Battleground: Iowa

The stage is set, the pieces are in place and the corn has been husked… it’s caucus time in Iowa. It’s rare that amateur (and professional, although the difference is rather minute) political spectators are treated to such a bountiful political feast as we are watching play out in The Hawkeye State these days. Without an incumbent or VP on the ticket, the 2008 Presidential Election is officially wide open. This kind of reputational parity levels the playing field in the minds of the great masses we call an electorate. It removes the “don’t change horses in mid-stream” mentality and allows future leaders, wash outs, attention whores and kooks of all kinds to throw a hat into the ring, all vying for our nation’s (if not the world’s) highest office.

Of course, this type of “once in a generation” magic shouldn’t be taken lightly. No one can really know what to expect from any of these candidates when they’re faced with the challenges of the presidency. The 2008 debates have required a setup similar to that from A Clockwork Orange in my living room, complete with tools preventing me from rolling my eyes until I become so dizzy that I tumble around the room, undoubtedly injuring myself. To speculate that experience of a Senator, Governor, Congressman, Mayor or former First Lady could truly comprehend the complexity of this job is astounding. Alas, we can’t dig up and reanimate Roosevelt (yet), so we’re forced to pick from a pool of candidates that are all, essentially, equally unqualified for this position.

In the coming days (if I can get around to it) I plan to cover some of these candidates, make some predictions, and talk ad nauseum what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong… mostly what they’re doing wrong. First, I’d like to start with a quick overview of both parties and how we’ve gotten to this point. First, the…

REPUBLICANS

Since his departure in 1988, Ronald Reagan has become more than just an admired figure in Republican politics; he has become the Paul Bunyan of Republican politics. His legend is considerably larger than his actual list of accomplishments, as he is credited with everything from ending the Cold War to saving us from countless Martian invasions. Of each of the “It’s Morning In America!” clichés attributed to Reagan in his tenure, none get Sean Hannity fired up quite like the way that Reagan single handedly rode in on horseback and defeated Communism. Personally, I tend to attribute the fall of the Soviet Union to a combination of local dissatisfaction with a bloody conflict in Afghanistan, a spiraling economy, a nuclear disaster and a whole host of failed policies that led to internal conflict and eventual revolution. Of course, it’s hard to put a cowboy hat on all of that, so why not just stick with Reagan.

The sad fact of this is that it actually causes me to feel sympathy for George H. W. Bush. The much maligned Broccophobe was actually in the oval office when the Soviet Union disbanded, the Berlin Wall fell and Communism opened its doors to western ideology. Of course, he was a bit of wiener and couldn’t must reelection against a whoremonger and a crazy person, so we’ll just attribute that to Reagan. Besides, he too looks silly in a cowboy hat..

The point of that rant was to illustrate the biggest problem with revisionist Republican politics. The trumpeting of Reagan, paired with his recent passing, has caused the entire party to declare themselves to be the next Rappin’ Ronnie, without even an attempt to create a persona of their own. In a race void of personality, this can be an effective tool. Paint everyone with the same brush and turn the caucus into a crap shoot. Unfortunately, when an actual personality arrives on the scene, the “I’m more Reagan than you!” argument tends to fall by the wayside.

… enter Mike Huckabee

I was first introduced to Governor Huckabee on January 10, 2007 in his appearance on The Daily Show. I can remember thinking to myself, “Oh wow, he’s going to be president.” This was followed by a desire to show every single living, breathing person on earth the clip and seemingly endless crowing about how this soft-spoken minister from Arkansas seemed to be on his way to Washington. He was frank, he was charming, he was Bill Clinton without the sleaze, he was George Bush without the cowboy façade, he was Jimmy Carter without the Jimmy Carter.

As the progress rolled on in Iowa, he quietly rose in the polls a point at a time, until eventually people felt compelled to look into this character. His incredible charisma and Southern Baptist values resonated deeply with Iowa voters, and each week he seemed to be just slightly more of a “contender” than otherwise expected. While the rest of the Republican party clamored to “triple Guantanamo” or to invoke 9/11 in every breath, Mike Huckabee was Mike Huckabee, and voters seemed to like that.

So, here we are. Nearly every reputable poll has a previously little-known Governor from the state of Arkansas leading a pack of political robots in the nation’s first real test of the political waters. As voters, we’ve been here before. We’ve seen previously little-known Arkansas Governors take to the streets, be themselves and pull out astounding victories. If history has taught us anything, it’s that a dark horse is only dark until a major victory shines the light on their candidacy… and that apparently Hope, Arkansas is the nation’s foremost breeding ground for presidents.

