Reflections on the 2008 Caucuses: Iowa aftermath

Well. That was… interesting.

No, I won’t dwell on analysis of the Obama win too much. Enough literature on that has been done in other places, and like the last Trillianes Tantrum, I think adding mine would just be so much noise. I’d rather dwell on the impressions, especially the ones that twist your gut or grabs your mind and holds on, but in a wonderful kind of way.

Reading through the reports and commentaries on the Obama win at the International Herald Tribune, you somehow get this… funny, almost fuzzy feeling. Especially when you read the reactions of black voters over it. There’s that palpable feeling of something… momentous, and a positive momentous at that, about to happen…

I suppose, when you get to really think about it, should it have been quite the surprise? Democrats could probably say the American public are fed up with Dubya in particular and the Republicans in general, with the way his two terms have eroded much of the goodwill and trust the world gave to humanity’s foremost democracy. Yet, Hillary Clinton placed a distant third. If it was all about a simple repudiation of the Bush administration, then the supposedly “tried and tested” Clinton name should have given Hillary the expected win in Iowa.

Yet Obama won. 37% to Hillary’s 29.5%, with more than 200,000 Democrats telling their party who they want to bring the Blue banner to the White House. In a State that is both rural and predominantly White.

Reading through the various reports, one gets the impression that the common theme in the vote was that of change. And not just any superficial, business-as-usual-just-with-different-actors kind of change. People went out and told their political leaders that all that hype, all the “science” that goes into polls and campaigns, all the funding and media exposure… all that means nothing when the citizenry want to see things done differently.

This, in my opinion, is one of the most wonderful aspects of democracy as a system of governance: ordinary people have a chance to tell their society’s nobility “No. This is what we want.”

Its so easy sometimes when you’re in politics to get mired in realism, cynicism and pragmatism. The world in which modern politics operates in eats the idealistic and spits it out a shadow of its old self the way the Skeksis did to the Gelflings after the latter’s souls get sucked out in The Dark Crystal. If I was an operator for the Democrats, I’d probably have been telling my Partymates to “vote safe”, meaning vote for the one who has both the proven track record and both the ability and funding to fight Bush to the bitter end. Besides, I’d probably say, she’s not Bill, isn’t she? And isn’t it historic too, since she might just be the first female President of the United States of America?

Isn’t that, Garci aside, what helped to not only ensure Gloria’s victory in 2004 but assure our complicity as well to all the things we did to the FPJ camp, particularly during the Electoral Tribunals? Oh, c’mon, get off your damned high horse: we all know she won; if she cheated at all, it was because her handlers insisted she needed the 1 million margin to justify it. We were all complicit, from the CBCP saying it was credible, to NAMFREL certifying the elections, and the Liberal Party – Butch Abad and Kiko Pangilinan, no less – in defending her on the floor of the Electoral Tribunal.

We didn’t want another Erap that we saw in FPJ, so we went realistic, cynical and pragmatic by going for the one with a proven track record, and who could beat the Erap charisma.

It’s wonderful to see that one has real choices for such monumental decisions. Obama’s credentials were never in question, after all. But what I think adds to the whole thing, and what might carry him to the Nominations at least as a very, very close contender to Hillary Clinton, is the mystique he brings. I might be exaggerating here, but there’s … Kennedy-esque magic to the man, and the Truths he brings with him. Having to bear with a President like George Bush for so long, Obama comes in like a breathe of fresh, life-giving air.

One of the most telling statements I’ve heard on Obama’s victory at Iowa was about him coming across as sincere. For a member of the general public to use that word to describe his political leaders is high praise in my book. Sincerity is perhaps the hardest thing a politician can make people see in him or her. Packaging and a good, solid PR campaign with tons of money can only take you so far when faced with the real McCoy.

Iowans said this was what their Caucus was all about, why it should be first, because there, the glitz and glamor of a big-money electoral campaign means little. Those aspiring to be their Party’s banner bearer – and, perhaps, the country’s President eventually – have to meet the Iowans face-to-face, press flesh to flesh. Here, the illusions of the TV screen or the attractive sound bites from a well-crafted radio message mean little. Here, the public will see you and hear you as you are.

Why does Erap continue to be loved by the masses despite everything that contradicts such a devotion in our bourgeois, educated, professional eyes? Because, in fairness to the man, it appears he comes across as someone who genuinely (at least at that particular moment) concerned for their welfare. He truly loves them. And the people see this when he goes down to them. They don’t see this in many, if not all, of their leaders, who smile, shake their hand, and accept their kisses with trained, mechanical aptitude.

Unfortunately, there is a twisting somewhere between the feeling and the acts that should translate those into Action that redeems the anawim. Like Marcos before him, Joseph Estrada failed to capitalize on his position to bring about real, positive, change.

The people of Iowa got to see all the Democratic candidates up close and personal, knowing what these leaders want from them and that all their actions have the same underlying principles as when a boy is courting a girl. Yet, they chose Barak Obama because he comes across as sincere.

It’s amazing. I can say that with full confidence. Because when I was reading the IHT articles, I could feel it. And when such emotion, such an intense desire to see change for the better, to believe, as Obama’s campaign has always said, leaps out of the screen to you from writeups done by more-or-less objective reporters… well, now that is something, isn’t it?

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One Response to Reflections on the 2008 Caucuses: Iowa aftermath

  1. Pingback: Hillary Clinton » Reflections on the 2008 Caucuses: Iowa aftermath

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