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Iowa: Smelling the Fear and the Hope

January 5, 2008 | 2008 campaign,Guest blogger,Journalism,Politics

Hello everyone, this is Keith, otherwise known as The Bad American, guest blogging here at Deep Muck Big Rake for today.

I have to say looking at all the guest bloggers that have blogged before me, I feel honored and not the least intimidated to join this august group. Thanks again Becky for the opportunity.

I was at a loss as to what to write about today. I saw this wonderful piece by John Hockenberry, which I will link to here because I feel anyone with a passing familiarity or experience with the major media can both appreciate Hockenberry’s lament and commiserate with it.

Rather than write a 1,000 word pontification on the article, let me, for once, be succinct: no one who works for big media should expect to cover, produce, write or otherwise disseminate, any news that does not reflect the biases, prejudices, politics and financial interests of Corporate America.

The truth is out there, Scully. And it’s probably on a blog.

But let’s get to what everyone seems to be wondering in the wake of the news from Thursday: how long will they hold Britney Spears?

Kidding, kidding.

No, something serious: a 92 percent Caucasian state sends Barack Obama to New Hampshire (another lily white state) as the front-runner and suddenly Queen Hillary doesn’t seem so inevitable.

Should we allow ourselves a bit of irrational exuberance?

Well, perhaps. Let’s be honest about the situation: Obama played Iowa beautifully. Having lived in the state for three years before moving back to Ohio, the state rewards straight shooters and plain speakers. They do not cotton to those who double speak, look too well oiled or rehearsed, and show up to hay bailing in immaculately pressed overalls. Iowans know bullshit when then see it. What they saw in Obama was nothing but someone they think might make a very decent President.

And after all the bludgeoning by the Clinton machine, they grew tired of her act. It’s not that Iowans have something against the idea of another Clinton: Iowa Democrats are still wild about Bill. It’s just that Hillary Clinton, like relatives and fish, did not wear well.

It doesn’t mean New Hampshire won’t put her back in the lead — they just might. But it’s a cautionary tale when campaigning “out there”: Midwesterners have a lower threshold for production values than they do on the coasts. Learn it.

And if Obama hadn’t been so damned fresh and Kennedy-esque, the state might have rewarded John Edwards with a big win. Iowans generally like the South Carolinian but his populist message was driven home a little too late. When Barack Obama is the flavor of the year, me-tooism isn’t going to get your first place ticket punched.

And yet, the most fascinating aspect of the Iowa caucus was the amazing story of Mike Huckabee.

The real story here isn’t just Huckabee as the flavor of the week, nor is that Iowa’s evangelical Christians gave Huck the big push.

That’s all true. But what floors me as a former religion journalist in Cedar Rapids is that Huckabee’s brand of evangelical Christianity is closer to Jimmy Carter’s than Pat Robertson’s.

Mike Huckabee might have floating crosses traipsing across his ads but he has a social conscience that his giving the rest of the conservative Republicans the fits.

Link to this Paul Szep cartoon

The amazing thing that happened in that, at some point, maybe under undue prodding from folks like Rick Warren, a major faction of Christian Conservatives looked down at those WWJD bracelets and the thought hit them: maybe Jesus wouldn’t be for a capital gains tax cut after all. Maybe, just maybe, there was a little bit more to life than the mindless pursuit of material wealth.

But try telling it to the minders of the so-called “Reagan revolution.”

These guardians of wealth and privilege are rising from the muck to remind their yokel fellow travelers that all the God talk might be nice for the campaign trail but the real reason people are on the GOP train is greed.

Hugh Hewitt sees Huckabee as a stalking horse for pro-John McCain forces who used Huck’s Christian conservative base to decapitate Mitt Romney in Iowa and set up McCain for New Hampshire. But Hewitt sees something else even more dastardly afoot:

“Third, the conservative activists have to realize that there is an attempted coup under way. (The New York Times Columnist David) Brooks attacks by name Wall Street and K Street, Rush Limbaugh, The Club for Growth and President Bush, asserting that they constitute the “leadership class,” and that Huckabee’s war on them all was fueled by a knowledge of “how middle-class anxiety is really lived.” Brooks adds that Huck is forging:

A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either. Adam Smith felt this way. A conservatism that pays attention to people making less than $50,000 a year is the only conservatism worth defending.

What utter nonsense. Did the tax cuts help families making less than $50 K a year? Did the prescription drug benefit? Does not getting attacked since 9/11 benefit only the middle and upper classes?

Will such neopopulism work? Nah. Even Brooks disowns it in the space of a couple of lines. Here is one of the most cynical graphs ever written on the day after an election:

Will Huckabee move on and lead this new conservatism? Highly doubtful. The past few weeks have exposed his serious flaws as a presidential candidate. His foreign policy knowledge is minimal. His lapses into amateurishness simply won’t fly in a national campaign.

Let me translate the NewYorkTimes-speak: “Thanks, you bozos in the sticks. We played you like a fiddle. Now it is time to bleed your guy to get our guy.”

Utter nonsense, Mr. Hewitt? The inability of Guardians of the Neo-Con Cabal in the GOP (for that is who they really are) to remove their bloated heads from their asses and smell the fear has already cost them Iowa and may possibly cost them their boy’s (Mitt’s) shot at the nomination.

All because a group of people are suddenly becoming the kind of Republicans Pat Buchanan had been envisioning for the last 15 years. Rampant job-killing free-trade agreements, hopelessly bloody foreign wars and a culture of turn a fast buck at all costs are suddenly far less popular in the Heartland.

