The news outlets are calling Senator Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee the winners of the long-awaited Iowa caucuses, and the TV commentariat was in its full-throated splendor. The TV Establishment set the tone and spoon-fed their audience breathless horse-race coverage. Tonight I saw darken my television monitor the all-too familiar visages of David Gergen, Bill Bennet, Bill Schneider, Fred Barnes, Bill Kristol, Pat Buchanan, Andrea Mitchell, Tom Brokaw, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Barone, David Gregory (Karl Rove's dance partner), Howard Fineman, and the only person I saw all night who I would consider even remotely "left" was Rachel Maddow, who appeared on MSNBC. It's not that the coverage was "bad," it was just bereft of substantive analysis. But Bill Bennet's bloviating was the worst, it consisted of patting Americans on the back, and Iowans in particular, for not being like Kenyans or Pakistanis and using machetes and assassinating political figures, etc.
The good news of the night is that Barack Obama won the election. There is the audacity of hope that the Democratic Party might, after all it's suffered in recent years, has the good sense NOT to nominate another mealy-mouthed "moderate" who will "triangulate" against the grassroots base of the party. The simple fact is that President Bill Clinton left the Democratic Party in far worse shape when he left the White House than it had been in when he entered. Hillary Clinton promises more of the Rahm Emanuel-type betrayal of the progressive wing of the party. She is the Establishment's choice and she will betray progressives on behalf of Wall Street just as her husband did in the 1990s. We are light years past that being a desirable outcome for our nation today.
In contrast, Barack Obama has the potential to unify the party and energize its grassroots, which remain far to the left of the party's national leadership. What's more, Obama appears to understand that there is no such thing as "risk free" politics, and that to be successful a candidate must be willing to fight, and fight hard, especially against the post-Rove Republican Party. The Democratic Party must keep its base motivated and alive going into November to counteract the single-minded purpose and grassroots energy of the right-wing Christian nationalist evangelicals. (Please read Michelle Goldberg's excellent book, Kingdom Coming).
Which brings me to Mike Huckabee. Iowa shows that the right-wing Christian nationalist evangelicals are still a force to be reckoned with. They are motivated, powerful, committed to their cause, and vote on a very narrow single-issue basis. Huckabee's victory shows that the evangelical base is going to show up at the polls in huge numbers not only in the primaries but also in the general election.
Any Democratic candidate who wants to defeat the outpouring throngs of the megachurches that populate the great exurban American nowhere-land must utilize the left wing, progressive base to thwart their collective strength. Barack Obama is the only candidate who has a chance of doing this. Recognizing this fact, the only true progressive in the race, Dennis Kucinich, urged his supporters in Iowa to vote for Obama.
It's going to be a long year. The television commentary is going to get worse and worse, and Fox News will be an even greater force than it was in 2004 because the stakes are much higher. The only way the Democrats can win in 2008 is to keep the progressive base energized to counter the right-wing Christian soldiers on the other side who are sure to come out in huge numbers as they did in Iowa tonight.
Mike Huckabee did not even know that Afghanistan is on the western border of Pakistan, not the eastern border, and he hadn't even heard about the recent NIE on Iran. Instead of reading books on geography and international relations, Huckabee has been absorbed in Bible-thumping. Public piety is the only criteria for millions of Republican voters who possess as little knowledge of foreign affairs as does Hucka-Bucka. Huckabee is as unqualified to be president as George W. Bush.
A Huckabee administration would be a disaster for the nation since we must mend fences in the coming years with the rest of the world and with the United Nations, and the Old Testament has shown itself to be a poor blueprint for U.S. foreign policy. Even the old guard corporate imperialists are getting worried: "Is this any way to run an empire?" Hence, the Establishment shift toward Hillary Clinton -- she even got cash from Rupert Murdoch!
Whether Rahm Emanuel and the other traingulators want it or not -- the only way the Democrats will win in 2008 is with the support of the progressive left. And Obama is the only candidate who can make that a reality. He's here, so you Blue Dogs better get used to it!