"Why you gotta be so eloquent? . . .
Why you gotta get everyone all worked up?"
— Darian Dauchan
I tried to bolt the door, batten the windows, turn off the Internet, and cover my ears to the siren call of another US presidential contest. Even down here in my South-of-the-Border paradise, there's no place to run. The traditional refrain of "if you don't like the United States, why don't you move to another country" is moot, here in Mexico, now that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is in full swing. As the social humorist Barry Crimmins answers those taunts: "Because I don't want to be victimized by its foreign policy." (I used to laugh every time Barry said it. Now I just quietly weep.)
For a while, the Democrats were making it easy to for me huddle by my cozy fireside of alienation. They took back Congress in 2006 and have capitulated ever since as the war in Iraq escalated and the Constitution continued its slide through the paper shredder. The polls and pundits scream that Senator Hillary Clinton has a lock on the nomination and that nostalgia for the mediocre 1990s shall define our inevitable future.
Will the Democrats really nominate another Clinton and inadvertently cede to a Republican DC-outsider like Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney the moniker of the "change candidate"? Not since 1928 has there been a presidential contest in which a sitting president or vice-president did not seek his party's nomination. That makes Clinton, due to her association in voters' minds with the Clinton White House (an image the candidate herself promotes), the de facto "incumbent" of the 2008 election at the precise moment that the electorate wants "change."
Please, somebody, anybody, stop those bells from ringing. I can't take it anymore.
Clinton has surrounded herself with the same tired White House gang. Corporate America's uber-consultant and pollster Mark Penn calls the daily shots in the Clinton '08 campaign. (It was Penn who told ABC News this month that, in 2000, Al Gore "thought there was Clinton fatigue. I thought there was Clinton nostalgia but not fatigue.") Mandy Grunwald pulls down a $360,000 salary running the media show for her second client named Clinton. Terry McAuliffe is the senator's chief fundraiser, and the rest of the campaign staff is similarly dominated by old Clinton hands, most of who sat out the past two presidential elections and are still wandering around in an Olympus of their own creation, seeking to relive the end of the past century.
The first Clinton administration turned out to be eight years of dashed hopes with its largest "accomplishments" enduring as dubious zombie policies that continued to haunt us long after the Clintons had moved to Chappaqua. (Remember welfare-reform and the squandering of the peace dividend?) NAFTA chased millions of Mexican farmers off their lands and northward across the border (providing grist for the xenophobes and radio talkers to persecute the migrant workers once they arrived), and has turned too many beautiful rivers and coasts down here into industrial cesspools during the past decade.
Yes, I'm covering my ears. Please make it stop!
And so the senator's rivals for the Democratic nomination deserve a look-see. US Representative Dennis Kucinich has been a three-decade stalwart on behalf of real issues. In our hearts we know he's right, but also that he hasn't the muscle to stop the return of the Clinton regime or its GOP counterpart. How about the old Senate warriors Chris Dodd and Joe Biden? Should we rally behind the gaffe-prone Governor Bill Richardson? The questions kind of answer themselves, don't they?
Some of us like John Edwards's populist tongue and position papers, his wonderful family, his southern charm, and the brickbats he tosses at corporate power, while acknowledging that Edwards has a cubic centimeter of chance (unlike Kucinich, who has none) to crack through the first-in-the-nation caucus next January in Iowa (where in ’04 he placed a surprise second to John Kerry) and become a contendah.
But we've seen that movie (and its formulaic sequels) before. It’s the quadrennial blockbuster where a big-money Democratic front-runner tramples the more attractive but under-funded alternative. When, in 1988, Jesse Jackson emerged as the last candidate standing between Michael Dukakis and his doomed nomination, Jackson, among other disadvantages, didn't have the millions of dollars it would have taken to ride an insurgent candidacy through to winning the Democratic National Convention.
Even if Edwards does crack through in Iowa, he won't have the resources to finish the race, and the coronation of Clinton as nominee will go according to script. I'm very sorry to say that, because the primacy of money is one of the main reasons why previous presidential campaigns made many of us want to ignore this one.