Thursday, February 22, 2007

Democratic Dogfight or Darwinistic Demonstration?

MANY INNOCENT KEYBOARDS ACROSS this great land are now being pounded in anger as the blogosphere weighs in on the Great Obama–Clinton Flap. Harnessing this energy might prove a better solution than the Great Biofuel Revolution also much in the news, if only it didn’t generate unbelievable amounts of hot air.

When I first read about this, I got upset. Why are the candidates wasting time on this? Why do they retain goons on their payroll who insist on fanning the flames of picayune distractions offered by over-moneyed sybarites? If even a hundredth of the energy being expended on this ridiculous internecine sniping were directed toward (a) correcting society’s ills, (b) grooming a dynamic new generation of progressive-minded leaders, or (c) restoring our status as a trusted ally with those nations we’ve needlessly antagonized over the past 6 years, this would be looked on as the beginning of a golden age.

Some of the criticism has been ridiculous and merely points out the obvious. I take particular amusement from complaints that Hilary Clinton is “ambitious.” Folks, it takes a larger-than-normal ego merely to declare one’s run for the White House. Actually campaigning, raising money, appearing on 60 Minutes — these are the hallmarks of deep-seated ambition. To level this accusation betrays grievous historical ignorance. Thomas Jefferson, one of our most highly regarded Americans, was an inveterate political infighter and not shy about using the press to attack his enemies. He embodied ambition at each ascending step of his career.

I was also pissed because this sort of distraction gives the Republican operatives a chance to rebuild their strength and find new ways to target the nascent Democratic candidates. We need to look at the Congressional elections of 2006 as the end of the Second Age. Sauron was dispelled, but not destroyed. For there is an Eye that never sleeps in Washington, that of the Dark Lord, Karl Rove, even now setting into motion plans designed to continue Republican leadership in the executive and recapture as many Congressional seats as can be won, finagled, or stolen in 2008. It’s not that the Democrats won’t also hire soulless political ronin to groom and package their heir designate. It just always seems like that party dithers internally and cedes critical time and talking points to the Repubs, then squanders even more time before the election defending itself against meaningless charges. Witness Senator Kerry’s too-little, too-late reply to the Swift Boat critics. (Can’t recall it? No surprise.)

Yet there’s still part of me that feels this early strife is the only chance we as an electorate have to find a truly virtuous candidate. Some of these goons should be weeded out. Let them attack one another. Let America identify the opportunists and support the truly impassioned. Let their true ethics finally emerge past the stage-managed listening tours and the focus-group-tested campaign platforms. Let the Democrats shun the kingmaking charade and find someone who is not merely electable, but inspirational.

Until that person appears, keep well in mind the advice of arch-cynic newspaperman H. L. Mencken: “The only way to look at a politician is down.

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