The Talking Dog

January 7, 2008, Systemic failure

We reward our politicians for being not-very-bright twits who can stay "on message," at least, if 2000 and 2004 have taught us anything. Enter Hillary Clinton, trying to smash through the glass ceiling in the likeliest way it will be done here (in an America that's way more conservative than any would care to admit): dynastically.

As a woman, of course, she must contend with having to be a fragile little thing who is tough enough to have her finger on the button. Ah, but as Hillary Clinton, she is supposedly already a ball-busting automaton... So, of course, when the presidential campaign for which she has been preparing for at least eight years (if not far longer) begins to fall apart on her after one caucus in which exactly zero national delegates were selected, and she will, of course, likely lose in tiny New Hampshire tomorrow, she has a moment in which she reveals that in between those two images lies an actual human being... naturally it's the biggest moment in the history of the world (bigger than Britney, Paris and Brangelina combined!)

I don't know how to say this: how we pick presidents is really stupid. The irony, of course, is that it was somewhat less stupid before Bill Clinton and company organized things beginning around 2000 to "compress" the primary season "so that the Democratic candidate would have more time to prepare for the general election" (and IMHO, to try to rig it to favor Hillary and her fundraising and name recognition "advantages" for this very 2008 year). In practice, this has meant that the first caucuses and primaries, in tiny unrepresentative states, decide everything, because there is no time to recover from an early setback; the American people want to back a winner, and if someone (think... John Kerry) is good enough for Iowa and New Hampshire then by golly he (so far it's been he) is good enough for the rest of us.

Which is precisely where we find ourselves right now. The Republicans have never been a party to be troubled by the will of the stupid voters, and when Pat Buchanan or John McCain won their New Hampshire primary, the party denizens had no problem summoning discipline thereafter to be sure that someone named Bush duly won. Well, their dynastic candidate is the superannuated John McCain, who, to secure his party's nomination (and he will likely secure it), has made himself sufficiently untenable in a general election that Dennis Kucinich might beat him (although Hillary Clinton might not). But no uppity Arkansas government whose only appeal is that voters like him has a chance. No siree, Mitt (who can really mess things up by finishing ahead of McCain). So... by hook or by crook, look for the truly dynastic candidate to get the nomination. The voters be damned.

Ah, but the Democrats. The Democrats. Bill Clinton became the first president to have failed to first win the New Hampshire primary since the advent of the damned thing in 1948. Indeed, he won neither Iowa nor New Hampshire, but a meandering primary season allowed him to appeal to voters in larger states over the course of time. Which, as noted above, Bill himself has been very instrumental in ending, for the dubious reason of permitting a long preparation for the general election.

And so here we are. One can sense the exhaustion, and frustration, of Senator Clinton, as she realizes just what she is up against (including not a little of the hoist on the petard of Bill's construction). Yes, she will likely win her home state of New York on February 5th's super-duper Tuesday; but Barack Obama will likely win his home state of Illinois on the same day, and California, New Jersey and 18 other states are also up for grabs. And Florida and South Carolina come before! In short, the overwhelming majority of delegates will be dispensed by Valentines Day, and, if 2000 and 2004 are meaningful models, the New Hampshire winner will go on to get the Democratic nomination.

With Dodd out of the race, my favored candidate is Obama, and he's in the driver's seat. That still doesn't mean that this "retail politics" thing isn't still stupid. This has been... "Systemic failure".