My sense of things going into today is that the Clinton-Obama race is a showdown between the old, established, "New Deal", fat cat wing of the Democratic Party--the ossified wing that the so-called "Reagan Revolution" finally beat in 1980 and that was nearly buried by Newt Gingrich et.al. in 1994--and The Insurgency embodied by Howard Dean and Barack Obama.
When I say "New Deal" Democrats, I'm talking about the Democratic Party pre-1980. There were hiccups (Dems lost control of Congress for a bit in the Fifties) but Democrats basically ran this country from 1932 until 1980. The last of that generation was so entrenched that it stopped moving forward. Scandals picked off the people's confidence in their leadership. The Vietnam War, the draft, and Movement Politics created the Vocal Minority that was re-dubbed The Silent Majority. The Republicans--emboldened by sheer opportunism, greed, and venomous hatred for paying taxes for anything--cooked up the modern conservative movement, the Southern Strategy, and the seeds of what would become the Neocons--and beat the fat, drunk, stupid, squabbling Democratic Party nearly to death.
Look at the roster of Hillary supporters vs. the ones who are for Obama or were for Edwards; the latter are the ones challenging the status quo that congealed into the Democratic Leadership Council. They're challenging the "super delegate" crowd--the ones who think that they'll be able to go back to "business-as-usual" because they'll be in the engine room of the Gravy Train.
Well, America isn't a Gravy Train any more. The Clinton Gang will find that out when they get into power and find that the vandals have stolen all the handles. Our problems will worsen because a coalition between The Military-Industrial Complex and Democratic Government means we continue down the path Reagan and his antecedents chose. There isn't any money in the coffers for new mandates. We don't have the resources to create block grants and jobs programs and a single-payer national healthcare system; the Republicans have stolen it all. Corporate America is going to continue to press for its interests and the Clinton Wing of the Democratic Party will do its best to accommodate them.
Hillary is getting the backing of the old-style party stalwarts--Democrats who got re-elected by greasing the right wheels and getting along with the Big Money interests when times were good. That Democratic Party built the American Middle Class and sustained it until it became too fat and stodgy and bought-off to elude the conservative steam roller that finally squished it. The Contract With America--broken though it was--spoke to a yearning in the American People for leaner, more efficient, less intrusive government. Never mind that this yearning was built on the myths of the Welfare Queen and her Cadillac and government as larcenous nanny to labor, minority, women, gay, and other "special interests." The myth resonated, was used, and has brought us twenty-eight years of decline, death, and disaster.
Bill Clinton's unwillingness to decree an end to discrimination against gays in the military and stick to it was simply the first in a series of compromises--political, social, and moral (personally and otherwise) that gave Republicans Congress and the White House in 2002 and left the Democratic Party a quivering, spineless wreck. Apres Clinton, le deluge. I have no reason to believe that Hillary will be any less efficient in her willingness or her ability to compromise at the expense of the poor and middle class.
Barack Obama represents the wing of the party that wants to speak to everyone in the country, just as Franklin Roosevelt did in the depths of the Depression, and as John F. Kennedy did on the verge of the New Frontier. This April will mark the passage of forty years since the day a teenager sat in a classroom listening to the horrified account of an assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. The next months would find that teenager hearing of another assassination in California on the crystal radio kit he'd just built. A president abdicated another run for office because of a war gone wrong--a war that he knew couldn't be won. The Democratic Party was torn from without and from within and lay belly up and bleeding in the streets of Chicago. Our world had grown macabre and chaotic. Our nation was fractured and frustrated.
That's why we need new coalitions, new ways of thinking, new ways of approaching problems, and a new attitude. We need to sober up and realize that thumping our chests and declaring ourselves the "greatest country on earth" has become a pathetic and rather dangerous conceit. We have been neither good nor right for a very long time. My hope is that Barack Obama will begin the very hard work of prying the hands of the past from the levers that move this country and replace them with ones that realize we live in a world that needs us on its side now.
The relief and the hope some of us feel when we regard Obama's candidacy is that this may be the coda for a nascent symphony gone so horribly wrong all those years ago. Maybe it's the realization that the ember of hope for a better America and a better world hasn't been extinguished. Maybe we'll finally heed Ike Eisenhower's earnest warning about the dangers of letting certain elements in our society hold sway. Maybe our prophets will finally find honor in their own land, even if not in their own time. Maybe that's why the echoes of Yes We Can reverberate; they've been in us all along.