On Beyond Super Tuesday: Alea Jacta Est
In one very important respect -- that of voter perceptions -- Barack Obama couldn't lose on Super Tuesday and Hillary Clinton couldn't win.
Despite the fact that Clinton won most of the big states yesterday and has more delegates overall, the die is cast (or in Julius Caesar's immortal words: alea jacta est) for a headlong scramble through the remaining primaries, and Clinton is in trouble. Clinton is in trouble because Obama has momentum, while the perceptions that have accrued to the candidates -- largely positive for Obama and largely negative for Clinton in my mind -- are now pretty much set in stone.
Obama has climbed some tall mountains in overcoming the inherent advantages of the Clinton campaign, including its attached-at-the-hip relationship with the Democratic Party establishment. He hasn't had to cry in public even once, let alone try to evoke sympathy because he's a minority dude, and except for an occasional misfire has conducted himself with a take-me-as-I-am demeanor and dignity that has inspired millions of people who didn't know him from Adam a few short months ago.
Meanwhile, Clinton helicoptered to the top of the tallest mountain and from the outset branded herself as the incumbent, but since then has had to scratch and claw to try to stay on top. Her tears on cue and gender whinging are beyond tiresome, while the coldly calculated use of her husband and other surrogates to sling mud is contemptuous. She may be a decent person at heart, but has permitted only fleeting glimpses of her "true" self because her campaign is so scripted.
If there is a tiebreaker for me, and I suspect many other voters as well, it is the candidates' sharply divergent positions on the Iraq war: Obama is one of the few senators to oppose it from the jump, while Clinton has bobbed and weaved as public opinion has ebbed and flowed.
If the nominee, she will be accurately saddled with the flip-flopper label that helped doom John Kerry in 2004. If president, she would continue to embrace this fool's mission.* * * * *The big question after John McCain's big Super Tuesday win is whether hard-core Republicans will put down their pitchforks and break ranks with McCain haters like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and James Dobson. It is important to note that all three of these demagogues have financial incentives to maintain mutually worshipful relationships with their core audiences by taking away votes from the Republican Party and not turning them out.
The acoylytes, like the demagogues, demand a purity in ideology and behavior (in everyone except themselves, of course) that was unrealistic in the past and is patently absurd today, and to refuse to vote for McCain because he fooled around on his first wife or something is helping the GOP commit electoral suicide.
McCain, who was helped yesterday by the party's skewed delegate allocation rules, is a flawed candidate to be sure. I myself have questions about whether he is temperamentally suited to be president.
But if McCain and the Republicans have any chance of prevailing in November, then hard-core conservatives are going to have to acknowledge a couple of things, perhaps while sitting on the toilet and muttering to themselves about how things went so wrong but still can be put to rights:
* Their pet issues won't count for much. Abortion is off the table this time around and the GOP will not keep or lose the White House based on how many illegal immigrants they want to tar and feather and then ride out of town on a rail.
* They've been the tail wagging the Republican dog, but guess what? The threatening, bloviating, hankie wringing and . . . did I say threatening? over what will happen if McCain is the nominee will hopefully have the salutatory effect of bringing the rest of the party together because a lot of these folks are Republicans first and conservatives second.
The crackup of the Conservative Express, the one that has been unable to derail the Straight Talk Express, is a result of the fundamental disingenuity with which hard-core conservative movers and shakers seized on George Bush's 2000 candidacy.
They knew that Bush was no more one of them then than Mitt Romney is now, but they saw a guy who lacked a single idea of consequence behind his frat boy smirk as a golden opportunity to impose their own brand of ideological purity on government and nation.The result has been a thing of beauty: Runaway spending and an enormous budget deficit, serial scandals and embarrassments, no flag-burning, English language-only or anti same-sex marriage Constitutional amendments, and a Forever War that is a sucking chest wound on the economy and the national psyche. Oh, and by the way, Terry Schiavo is still dead.