February 3, 2008

Sweatin' the Polls

One of this political season’s clichés is that “you can’t trust the polls,” something the pundits endlessly repeat…while they give us their newest spin on the poll numbers. While I am neither a fan nor foe of polling, I like to watch how the candidates and especially their supporters react to the numbers. It is much fun watching the “anointed ones” squirm.

In California, the squirming is done by Hillary Clinton and her supporters. Back in August of last year, the polls gave Clinton a 20 point lead over Barack Obama. According to the latest Field Poll, Clinton’s lead is now only 3 points. In television interviews, Clinton campaign workers fidget as they mouth the words, “We are not concerned.” But they are. They have to be. Their candidate has blown a 17-point lead and has made a “guaranteed” Clinton win in California a real democratic contest. And that is how it should be (well, shorn of money and media anointed candidates).

I am pleased not because I have any special loathing for Clinton, but because this is the first time in my memory that a primary in California means anything more than a rubber stamp of the decisions made elsewhere in the country. With all due respect to Iowa and New Hampshire, they represent just a fraction of America and should not be the nation’s political filter. The “importance of retail politics” aside, Iowa and New Hampshire setting the electoral table for the rest of the country just means that states like California wind up as credit cards used to pay for the meal. Even though the impact of the first primaries and caucuses have been blunted by Super Tuesday, Californians (and other participants in this “super” primary) do not get to vote for Joe Biden, Rudy Giuliani, Dennis Kucinich, Fred Thompson, John Edwards, Duncan Hunter, Chris Dodd, or Bill Richardson. Others have decided that none of these people are worthy of California’s vote.

Another of this season’s clichés is that Republicans really “don’t have a candidate their party can get behind.” Translated in simple English, that means that you Repugs actually get to chose your candidate this year and not have one selected for you by your party’s elite. Of course, like the Dems, many of you have the honor of other folks tossing “unacceptables” out of the race (though you do have Ron Paul – and the Dems, the entertainingly incoherent Mike Gravel). However, if the polls hold, John McCain, an anathema to the party’s elite, will be your candidate.

What is exciting isn’t that McCain is going into Tuesday with a 27 point lead over Mitt Romney, but who else will take a beating if/when Romney goes down. Conservative talk media has invested lots of airtime in pimping Mitt. Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly have all backed Romney…and they are about to get trashed. It is about fucking time. For the last two decades, Limbaugh and his ilk have not only set the tone of modern politics, but created and pushed the agenda. Their man, George W. Bush, has been a failure and now their chosen one is about to go down. If the Dems triumph in the Fall, the blow to conservative punditry will hopefully be significant enough to relegate them to heel snipping, rather than policy pushing. Regardless of who gets elected in the Fall, the collapse of Limbaugh, Inc. would be a boon to this country. Anything that lessens the centralization of American politics is good for the country.

Conservative media and centralized politics? Yes, of course. As much as they like to pass themselves off as “outsiders,” “rebels,” and “everyday people,” Limbaugh et al are just another pillar of a power structure designed to limit the people’s voice and participation. Their talk of liberty aside, they don’t like or want democracy. Their quest is power for power’s sake and little else (okay, money, too). To get that power, they have to do something to bring people to power or bolster them once they are in. Conservative pundits can’t keep Bush’s poll numbers up and it looks like they aren’t helping Romney’s “Quest for the White House.” If they can’t deliver, what good are they? In the best of all worlds, they will wind up as sideshow entertainment for the hardcore, perverted and spent like the has-been that is Pat Robertson. One can only hope.

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