Along the Tracks

Friday, July 11, 2003
 

‘Hicks’ of Hicksville


I’ve mostly ignored the “Jerry Springer for Senate” phenomenon as it is just one more sad example of the utterly comatose condition of the Ohio Democratic Party. In fact, I’m not even certain there is an “Ohio Democratic Party.” (Of course, with the Ohio GOP passing 11 percent spending increases paid for by tax hikes, do we really need a Democratic Party? But that’s another posting ....)

But now Jerry’s gone and done it. He’s using one of our local communities for his own shameless promotion: He hath taken the name of “Hicksville” in vain.

In the infomercial for his budding Senate campaign, Jerry challenges a quote from National Review’s Jonah Goldberg by laying claim to “hicks” as the kind of people he will represent. He is shown standing in mock pride beside the corporation limit sign for the western Defiance County village.

This is not just some Photoshopped fakery; Jerry visited Hicksville a couple months ago to talk to local Democrats about a potential Senate run. Since the state central committee is practically non-existent, local Democrats are pretty much accepting all comers. That fits well with Jerry, who on his show also accepts all comers. His base, lowest common denominator, “shock-and-awe” concept of reality is now being twisted into a populist political theme.

Hicksville, however, does not fit Jerry’s concept, historically speaking. Drawn up by some of the original pioneers of the Northwest Territory, “Hicksville” is a tribute to Henry Hicks, a genteel New York City shipping magnate and land speculator, and major partner in the Hicks and American Land Companies. In the 1830s, Hicks bought the plot of land which would become the fair village of Hicksville. Hicks was anything but a “hick.”

Now all this is not to say their are no “hicks” in Hicksville. Each town in our area, like most rural regions dotted by small communities, has the full range of modern America, from wealthy investor to unemployed farm worker, from churchgoing teetotaler to Friday afternoon yard drinker. In many ways, I would consider myself a “hick,” in fact. I grew up on a farm, live in the country, have three vehicles (two running) all over 10 years old, and burn my trash in a barrel out back.

But I venture to say the “hicks” Goldberg identifies with Jerry Springer, and indeed the “hicks” Jerry seeks out, are not hicks by genealogy, hicks by tradition, hicks by locality or hicks by income, but hicks by mindset: People whose sloth, self-absorption, lack of control and determined, deeply-cherished ignorance makes their very appearance in public a carnival spectacle. Jerry merely pulls them all into his own circus. He’s truly ringleader in a “big tent.” Those who find human failure not pitiable, but entertaining, fill the seats.

If Jerry hangs around Hicksville longer than it takes to give a speech and stop for a photo on the way out of town, he might find some of his kind of “hicks.” After all, that band of KKK thugs that crashed Tremors a few years ago could show up ... of course, they were from Indiana, and therefore couldn’t vote in Ohio. There are a few militia members in these parts that have cardboard license plates and hunt deer in July - but they believe the Trilateral Commission implants tracking devices with those little chad pokers in election booths, so they don’t vote. I knew a guy once who hurt his leg kicking out the wrong windshield after a bar fight - though I’m not sure if he’s out of jail.

Jerry may have to think through his “bottom up movement” (his alleged form of political support, not an upcoming show title) of constituents across the Buckeye State. He will quickly discover that a) his kind of “hicks” don’t have any cash to donate (unless it’s change scammed through fake charity boxes at unsuspecting retailers); b) his kind of “hicks” only watch “The Jerry Springer Show” because the remote is buried under the sofa cushion bearing accumulated dog hair and Doritos; and c) going out, registering and voting require at least a minimal level of initiative and community spirit, something his audience lacks.

In other words, he’ll need to look beyond Hicksville.


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Thursday, July 10, 2003
 

NYT at it again


The “front page” photo on the New York Times website is one of excited Botswanans shaking hands with President Bush, and Bush returning their enthusiasm with a glowing smile. The caption is much chillier: “A Greeting in Botswana: President Bush’s visit has ruffled a few feathers in the African nation’s normally calm political scene.”

Gosh, was it something Bush said? Is it the mere presence of this unilateralist cowboy? What has “ruffled feathers”?

You’ve got me. The article to which the photo is linked is a fairly detailed AP story about the Botswana visit, Botswana as a nation, the AIDS/HIV crisis, and the rest of Bush’s Africa trip. There are a couple paragraphs on Liberia. But unless my lack of sleep has damaged the comprehension areas of my cerebral cortex, there is not a word about “ruffled feathers” in the whole article!

My guess is the “ruffled feathers” are inside the liberal newsroom, as these people watch Bush accomplish what Clinton only talked about.


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Wednesday, July 09, 2003
 

Solidarity with Iranians


The major protests have been cancelled to avoid a mullah-ordered bloodbath in Tehran, nevertheless, the struggle continues. Please take a moment today to study the situation in Iran, read opinions, look at the work of Iranians bravely expressing their dissent with the tyranny oppressing them - and find some little way to offer your support for freedom and democracy in that ancient and troubled land.

