"The despising without remission that constitutes being a conscientious citizen in the reign of George W. Bush was not for one who had developed a strong interest in surving as reasonably serene -- and so I began to annhilate the abiding wish to find out." Nathan Zuckerman, in Phillip Roth's Exit Ghost.
Well, so much for serenity. Tonight we find out.
It's the big night in Iowa, where the sycophants and pundits and hangers-on are clamboring over themselves to be at the hub of "THE" story. Skies are clear, weather favors a heavy turnout. Just wish it weren't such a nutty system in such a puny state (sorry neighbor) so that all this hoopla would really mean something.
If I were in Iowa I'd caucus for Obama. I got in with him early and I'll leave with the one that brung me. Besides, I think he's a breath of fresh air who'll change America's Bush-tattered world image more effectively than any other candidate. (But if he gets the nomination, I'm afraid he'll get shot. My adult life started with a trio of assassinations, can't help thinking it's going to end that way. It's political PTSD.)
More cheery thoughts, and a prediction. Breaking: Entrance polls already forecasting me to be wrong!
And if he survives, I'm not sure he can win in a country that still harbors deep pockets of racism, even though polls show that he would beat any of the Republicans. (Polls also show that Hillary would lose to any of the Republicans.) But Mike Huckabee is Mr. Affability, make that Rev. Affability, and gaining ground, and that's scary -- but Romney and Guiliani are even scarier. So I'm getting that familiar queasy feeling that crops up every four years. Could we see the Dems gain in the congress, but lose the White House? Or lose in both? The Republicans are so good at running on lies, one-liners and fear -- and stealing votes if all else fails.
But, first things first. I think Obama will win tonight in Iowa, but by a slim margin. Edwards will be second, with an equally thin margin over Hillary, making no one a front runner and allowing them all to spin a victory of some sort. I'm pulling this prediction out of my, um, gut. It's based on nothing but a vibe. So no gloating tomorrow when I'm proven wrong.
What I think would happen if it were a primary and not a caucus -- where choices have to be publicly stated and so much depends on the strategy and strength of the ground troops -- is that Edwards would win. People are attracted to Obama and his message of change, but worry about his lack of experience and his chances of winning the White House in racist America. Others like Hillary, but worry about her strong negatives, even though there's something to be said for going with a seasoned warrior who knows how to fight back. But then there's that warrior part, and those war votes . . .
Watching Obama or Hillary in the general election would be like watching a dazzling new guy walk the highwire vs. watching one of the Flying Wallendas. The thrill of watching the daring newcomer is muted by the anticipation of any misstep, while the yawn of watching the self-assured Wallenda is energized by knowing she'll not fall. As we say around here, competence is sexy. Even political competence.
So then people will think of Edwards, seeing him as more daring than Hillary and more seasoned than Barack. Edwards is speaking the truth about obscene campaign costs, corporate greed, and the two Americas, all things that most people can grasp. The Surge, Dubya's personal exit plan, may lull voters into thinking Iraq's a success story -- I mean, we've seen them lulled by less -- but the news that Wall Street CEO's just received record year-end bonuses despite the mortgage crisis and "the most dismal year" in decades, should thunk 'em upside the head, if anything will. It's the economy, stupid.
I'll stick with Obama. I'd love to see him win. And I'll work for the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. But I'm thinking Edwards may be the one to go the distance.