And all it took was the near total destruction of the US dollar, US economy and US military to get the slumbering masses to realize they’d been suckered by the ghost of failed Reaganism — “trickle down” turned into a torrent of foreclosures, flag-draped caskets and unemployment lines. And now they want to set the ship straight.

Here’s Rush Limbaugh’s little brother David’s take:

“Far too many people believe we can continue to piggyback on our legacy of freedom, which is made possible by limited government no matter how big and intrusive government becomes. They believe we can undermine, with impunity, the constitutional pillars that guaranty our liberties, apparently assuming our glorious experiment in constitutional governance was an accident of geography or demographics rather than ideas. They believe we will always be the world’s lone superpower irrespective of whether we commit our spirit and resources to that effort. It’s just manifest destiny — or magic. Consider, for example, those who interpret our prevention of further major terrorist attacks on our soil since 9/11 as proof the threat has diminished, or perhaps was overblown from the beginning.

We expect liberals to believe: We can punish the producers in this nation without reducing overall output and hurting all economic groups; we can socialize health care without destroying its quality, quantity and affordability; we can assault our traditional values and cultural institutions without eroding the nation’s character; unbridled, illegal immigration without assimilation will lead to multicultural Nirvana; and we will be secure at home if we’ll just be nicer to foreign nations and more sensitive to the terrorists’ concerns.

But what about conservatives? Do we also need a reminder that free nations are the exception in world history and that our liberty was purchased with the greatest sacrifices and will ultimately disappear without a rededication to our founding principles?

Whoa, someone get Dave some smelling salts. You’d think the Red Army had already hit America’s shores and was working their way inland. All that bloviating from Huckabee winning Iowa — are they really this scared?

There are many other examples of this hyperventilating going on from the pro-war, pro-plutocracy neo-cons online. This link has a good number of examples. You won’t know whether to laugh, cheer or hurl.

What amazes me is that, as a liberal, I look at Huckabee, with his young Earth theories, Biblical literalism and anti-intellectualism as a smiling, yet dangerous threat to take America back to the dark ages a good deal faster than even the Bush gang.

But isn’t it fascinating that when the ChristCons start making noises that they might be ready to, at least in some ways, use their political clout to live out the Gospel as Jesus taught it — compassion for the less fortunate — that their “friends” rise up to drag them back to the right side of the plantation.

So have we really ripped the smiling face off the monster of the Reagan Revolution? Behind the grinning face of God-fearing, Middle Class white America, when you strip out all the bullshit niceties, it’s really, at core, all about the Military-Industrial complex raping and pillaging the planet.

I know: well, duh!But the cons have done such a good job selling the “rising tide lifts all boats” nonsense for so long that many religiously devout Americans have really believed that Jesus wanted savage wealth inequalities, social persecution and worldwide wars and that such things were good for America, GM, and the planet.

Now all that’s left is Rush Limbaugh screaming that it’s all about the guns and the money. And it always was.

So take heart, fellow progressives. Between the rise of Obama and the last protective masks being ripped from a ghoulish and soul killing political chicanery, there is at last, if perhaps for a fleeting moment, some reason for a little optimism.

But the neo-cons will not go quietly. And they are counting on the American public, dumbed down by years of being mis-taught their history, of falling for the same old scare tactics again and again. And in the end, they may be right.

But the American progressives have the opportunity now to really step forward and, if the future be Obama, keep him to his promises and especially to make sure that this rise of populism du jour isn’t just used as a fancy way of whipping up the disaffected but translates into actual policy that undoes years of damage to our body politic and social fabric.

And I’ve been reluctant to jump on Obama’s bandwagon. Then I read this post by Geoffrey R. Stone in Huffpo which contained this excerpt:

Shortly after Obama announced his candidacy for the Senate, I attended (and, indeed, co-hosted) a major fundraising event in Chicago for the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation. At one point, I spotted Obama moving gracefully through the crowd, chatting amiably with each individual, dutifully pressing the flesh. As I observed him, I thought to myself, “What a waste. This is demeaning. Barack should forget politics and become a full-time law professor. Then he could really make something of himself.”

A few minutes later, I found myself standing next to Obama at the shrimp bowl. Although it was really none of my business, I decided to impart some of my wisdom. “Barack,” I said, “I’ve been watching you out there, making nice to all these folks. Why are you doing this? Given the realities of politics, you know as well as I that there’s no chance you’ll get the nomination, let alone defeat (Senator Patrick) Fitzgerald. Why don’t you just pack all this in and accept a full-time position on the faculty?” Barack smiled and thoughtfully replied, “Geof, I know where you’re coming from, but, you know, I have to do this. I believe I can make a difference. I have a responsibility to try.” As he blended back into the crowd, I thought, “What a waste.”

Read again the quote I highlighted. Suck it in just a little. I have to assume the quote is true and the sentiments behind it are honest and heartfelt.

And I am stunned, that in a age of selfishness, crassness and a general feeling that all politicians are ego-serving power-trippers here comes someone who honestly believes that with the intellectual gifts he has been given and developed, comes great responsibility and a calling to, as hokey as it sounds, leave the world a better place.

So for Obama and his legion of starry-eyed children, this will take a lot of work and will not be for weak hearts. After all, Alan Nairn on Democracy Now alleges warmonger Zbigniew Brzezinski is advising Obama on foreign policy (as he did Jimmy Carter) and the specter of super delegatesmake the possibility of a very un-democratic outcome. But this moment in time may represent our last best chance to turn back the march to total corporatism/fascism that threatens to place our nation and our planet on an irretrievable course to destruction.

And we all need to seize this moment now.

Posted by Keith @ 5:08 pm  

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