Here are a few suggested virtual visits:

IranChamber.com, a non-political site with history, geography, culture, etc. (Courtesy Mark Steyn.)

Andrew Sullivan on the Bush administration’s Iran policy.

Michael Ledeen on the importance of today (July 9) to the freedom movement.

Oxblog on worldwide demonstrations and lots of good links.

Pejman Yousefzadeh at Tech Central Station on Iran’s future leaders.

Mark Steyn says ‘It’s Mullah Time!’ (Free registration to JPost.com required.)


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Monday, July 07, 2003
 

Update 2


I missed this David Tell piece over at The Weekly Standard from Thursday. It’s a closeup of Dean that reinforces my points pretty well, I think.


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Update


William F. Buckley offers his take on Dean and the Dems. WFB states flatly “Dr. Dean hasn’t got much chance to be the next president.” On that I’m in complete agreement. But I do believe Dean has an excellent chance to be the Democratic challenger in ‘04 - I guess we’ll see.


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Dean, the frontrunner


I caught the tail end of the “McLaughlin Group” (sorry, no specific link for this week’s episode was up when I posted this) over the weekend, and one of their segments was on Howard Dean and his fundraising success. The panel still put his chances at capturing the nomination at somewhere between slim and none.

They may be the pinnacle of political expertise, but they are wrong.

Two months ago, I wrote a “horse-race” column that put Howard Dean’s odds at the Democratic nod even with John Kerry’s. After the past few weeks (and despite his lousy performances in interviews, especially the recent “Meet the Press” appearance), I think I have to put Dean in the driver’s seat. This Democratic contest for the nomination is not, and will not be, about issues, ultimately. It is about mood. And the Bush-bashing, anti-force, anti-conservatism, anti-paradigm shift after 9/11, pro-European, pro-big government wing of the Democrats - Dean’s “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” - will decide the nomination. When they speak of Dean (or Dennis Kucinich, for that matter), they exude energy. Those two candidates have captured the mood, to the exclusion of all the “establishment” campaigns.

Now, the big confrontation won’t come until Super Tuesday, but there will be some earlier shakeups, setting the pins for that day eight months ahead. I expect to see the best general election candidate, Joe Lieberman, drop out by this fall. John Edwards is almost certainly gone in a couple more months as well. Ditto Bob Graham. And as the Dean train chugs forward, Kucinich is going to get run over by those seeking to jump on the left’s potential winner.

Dean will win liberal Iowa and backyard New Hampshire, and that double-whammy will probably oust Dick Gephardt from the race. Kerry will carry the establishment torch to the South. Al Sharpton (and to a much lesser extent, Carole Mosely-Braun) will siphon off a fair share, maybe half, of African-American votes. That leaves Southern white women, Hispanics and non-movement blacks to decide between Dean and Kerry - two Northeastern liberals. Can you say, “low turnout”?

The result of this Southern brew is likely to be a fractious distribution of delegates. And while Kerry might well come out of that day’s voting with more delegates than Dean, he will have failed to stop Dean’s momentum, much less knock him out. Kerry’s got the money and backing to hang in there through March (probably), but the Midwestern and Western primaries look much more Dean-friendly. And again, I don’t think I can overstress the energy Dean brings to the campaign - an energy far more persuasive to angry liberals than concepts like “foreign-policy gravitas” or “electability.”

The caveats I placed in my earlier column - another terror attack, another hot war, an economic implosion - are not just potential wildcards, but actually would strengthen Dean who, despite his questionable positions, has set himself apart as the candidate of change amid a field of boring, stodgy establishment figures. Any new shocks to the political system will favor the candidate which energizes the hard-core base of his party. Among the Democrats, that candidate is Dean.

Interestingly, the rise of Dean virtually assures that Hillary Clinton will not enter the race. She would undoubtedly win the nomination, but the tenor of this Democratic campaign has changed from pragmatism and ideas to mood and energy - raw meat over a balanced meal. When the general election comes, the Democrats will be at a heavy disadvantage on that front. Most Americans may not agree with Bush’s “ideas” and “plans” and “choices,” but they trust his leadership and they like him. In the battleground of emotions nationally, positive feelings toward President Bush far outweigh the negative. In an issue-less, emotionally-oriented campaign, Bush wins hands-down. Hillary is a savvy enough political mind to realize this and avoid the taint of a loss.

The only hope the Democrats really had was to turn national attention away from the “feelings” brought on by 9/11 and Bush’s response (still ongoing), and return to the hard facts of daily life: a slow economy, exploding health care costs, state budget troubles, etc. Admittedly, even if they could succeed, this would be an uphill battle - but a battle nonetheless.

Instead, the Dems are well on their way to a “popularity contest,” and Dean (and frankly, the rest of the Dem field, announced or rumored) has ZERO chance winning one of those against a 60-percent-approval-rating president.


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