“Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.”
Who would have guessed a year ago that Texas would be picking the next President? Who would’ve guessed a year ago that the Texas Presidential Primary would even actually matter? For the last twenty years or so, Texas has been almost completely irrelevant, since the nominations of both parties were usually decided far in advance and the Democrats never even contested the state come November. The only presidential campaign commercials we ever saw were national ad buys on cable. Actually, come to think of it, that was pretty nice. But now, though, the nomination of both parties, and thus the November election, comes down to Texas. Hillary Clinton, after losing 25 out of 36 primaries and caucuses (and ten in a row), absolutely, positively has to win here or her candidacy is pretty much over. And it’s probably not a good sign for her that Obama has the money and the people to open a store-front office with a staffer in Cleburne. John McCain doesn’t have to win Texas since he’s nearly over the top in the delegate count, but a loss to the grossly under-funded Mike Huckabee would be a national embarrassment, and would further highlight the huge divide in the Republican Party between traditional economic country-club conservatives and social Christian evangelical conservatives. McCain already has enough problems with social conservatives and the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus (or RWHMMC for short; Limbaugh, Coulter, the usual suspects) who loathe him with the kind of contempt they usual reserve for poor children, immigrants or Hillary Clinton. As for myself, now that my first choice John Edwards is out, I freely admit to being conflicted over whether to vote for Clinton or Obama. Since they are virtually indistinguishable on the issues, the choice comes down to who is the most electable. John McCain has pledged himself to serving out George W. Bush’s third term (more war, less jobs). I’m not at all certain the country can handle that, even with a Democratic Congress to check his most wretched excesses, assuming the Democrats in Congress remember they have a spine. So, which of the two is most likely to win? Clinton’s main strength, in my mind, is that she comes pre-attacked. The RWHMMC has already accused her of everything short of eating babies, so they’d be hard pressed to come up with any new vicious slanderous lies that wouldn’t be immediately laughed off by the electorate, or at least that portion of the electorate currently willing to give her a shot. Likewise, Clinton knows exactly just how brutal and unscrupulous the opposition can be; she and her husband have been through the meat-grinder. Her negatives are that she lacks Bill Clinton’s charm, inspirational personality, and political acumen. In fact, she seems to have a sort of negative charisma, inspiring those who hate her to work harder for her defeat. And for someone who is widely perceived to be a Machiavellian machine politician, Hillary Clinton has run a Keystone Cops campaign so far. How else to explain the fact that even with her long association with Texas politics (having stumped here for McGovern 35 years ago) and her highly experienced staff, no one bothered to look into the Texas delegate selection process until now? Granted, no one, least of all Texas Democrats, really understands the arcane logarithms and mathematical alchemy that are used to pick delegates here, but surely someone should’ve taken notes or something sooner than right before early voting started. Worse, the Clinton camp has resorted to some of the lamest, silliest attacks ever. Who thought it was a clever ploy to accuse Obama of “plagiarism” for copying a few phrases from his friend and supporter Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick? And is it really a smart move to tell Democratic voters in Red states that their votes “don’t count”? These are rookie mistakes that smell of desperation and don’t augur well for what would happen when the RWHMMC turns up the heat in the fall. Obama’s main positive is his incredible charisma. The man inspires. A lot. Enough to fill Reunion Arena to overflowing on a Wednesday afternoon. As John Kerry found out the hard way four years ago, inspired and energized followers can make all the difference in an election. Also, I think Obama’s youth, as the first major presidential candidate from my generation, Generation X, would actually be a positive contrast to 71 year-old John McCain. As for the negatives, Obama’s rhetoric, with all its flourishes about “radical change” and transformation, doesn’t really match his fairly pedestrian, run-of-the-mill platform. Plus, his previous campaigns have all been in reliably Blue Illinois; his expected opponent for US Senate in 2004 was felled by a sex scandal and Obama instead trounced the hastily-imported and reliably pathetic Alan Keyes. That lack of political combat experience concerns me. In an election season where Rush Limbaugh has already aired a song called “Barack the Magic Negro” and made word plays on “hoes” and “spades” and Bill O’Reilly has dropped the phrase “lynching party” when talking about Michelle Obama, I think it’s safe to assume that the attacks will only get sleazier and more overtly racist if Obama is the Democratic nominee. The fact that he will be attacked does not concern me; the Republicans will ferociously attack any Democratic nominee. What worries me is that I don’t see any evidence that Obama understands just how nasty it’s going to get, or that he has the blood-sport politics experience to push back against it. His frequent invocations of the spirit of bipartisanship make me concerned about his naiveté, considering that GOP guru Grover Norquist once famously likened bipartisanship to “date rape.” At best, Republicans consider “bipartisan” to mean either “do it exactly our way,” or “pause to reload.” To quote an old Texas political hand in describing the kind of bright, eager young Northeasterners who regularly come down here to work campaigns, I wish some of these guys had run for sheriff.