Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Keep on rocking in the free world

Nah, nothing so prosaic as a review of a Neil Young song. I just feel bout of psephology coming on. I was the geekiest amateur psephologist when I was a young bloke 20 years ago. So much so that I had a large cork board in my student flat that I could use to pin up newspaper and magazine articles tracing the course of the 1988 US elections. A seminal period of my life after my fellow geeks and I let out a collective sigh of relief at having somehow survived the Reagan years; that was a man afterall that Spitting Image depicted in a weekly skit entitled ‘The President’s Brain Is Missing’ but who had his finger trembling with Parkinson’s over the nuclear button at the peak of the Cold War. Back in those days, US presidents purported to be leaders of the ‘free’ world, so we all thought that perhaps all the inhabitants of that world should be entitled to vote for the US president as well. The likes of Dennis Kucinich might have had a change then.

I’ll never work out why the hell the Democrats put up Michael Dukakis to run against Bush Snr. As a typical East Coast liberal that the ‘moral majority’ loved to hate, the guy had about as much chance of winning as Steven Seagal has of showing emotion on celluloid. Not even his sister (or is that his cousin?) Olympia winning an Oscar helped him. And there were those classic photos of him jogging in tracksuit pants, a business shirt and hard-soled leather dress shoes. In all fairness though, he had the moral conviction to state his life-long opposition to the death penalty, even though that probably lost him the election because he allegedly lacked “passion and empathy” when reiterating that point after being asked whether he would change his mind if his wife, Kitty, were raped and murdered.

Both that answer and question were rehearsed well in advance, as were all the great one-liners of presidential campaigns (except maybe Bush Snr’s great clanger: “I am anti-bigotry, anti-racist and anti-Semite” or something along those lines). But the greatest one-liner had to be deputy presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s retort to Dan Quayle’s claim of similarity to Kennedy: “President Kennedy was a friend of mine…believe me, you’re no John Kennedy”.

Interestingly, Joseph Biden was a candidate in that election (as was a young Al Gore) before he was forced to pull out because he was caught plagiarising speeches by Neil Kinnock of all people. And now he’s trying again for 2008. Yep, 2008 is going to be a good ‘un for the science of psephology, even though the Republicans have one of the dreariest line-ups in a long time, unless Fred Thompson finally throws his hat into the ring. Surely McCain is too old and has too much Iraq War support baggage, while Rudy Giuliani is too socially liberal for his party. Mitt Romney is meant to have good prospects, but electing a Mormon as president? Sheesh. And three of those Republican candidates say they believe in 'intelligent design'!

Michael Bloomberg has undergone a political realignment to become an independent and would be likely to spend up to a billion dollars of his own money, but even that sort of heavy spending could only guarantee him a spoiler effect, like Ross Perot in 1992.

But despite the paucity of choice on the Republican side and the dead weight of an incumbent presidency that is already spoken of as the worst in history, incredibly the Democrats are not a shoo-in next year. Hilary Clinton evokes visceral hatred or loving devotion and not much in between, ala America’s culture wars. And what thinking liberal Democrat is going to vote for someone so closely associated with the approval to go to war in Iraq? I see Big Bubba Clinton has just started campaigning on her behalf, but his legendary campaigning skills probably won’t be enough to galvanise Democrats in the droves required to outnumber their conservative opponents. And even as ‘The First Black President’, Bill won’t be able rein in the growing momentum behind the potential second black president, Barack Obama, a man who DID inhale and even dabbled in a little coke. And Barack’s just overtaken Hilary in the political donation stakes. Even John Edwards is leading in Iowa at the moment.

So, anything could happen yet. But the big poser is should we believe Al Gore when he says he won’t be a candidate? Having undergone the greatest rebranding since St Augustine called a day on pederasty and group fornication in favour of penning impenetrable theological treatises, he could yet enter at the eleventh hour and gain the prize he was denied in 2000. If the Democrat primaries are particularly messy and Clinton and Obama irreparably damage each other during the campaign, then Al could appear at the party convention as the unifier of the party and win the nomination without having to lift a finger.

What are Rotten, tvc and BA thinking?


Don Jones said...

It's the man from Tennessee on a dark horse. And the man to beat? Hillary.

Fred will announce on the 6th says Piles of money are awaiting. All Fred will need. He is not going to drag his ass through all those knot holes the others did. You'll see the man makes the difference, just like you hoped 20 years ago.

Kivak said...

Wow, a third party comment that's not an advertisement.