history-making aspect of this campaign: It is very likely that a woman or an African American will be residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next January. It is all but guaranteed that one or the other will be the Democratic nominee. That speaks volumes, and if I might add, it’s about time we got past it. I can say I will not be voting for a man - no matter his color, or a woman… I will be voting for a candidate. Right now, it is likely it will be a Democrat, but it is way too soon to make that decision. The Republicans haven’t got any real idea what the people want. They were not listening to us in 2006 and I can say with certainty our voices will be even louder in 2008.

Surprises? Perhaps, and good news to boot, but when looking at the incompetence over the last eight years, not entirely so. The best part is the death knell of the neo-con. They had eight years to prove how right they were. We will be paying for their little experiment for generations. All that’s left is that pesky little legacy the Bush administration never talks about much anymore.

No surprises there.

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