By this time tomorrow we'll have learned if New Hampshire goes decisively to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. What's really disturbing is the possibility that Iowa and New Hampshire voted the way they did because their citizens really did vote their beliefs -- in which case that's a sad and rather pathetic commentary on the state of our political system: deciding between corporate conservativism and extreme religious conservatism, but no matter how you cut it, choosing conservatism.
Granted, Iowa and New Hampshire are not the beginning and the end of a presidential election; in 1992, conservative Democrat Bill Clinton lost both those states but came back in the later primaries to win the Democratic nomination. Shall we see that happen again, only this time with the eventual nominee being Progressive-in-training John Edwards? Or shall we see a repeat performance of the 2000 and 2004 disasters that handed a fundamentally weak Democrat the nomination because of the 'anybody but Bush-GOP' mentality -- with the the country remaining firmly under the iron heel of the GOP?
It's grounds for serious consideration. Barack Obama's nice-sounding rhetoric masks a Clintonesque conservativism that cannot be ignored. And we all know Clinton's record by now even if many of us would rather make excuses for her (she has to look tough against Republicans, she has to work with the opposition because it's too strong, yadda yadda yadda). If either of these candidates wins the nomination, it shall send a highly unpalatable message about the state of the Democratic party: either it is too easily fooled by snake oil salespeople who ignore the base and will most certainly govern from the right, or its politics really are far too conservative to be considered anything more than Republican-light. And that is a disturbing thought, indeed. I really hope I'm wrong.
On the other hand, there is the 1992 election. As stated before, Bill Clinton lost the early caucuses and primaries, but went on to win the nomination. It is possible, though unlikely, that the eventual nominee shall be former North Carolina senator John Edwards. In such a situation, Edwards is clearly the more progressive candidate. In a recent Democracy for America poll, Edwards came out on top amongst progressives by a significant margin, regardless of which of the two early winners he faces. And whoever the Democratic nominee ultimately ends up being is going to need that progressive base in order to win, no matter what the beltway pundits tell us. It is still possible that Edwards could sweep the Super Tuesday primaries, leaving Obama and Clinton in the proverbial dust, simply by winning over the vital base in the later primaries.
But that remains to be seen. Edwards may not end up with the Democratic nomination, which means the GOP is going to eat Obama or Clinton for breakfast. That is a given. The Republican Party is comprised these days of vicious beasts that think absolutely nothing of gutting a Democrat and using his entrails to decorate their fireplace mantles. Just ask Hillary Clinton after her attempt to get health care reform in the 1990s. After having her butt handed to her on that front, she decided she couldn't fight the health care industry and sold out. Obama, apparently, reached a similar conclusion -- and without having even tried to fight for health care for all Americans; his record in the Illinois State Senate is a testament to this unfortunate fact.
Like I said, I really hope I'm wrong about all this. But it's looking increasingly as though the 2008 Democratic primary battle will end up being a race between two corporate conservatives. Even if the eventual nominee manages to survive the general election against the GOP nominee, even if he or she manages to actually get sworn in upon being elected (we cannot discount more vote fraud on the part of the RNC handing its candidate the White House again), a President Obama or Clinton shall not be able to prevail against a re-invigorated GOP in Congress. No thanks to Pelosi and Reid, Democrats stand to lose control of the legislature in November despite all the polls showing the party ahead. Voters are not forgiving of politicians who deny them justice (just ask the shade of Gerald Ford).
Iowa and New Hampshire should serve as a wake up call for our political party in the rest of the nation. We cannot afford another four to eight years of Republican misrule in the White House. Nor can we afford another four to eight years of conservative Democrats in the White House, waffling under to an emboldened and restored Republican legislature, acting merely as more steady and competent drivers of the corporate wagon that has been dragging America to the political right. The stakes are simply too high. We can only hope that Edwards manages to pull a miracle in the later primary states.