Yearning toward the middle, beaten toward the poles
As I watch the nominating processes for the 2008 presidential race, I have become convinced that this is a watershed year. In both parties, there is a loud and vocal attempt at the grass roots level to end the politics of personal destruction which have reigned as standard fare since the early 90’s. It is interesting that in this years cycle we have not yet heard the unhinged anger of the “Dean Scream”, but what we are seeing, is a committed effort by the deeply partisan elements of both parties to beat back the yearning among most Americans to find unity amidst our differences.
On the Republican side – the emergence of Mike Huckabee and John McCain has lead to vociferous protestations from the hard right of the party. Just browse any talk radio station and you will hear McCain being denounced as a virtual traitor to the conservative cause, and Huckabee – a pro-life Southern Baptist – being called a raving liberal. Its vicious and unkind and just the thing Americans are sick of.
Over in the Democratic camp. Hillary and Bill Clinton – perhaps the most skilled practitioners of identity politics on the planet, have managed to infuse the nominating process with significant racial overtones. Both clintons have gone on the attack in ways that are deeply disturbing to many democrats – yet it seems increasingly likely that in this years contest machiavellian tactical maneuvering may trump the “Audacity of Hope”.
I wonder if our political nominating system, as presently constructed can guide us in an emerging era, what will postmodern politics look like. Are we seeing the desperate grasping and clawing of a dying way of ordering our life together. I hope so, I long to choose between the Straight Talk Express and the Audacity of Hope, rather than the venom and viciousness of the last 20 years.