Camp Connell, Ca.-- Thomas Paine recommended a revolution every generation or so, and Thomas Jefferson thought that was an idea with merit.
Maybe 2008 is the year in which their dreams will be realized.
The presidential election of 2008 is already one of the most fascinating in the past 50 years, and it isn’t even decided (at the point I am writing this) who the candidates will be.
But we’re pretty sure it will not be Ron Paul, whoever he is, and he will not be able to pull a Ralph Nader and influence the final outcome. That’s encouraging.
Parties losing clout
And the political parties today seem to be less significant than in any election in recent memory. The party faithful are a shrinking minority in America, as more and more people declare their independence from partisan politics and look to candidates for answers to the questions we have not faced: war, health care, the influence of the rich, and foreign policy that breeds enemies among our friends and terrorists among our enemies.
No matter who the political parties select at their nominating conventions this year, three of the top four candidates today are serious people whom America has never given serious consideration to before:
-- Mitt Romney, the current favorite of the GOP right wing, is a Mormon. While America has always pretended religion doesn’t matter in politics, it always has mattered in the past. If he should revive his campaign and manage to survive the selection process, he will present a real test of American’s tolerance of religious freedom. No one talks about it publicly, but a some voters worry that the beliefs of the Church of Latter Day Saints is a little too weird for them. The anti-Catholic sentiments did not defeat John F. Kennedy, but it cost him votes. Ultimately, it is not Romney's religion that seems to turn people away, but his conservative positions that are not in synch with most middle-of-the-road voters.
-- Hillary Clinton, if you haven’t noticed, is a woman. She is taken seriously by almost everyone involved: Democrats because some see her as the best hope for victory and Republicans because they see her as the easiest to run against. The anti-Clinton and antifeminist sentiments will certainly cost her votes, but she has shown political savvy that could carry the day. Never underestimate Ms. Clinton, nor the right wing’s hatred of her.
-- Barack Obama, most Americans concede, is an African-American. He is taken seriously by supporters and opponents, though critics will nit-pick the details of his background and a few remaining racial troglodytes will never vote for any person of color. Most of us don’t care what he looks like, so long as he is a decent and intelligent person.
The fourth serious candidate at this writing is John McCain, a bona fide war hero and the likeliest GOP nominee after a near miraculous revival, who supports an extremely unpopular and expensive war. McCain seems to survive because voters believe he is sincere even when they disagree with many of his positions on issues. He doesn't represent change, but he could turn out to be the stealth candidate just because he seems likable. Remember, we liked Ike a few generations ago even when he promised not to do much.
Times, they are changing...
No matter who eventually wins the nominations and this election, America is headed for significant change at the top. None of the top candidates seem to admire George W. Bush's style or friends, and most are running as the anti-Bush.
Anything can happen in a presidential campaign, but the odds are that a Democrat will be the next president simply based on the “anybody-but-Bush-and-Republicans” voters, who seem to grow in numbers daily as jobs disappear, the stock market stays in the tank, and the body bags keep coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
With record deficits, long-term denial of global warming dangers, and padding the pockets of the mega-rich oil barons and others, the GOP has an uphill battle not unlike that of the Herbert Hoover supporters who tried to assure our parents the great Depression wasn’t really so bad, and if we’d just give the industrialists more leeway everything would trickle down to our benefit. Yeah, right.
But even entrenched GOP party folk recognize the country is ready for change, and they are eager to look like the instruments of that change.
The great thing about this Democracy is that no one knows what will happen, except that the majority will rule. Probably.
Then there is always the possibility of a modern American revolution.
(Sanders LaMont is a retired journalist, former editor of three daily newspapers, and persistent voter in all elections, except primaries. He has been registered as an independent for 30 years, and regards most politicians and their parties with distrust. It’s the American way.)