Tuesday, February 12, 2008

One Ring To Rule Us All

The 2008 presidential election primary campaigns have hit their strides, with only the most hardened contenders hanging in there. There continues to be uncertainty in both parties, uncommon this long after Super Tuesday, when nearly half of the states hold their primary elections and favored winners often emerge.
The most recent casualty of the race, Mitt Romney, was running a strong race, but has "suspended" his campaign in the face of John McCain's juggernaut rise through the cluttered Republican field of candidates. That left Mike Huckabee, the come-from-nowhere governor of Arkansas and Baptist minister who is arguably where he is because a spark of attention he got from Stephen Colbert. It's not that Colbert, however much he'd like to take credit, "made" Mike Huckabee, but the attention he got on Colbert's show boosted his campaign enough that people knew his name. That got him enough popular mind share to get some airtime that he has used very, very effectively to deliver a homespun, conservative Christian message that is increasingly popular in hometown America. And with Romney out of the race, he's the only serious competition for McCain. His strategy at the moment seems to be winning enough delegates to keep McCain from achieving the critical 1,191 votes it takes to win the Republican nomination before the National Convention in September. He said as much in his speech after the "Potomac Primaries" poll closings, suggesting that something may happen to the elder Senator between now and then; he stopped short of calling such a race-changing event, whatever it may be, a miracle, but the implication was certainly there.
The other Republican still holding on is Congressman Ron Paul, the popular Constitutionalist who seems to average around four percent of the vote in every primary, mostly culled from the Internet where his plain-spoken sensibility is only overshadowed by Senator Barack Obama. Congressman Paul is clear and vociferous about his message, and hasn't wavered throughout the whole campaign, something that the other candidates from both parties have a hard time claiming. Unfortunately, in this era of quips, buzzwords and an endemic shortened attention span, the Congressman's call for a "return to a constitutional government" has the sound of stodginess. It's clear by now that, short of "a critical event" such as one speculated on by Governor Huckabee, Ron Paul's chances for winning his party's nomination are slim. His dogged continuation on the campaign trail in the face of such overwhelming odds shows that he's committed to getting his message across. Hopefully his supporters realize that they're spending money to promote the message, not the candidate.
Arizona Senator John McCain, the Vietnam war hero with over 22 years' experience in Congress, appears to have his party's nomination locked down.  He swept the Potomac primaries, though not without fighting down significant popular support for rival Mike Huckabee.  Maybe if the Senator took up playing guitar he could appeal to the young conservative crowd better, and seem a little more "down home" to the rural voters to give himself a little more breathing room.  His speech after the polls closed was filled "I" this and "I" that, once referring to himself four times in one sentence.  The speech sounded as much like an Oscar acceptance speech as anything, with him spending a lot of airtime recognizing cronies in the audience and giving a nod to his opponent.  From there the speech turned to gloom and doom about how his particular brand of dogma was better than "theirs," and had all the panache of a wet blanket.  He was obviously reading it from a teleprompter, and it looked on a couple of occasions like it was the first he'd seen what he was reading.  Overall, it wasn't a good showing.

Over on the Democrat's side, it's a tight race between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, with a scant few delegate's votes separating the two. Obama, with his sweep of the Potomacs, pulled ahead of Clinton after trailing her for most of the race. Pundits have called it a deadlock or stalemate because of the closeness of the race, but it's likely that Obama has just hit his stride late in the game, and in the final stretch toward the DNC finish line is going to continue to widen his lead. Many political analysts have pointed out that Obama "sort of grows on people" as his message settles in. Clinton, on the other hand, seems to be losing momentum as she coasts along on her liftoff blast without any fresh material, giving time to her detractors to dig deep into what she has said so far.  Jules Verne thought in 1865 that we could land men on the moon with a space capsule fired from a huge gun. While it may be possible, we found that the more likely way to get there is with a rocket, continuously pumping fuel into a reaction chamber until you achieve sufficient velocity to hit your target.
Barack Obama seems to be taking just such an approach.  Or, at least, his burn is clean enough that there's no sputtering and backfiring.  Where Senator Clinton looks consistently more worn and frazzled at each successive speech, Senator Obama looks as strong as ever, with a strong, clear voice and a Kennedy-esqe tempo that combine to give his message of hope, the "yes, we can" that is his campaign cry, a ring of truth that people can easily recognize.  It may seem cliche, but people intuitively know when something is right; when a message "rings true," there's no need to pick it apart, no need to see if there's a wolf under the wool.
In the 2004 election, I remember hearing one of John Kerry's speeches where he pulled off the same tenor and tempo trick that is the hallmark of any great orator.  I remember thinking that, if he could do that same thing every day for the rest of the campaign, he would have a chance of beating George W. Bush.  As it turned out, his speech was a one-off.  Never again did I hear him speak in that same fashion, and in the end, President Bush won re-election in a sweeping victory.  Senator Kerry may not have had a chance either way, but on that day he had the nation's ear and he let go of it.
Speaking in Wisconsin after the Potomac polls closed, Barack Obama wore the Ring of Truth. His speech was filled with hope couched in a nest of "we" references that spoke to the thousands of supporters surrounding him in the stadium.  And those supporters looked like America, or at least the one I know.  They were a mix of races, genders and age groups, and by the look of their clothing, they came from a variety of backgrounds and career paths.  This is in stark contrast to the room full of old white men in rumpled suits that surrounded John McCain.  And, where McCain's supporters clapped politely at a few junctures in his speech, Obama's crowd cheered like it would raise the roof of the building.

Barack Obama is offering us, the American people, a message of hope couched in language of unification for a broken country that is dying at its core while highwaymen rob it of its resources and warlords send its young to perish in a desert for no good reason.  It's a message of hope that the voice of Middle America will be heard above the din of the lobbyists and special interest groups, and it's a message of hope that we can, together, build our country back to a level of heath and education that will make us strong again, respected in the world again, and again the envy of the rest of the world.  He delivers this message with a clear voice, a fierce and powerful voice, a voice that carries the ring of truth.  One ring to rule us all.


LNC said...

Hey, found your site in your /. tagline.

This is a pretty good analysis and it is nice to see someone who understands Dr. Paul and isn't a part of (as your buddy Bob Fogarty puts it) the herd of American Sheeple.



J.D. Ray said...

Thanks. And here I thought this post was getting a bit stale and it was time to think up something new. Well, it is. Dunno what it will be.

If you haven't done so already, check out Bob's blog at imofogarty.blogspot.com. He and I have opposing views on a lot of things, but we're together on one thing for sure: America needs a change.

Thanks for posting.


LNC said...

I agree with his premise that most Americans are disengaged with how, what Washington does, really affect their lives.

My son Lotaso often complains it about as well. When he does, I often remind him with "BAAAA. BAAAA,BAAAA!"

It makes me sick how so many people just subscribe to their own party line with-out question. It is really a ploy by the Two Branches of the One Party System to keep out any REAL change.