The media’s pontificating talking heads and some sorry campaign managers trying to pull their candidates from the muck have got it wrong. They’re obsessing over the difference between two abstractions: change and experience, assuming those labels define the persons to whom they’re applied, and the voters enthusiastic about voting for them. True to narrow-casted form, some of the candidates are subscribing to the notion and attempting, like late travelers running to the gate of an on-time flight, to get to the plane before it takes off. It won’t work. It was too late years ago.
Bill, Mitt, Fred & Rudy are doomed. Here’s why: the “experience” they tout is evident all around us. Since 1970 (Gen X’s approximate starting line), America’s economy, culture and political institutions–in which all our seasoned candidates have thrived–have been in a progressive state of decadence. Real wages for most people have, at best, remained level. Depression, not recession, looms. Norman Lear has given way to the anti-Trinity of Terkhule, Bunim & Murray. Thinking people cannot, with any integrity, deny the major parties, inasmuch as they sit in legislatures local, state and national, present themselves as distinct for the purposes of election, then govern in unison at the behest of corporate campaign contributors. What’s good unravelled on their collective watch, and they deserve a reward for their experience.
Hillary, likewise, is hopeless, because–while it may be impolitic to say so–she is the least example of feminism’s success. She occupies her Senate seat as a reverse carpetbagger, and prior to that she was somebody’s wife. She has no experience to speak of other than living Tammy Wynette lyrics. A rural female Ohio county commissioner with a J.D., some time volunteering with non-profits and a dollop of law firm work has as much “experience,” except she won’t likely have had the money to move to Chappaqua, deep pockets to dig, the long coat-tails of a president who feels guilty for getting strange blow-jobs, nor general nostalgia for decent times amidst bad ones. Hillary’s touted experience draws attention to her resume, and that resume is quite distinct from her claims to having accomplished something, anything, other than give us a Republican Congress in 1994. If she thinks Bill’s experience is her own, as she likely does, that too comes under probably unwanted scrutiny: we can thank him for NAFTA, GATT, a living Bin Laden, and generating an eye-rolling fatigue that helped make Gore overcautious and under-elected. Her experience, as it were, is her problem, and unfortunately ours.
McCain, distinct from his four fellows, is the only viable traditionally Republican nominee not because his experience is any better, but because he is extremely uncomfortable telling lies. He has the worst poker face on planet Earth; the wince he exhibits when lying is truly a thing to behold. With McCain, we at least know when he’s shoveling; and, while he can at least acknowledge the brokenness of our system, though he is too ideologically wed to paradigmatically approved solutions to do the country any good. The world formed from the others’ “experience” has him hemmed in. It’s tragic and Shakespearean. But it is.
Neither Kucinich nor Paul should be forgotten, even as we mourn their candor-killed candidacies. Only grown-ups can handle Libertarianism, and even then it would take a good Democrat, or perhaps a fired-up, ready to go Dennis Kucinich, to speak for collective conscience and save Libertarians from themselves. America is ready for neither of these men, but it was delightful to see Ron Paul speaking in syllogisms so sensible they physically hurt the other candidates. It was not delightful this week not to see Dennis Kucinich. But we have the “experience” of the MSM pundits and their need to winnow the race to its protagonists and antagonists to thank for that, don’t we?
Edwards’ problem is irony–he has the right pedigree for populism, but accidents of fortune and the benefits of good preparation have made him filthy, stinking, disgustingly rich. This leaves him open to charges of great hypocrisy as he barks the truth and howls for change from the window of his Bentley. This is not the worst thing, when compared to the others–as P.J. O’Rourke advises, Americans prefer their populism from elitists, and preferably in small doses. Shots of his mother and father during the debate broke my heart, because they are my people: poor, southern whites who wear their class in their bent postures, discomfort with luxury, and the creases of their faces. Change is his experience. We should not fault him for having been a good trial attorney and astute investor.
Huckabee is also my people. He is our smiling, silver-tongued dark side. He has a life’s work of charming people to the altar of a denomination that broke from its northern counterpart in support of slavery. He is very bright, too bright, in fact, to believe the statements of faith promulgated by the Southern Baptist Convention, though I suspect he’s quite adept at believing and thinking with different hemispheres of his brain. He is the worst sort of liar, because he believes himself. The beliefs of such people grow stronger with each person they convince to abandon their own beliefs in favor of what truths the evangelists espouse. Huckabee means change, and while some of his changes might align with the progressive agenda, we should be moving ultimately away from theocracy, not slouching toward it. I know Huckabees, and I don’t heart them.
Obama, so far as I can tell, matches Hillary in every aspect of resume “experience” save years. Where she outstrips him leaves the gap many of us, with reservations (as elsewhere noted on CM), have filled with the support that so bewilders America’s chattering classes; he is unstoppable precisely because he is inexperienced, because he does not yet carry the taint of the Imperial Corporate Machine that fleeces citizen, subject and enemy alike; he is too young to have investments in their entrenched isms, ists, and grievances; he is too new a convert to consider his ascendancy ordained by Jesus; he is just naive enough to believe that, by building a mandate across parties, races and classes, that he might at last rouse the great and drowsy American spirit that once a century rises to correct the hundred years’ of errata preceding it. Hope is indeed naive, and Americans have perhaps decided at last that naivete about the possibilities of tomorrow, no matter how improbable, is preferable the beastly, apocalyptic guile that promises to drown us.