Thursday, December 27, 2007

Primary Update

The primary being just 12 days away I figure if I want to write anything else about it I had better do it now.

I should have noted in the earlier posts that my wife, a lifelong observer of this process who understands the mind of the people far better than most of the paid Democratic operatives appear to, predicted very early on that Mitt Romney would win the general election in 2008 and be inaugurated as President (!) When pressed as to the reason for such a bold prediction she simply stated that "People are stupid. They'll vote for him because they think he looks like a President." She also opined that if Hillary Clinton were to be his opponent people would not vote for her because she is a woman. Gaming the motives and likely behaviors of the public not being strong suits of mine, I do not venture any predictions of my own, nor have I hardly ever any strong sense that the predictions and pronouncements of others are blatantly wrong. Thus I will stick to recording observations.

I do not know who I am going to vote for myself (I am registered as a Democrat, mainly for reasons of temperament and social aspiration; I cannot plausibly see myself hanging out with a crowd of cool Republicans under any confluence of events, however miraculous). Compared to the previous two cycles, I feel much more out of the loop this time. I remember Kucinich from '04, and I don't dislike him, though I'm not sure I would want his program actually put into effect, and as there is virtually no support for any even broad aspect of his world view among either the political or general population anyway there isn't really any point in voting for him. Dodd and Biden I honestly do not have any sense of what they, or any potential supporters they might have, would want in their hearts. Bill Richardson's campaign sent me some very bland literature that was not well calculated for the New Hampshire electorate, which likes to think of itself as having less need of government patronage to get through life, particularly with regard to education, than perhaps is felt in other regions of the country. John Edwards I can't warm up to. I will admit that most Southern candidates come across as phonies in New Hampshire because the method they have of relating to people, smiling when no obvious occasion for doing so has arisen, the revival method of oratory, etc, are bizarre to Northerners, who don't believe anyone acting in such a manner can possibly be serious. My prejudices admitted, I just can't bring myself to like the man. His lawyerly attitude towards the electorate, which is, briefly, that it is essentially weak, stupid, and defenseless, and in need of a champion such as himself to battle the formidable powers on its helpless behalf, is offensive. Granted, Barack Obama and Hillary have more than a little of this as well, but I will deal with them presently.

First I want to take a detour and compare the supposed populism of Edwards with the populism of Bill Bradley, whom I voted for when he ran in 2000. Bradley's view of what the political life of the nation is, or ought to be, like, though unfortunately rooted for the most part in somewhat outdated circumstances, is more similar to my own than I have seen from other candidates. I believe that he identifies more strongly as a citizen, as one of the Volk--he grew up in small-town Missouri--as compared to some kind of Brahmin or sophisticated globalist than any other recent Democratic candidate certainly, though he was an Ivy Leaguer and Rhodes Scholar and Olympian and was discussed as a possible future Presidential candidate while still a college student, which as much as anything demonstrates the changes in the attitudes of the country's elites (I apologize for using this word) in this country since the mid-60s. Many representatives of the candidates call my place of employment during the Primary season looking to speak with various people of substance there. If the person the caller is looking for is not available he generally hangs up. The Bradley operative alone actually stayed on the line and invited lowly me, without even inquiring who I was or what my position, even my party, was, to a reception where I would meet him and so forth, which I thought was a very quaint, democratic gesture to be pulling in 2000. For whatever reason--I forget why--I did not go to the reception, which I am a little regretful of now, for no invitations have come my way since. (Hillary Clinton nominally sends them but you have to call a number to find out where the party is and give them the secret code on the invitation and I suspect you are briefed on the rules regarding how you are to behave, which is not the kind of party I have in mind.)

I did receive a call last week from "Rachael", a real live person, no older than 22 or so by the sound of it, in the employ of Hillary Clinton, who wanted to consult my wisdom regarding the election. Of course I jest. Rachael's tone indicated that she felt herself to be suited for more substantial tasks in the campaign than canvassing (probably) gross and simple-minded 37 year old men for votes. When I let it slip that I was as yet undecided--I didn't want to lie--she began to browbeat me as if it were my obligation to come up with a good reason to her for not voting for Mrs Clinton. I offered her my opinion that things like being interrogated by a candidate's representatives when they ought to be persuading me regarding her merits were not endearing me in the candidate's favor. Rachael either did not understand this, or considered it the concern of a trivial mind, which perhaps it is; she said, 'So what you're saying is, it has nothing to do with where Senator Clinton stands on the issues?' I said I honestly did not have a good sense of where the Senator stood on the issues, or what issues were particularly important to her. Rachael I think gave up on me as hopeless at this point, rattled off the usual spiel about health care and ending the war, and what a great candidate Mrs Clinton was, and let me go. I was not reasssured by this exchange.

By the way you see these well-scrubbed, pretty expensively dressed young volunteers all over town now gabbing away on their cell phones about the tricks the Republicans have up their sleeves, or buying seeds and vitamin water or whatever it is ambitious young people eat these days, which is certainly not what I eat. Obviously I feel drawn to them in some way, though I have never been one of them, and never has my remoteness from the rank of society from which these people are drawn been greater than it is now. There are a lot of the kinds of girls I like among this crowd I think is what it really is. Probably even Rachael.

I guess I am waiting for some convincing reason to vote for Barack Obama, (or any of them, but in the absence of this I will probably vote for him). The political naivete he displays in the campaign literature he sends out, while refreshing, does give one pause. In one place was printed a quote from one of his professors at Harvard Law School saying he was the most brilliant student the professor had had in 35 years of teaching. This is great, but talk about a white rapper with no street knowledge! The majority--probably the vast majority--of the American electorate is more suspicious of than impressed by academic prowess, particularly if they get the impression you are boasting about it as some kind of significant accomplishment in itself (the connections between doing well in school and financial or professional success, while generally acknowledged, are still only tenuously grasped in the matter of their substance by a shockingly large number of people). He is apparently the most popular guy among the college-town and white-collar Dems in New Hampshire though, who I identify with more or less by default, while Hillary is supposedly the "working-class candidate." I really don't know.

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