If the roots are strong, there will be growth


Notwithstanding the results from New Hampshire, I guess the man of the moment is Irish-American candidate Barack O’Bama. I hate to be cynical – all right, I don’t – but I have to ask this. Is it just me, or does Barack bear a remarkable resemblance to Chauncey Gardiner in Being There? Except that he might actually be blander.

It seems extraordinary to me that you can get this far by just saying “change” a lot. On the other hand, lots of American punters seem to like that kind of thing. Remember that Arnold got to be Governor of California by waving a broom around and declaiming “I vill clean haus”.

It helps, of course, that O’Bama’s family background (barring the obligatory Irish link) isn’t African-American but African, and his links to the ghetto are tenuous to say the least. He doesn’t have that anger that suburbanites seem to find so offputting. In fact, he appears to be joining Will Smith and Tiger Woods in that select category of black men who don’t scare white Americans.

No, he doesn’t really inspire me, although he is performing a service by putting the skids under the Holy Clintons.

Meanwhile on the Republican side, it’s not surprising that religion is looming large. You have Mitt Romney, a competent administrator and a centrist Republican with a record of appealing to Democrats. Yet the man is hobbled by his faith, which involves believing that the angel Moroni helped Joseph Smith write the Book of Mormon. To much of the Republican base, that seems downright weird, and they prefer the surer ground of Mike Huckabee, who just believes that God created the world in seven days.

I can almost hear Dawkins tearing his hair out.


  1. Doug said,

    January 9, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Would that be Boni Moroni?

  2. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 9, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    No, that would be the religion of Dr Feelgood. More appealing to me than Mormonism…

  3. Wednesday said,

    January 9, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    It seems extraordinary to me that you can get this far by just saying “change” a lot.

    Why not? Clinton did the same thing in ’92. Supposedly Reagan did too in 1980 (“It’s Morning in America”) although I can’t say I quite remember.

  4. WorldbyStorm said,

    January 10, 2008 at 12:13 am

    It’s no great mystery. People like rhetoric convincingly delivered however shallow the actual message. They didn’t call Reagan the ‘Great Communicator’ for nothing. A lot of the time I think people want to be entranced. Mind you, it doesn’t quite explain politicos like Bertie Ahern…

  5. charliemarks said,

    January 10, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Could it be that we’re so used to advertising-speak that “change” with out any clear programme for change is appealing because it sounds good, looks good?

    His victory speech in Iowa was quite impressive (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqoFwZUp5vc). My feeling is that Obama’s difference (from Bush) is that he’d be a more conciliatory face for US imperialism: he’s saying that he’d talk to Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, etc but still be supportive of military crusades… his difference from Clinton is that he’s new (the “change” theme again) and doesn’t look so desperate.

  6. chris y said,

    January 10, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    In fact the longer I look at Obama, the more I see Blair in 1997. Uplifting but ultimately vacuous speeches? Check. Much talk of change with no specifics? Check. Refusal as a senior legislator to impede the programme of a vicious government? Check – remember railway privatisation? Cringing to the “youth vote”? Check.

    This man scares me.

  7. Matt said,

    January 10, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Obama is hardly on the left, not even the left of the neo-liberal Democrats. John Edwards has taken up the traditional Democratic voice of white workers, but the party machine will plow him under over time. Clinton will probably end up with the nomination, she has the solid support of a section of the ruling class as well as the media barons. And the Clinton machine can be play hardball against opponents if they need to be. This may cause some divisions in the Democrats. The danger of this race for the Democrats is that the machine goes for Hillary and the base for Obama. I don’t think that will happen, but if it does than it may alienate some of the base. Nader has backed Edwards and Kucinich (the “peace candidate) has backed Obama. A candidate, even only of propaganda viability this election seems slim. A lot could change between now and the early summer, but I imagine most of this will be wrapped up by mid-February. Interesting on the Republican side that the leadership candidates Guliani and Romney, each of whom has piles of money for the election, are stumbling.

  8. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 10, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Interesting too to see this web-based campaign for Ron Paul making some impact. Can’t see the guy getting anywhere, but he’s livened things up at least.

  9. Matt said,

    January 10, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Ron Paul is interesting. Mainly because he actually has principles even if these principles are those of Ayn Rand. His attacks on the war and September 11th in the Republican debates go far beyond what any Democrat would say in damning the war. But he is far right in the tradition of the isolationist and nativist right in this country. His libertarianism doesn’t apply to women. He’s a gynecologist opposed to abortion. A doctor who thinks health care is a privilege of wealth. He has unfortunately caught the imagination of some on the “left” like Stan Goff and Alexander Cockburn because of his, pretty eloquent, denunciation of the war and even of his use of the word imperialism. I fail to get it though. This guy is hard right whose main appeal is to petit-bourgeois white reactionaries. The kind of people opposed to public education because smacks of socialism.

  10. Wednesday said,

    January 10, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    I was shocked at the number of Ron Paul posters I saw on people’s houses when I was in San Francisco last month. Granted, nowhere near as many as Obama, Edwards and Kucinich posters, but it’s rare enough to see a Republican poster in San Francisco anyway much less a poster of an anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, evolution-denying Republican. What the fuck are these people thinking?

  11. yourcousin said,

    January 11, 2008 at 4:05 am

    I’ve said it before and I’ll it again, “I long for the day when a presindential candidates states emphatically, “I never have, nor will I ever, give two shits about Ireland or any relation of mine that may have had the great misfortune to be connected to that isalnd.'”

  12. PamDirac said,

    January 11, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    ***Why not? Clinton did the same thing in ‘92***

    Clinton did do a lot of yammering about being a ‘change agent’ in ’92 but he could back it up with action. If you wanted details about what he was going to change and how from Clinton, you got them. Indeed, some were sorry they asked. But at the time it was one of the more impressive things about him.

    ****His victory speech in Iowa was quite impressive****

    Yes, Obama’s Iowa speech was nice, but I’ll be petty and point out that unlike his rivals he was addressing the troops from a teleprompter. Makes a bit of difference.

  13. Binh said,

    January 16, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Chris Matthews dubbed Huckabee vs Romney as hick vs slick. I like that.

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