But what about the…

DEMOCRATS

For reasons that seemed inexplicable to normal human beings, we were expected to view the 2008 Democratic Primary as the great anointing of Hillary Clinton. After all, Democrats loved Bill Clinton, so how could Hillary Clinton be a bad decision? Aside from the fact that they are two completely separate individuals and do not, in fact, share some sort of mind-uplink. I’m not exactly a Clinton hater, but I’m not exactly a member of the adoring throngs that hold his name in the highest possible regard. I am, in fact, a member of the ever-growing Anti-Hillary brigade. Her inability to focus the massive robotic database of polling numbers stored within her mind when faced with a given issue gives me pause. Not just that my future president was so blatantly indecisive, but that robotic mental databases have not yet come far enough to give us the cyborg president we so clearly deserve.

The coronation of Queen Hillary seemed to be a foregone conclusion, as the Democratic Primary evolved into an episode of MTV’s “My Super Sweet Sixteen.” Party goers gathered as celebrities performed for the lady of the hour shortly before the DNC handed her keys to a shiny new car. The rowdy crowd cheered along, envious of her wealthy and powerful family, but cheered no less… knowing that saying anything negative about the birthday girl could cause them to lose a good spot at the lunchroom table (or even the Vice Presidency, no, wait, the lunchroom table is more important).

Unfortunately for her, even the Prom Queen has detractors. After a while, the masses of “also ran” candidates decided to gang up on the Hill-cat, leading to a verbal assault during a debate that left her thoroughly dumbfounded. Suddenly, Clinton’s crowning turned from a feel-good Hallmark film into the final 20 minutes of “Carrie.”

… enter Barack Obama

Fearing the possibility of a president incapable of ordering breakfast without first assembling a focus group of “Waffles Vs. Pancakes” supporters, the American People began to look elsewhere for political nourishment. In that search they uncovered a spirited, genuinely nice guy from Illinois… er, Kansas… no, wait, Hawaii… or is it some other country? Oh well, he’s a US Citizen, and seems to be a swell guy.

Barack Obama steadfastly held himself to 2nd place in most early states by sticking to his message of hope and a new tone in Washington. For a candidate that has essentially built her entire campaign around the old tone of Washington, this had to at best be a bit of an inconvenience. As voters woke up to these ideas, poll numbers shifted and suddenly Iowans found themselves supporting Mr. Barack Hussein Obama. Yes, I said that right, Hussein. His middle name is Hussein. Do you know why I point that out, because there is absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever with being named Hussein. The name Hussein, according to thinkbabynames.com, means “handsome one.” God forbid we allow such handsome ones to lead our nation. My name is Cory Spencer Graham, I am in no way affiliated with the crackers, the film “License to Drive,” and am not for hire.

So, despite an endless deluge of paranoia whipped up by his name and a scathing attack on his Kindergarten journalistic integrity, Barack Obama has managed to rise above. His policies, his candor and his likability have allowed him to float to the top of a pool of Democrats once thought to be pecking at a glass ceiling. The voters of Iowa have taken notice, and no amount of parking tickets or Marlboros can sway their vote.

Thus, the 2008 Iowa Caucus shapes up. Dark horses and nice guys are emerging from the shadows, war drummers and pollsters are slipping each day. Although there is an incredible road ahead, there is a possibility now that seemed almost incomprehensible a few months ago. In conversation with several friends, the idea of Hucakbee V. Obama for the Presidency of the United States seemed to be a general crowd pleaser. It was a pie in the sky idea, one that could put two very different ideologies on display with dignity and without oppressive negativity. Each side could be represented without the “line in the sand” that past elections have managed to yield. Perhaps, just perhaps, we could all talk about where we agree and where we disagree without calling each other “traitors,” “warmongers,” “anti-American,” or “fascists.”

We’d all talk about what a nice day that would be, but how it was just simply impossible.

If Iowa is any indication, perhaps the impossible isn’t always so hard to reach.

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One Response to “Battleground: Iowa”

  1. Sportsattitude Says:

    I do agree that, even if the end result will likely be “business as usual” in Washington where everything that should be getting done isn’t and what shouldn’t be touched is…it does appear that the two major party candidates will be fascinating to watch as the campaign – a much longer campaign than before – starts to roll out. I kind of threw in the voting/caring towel when the best this country could come up with was Bush-Gore…but I am starting to move in a direction where I might actually want to “mix it up” in 2008 and actually cast my lot with whomever might – from either party – actually try to get the country re-prioritized.

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