Here we go people: It might not be all the marbles yet, but today our brothers and sisters in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island are picking one future President and three future Trivial Pursuit answers. Who that will be won’t be settled until November, but it’s going to be much clearer after tonight.
The hardhat and Velveeta circuit has long been a linchpin of the U.S. Presidential campaign. Any candidate who wants the White House has had to spend due quality time on the hustings breaking bread with the clockpunchers across the American Rust Belt. The fact that George Bush looked more at home eating a chili dog in a cafeteria in industrial Youngstown than the seemingly to the manor born Al Gore and John Kerrey didn’t help the Democrats’ chances in the essential Buckeye State in 2000 and 2004.
For all his lip-biting and feeling their pain, and as much as propsperity abounded in the storied 1990s, there was a suspicion that Bill Clinton (and by extension, Hillary) weren’t the best friends of the corn dog and Marlboro crowd, and Hillary still has much explaining to do about how she fought the good fight in the press for Bill while he worked long into the night in 1993 to create H. Ross Perot’s giant sucking sound that would drain the manufacturing jobs right out of Ohio.
Leading into the 1996 election, when Bill Clinton was crowing about the bounty of jobs his 1993 budget and NAFTA had created, “I know”, said one apocryphal hardscrabble worker, ostensibly to the national news, though no one ever saw him. “My wife and I have six of them.”
Over a decade later, things still aren’t any easier for the country’s blue collar and working poor. It’s already the economy stupid, but in Ohio–which has had the double whammy of the NAFTA job drain and the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, with people having to take jobs and shop at Wal-Mart just to make ends meet–it’s more like the stupid fucking economy. Stupid.
It’s curious, then, that it’s the American Working Stiffs who could bail Hillary out tonight and reverse Barack’s freightliner momentum. She’s talked a good game and she’s still holding a narrow lead over Obama going into Game Day. It doesn’t hurt that the chain saw she’s been frantically waving the last several days finally caught some of Obama’s flesh with this apparent wink and a slap on the back he offered to the Canadian government that all that talk at last week’s debate about pulling out of NAFTA was just political talk and they didn’t have a thing to worry about. Further, he’s in the delicate position of backtracking on his claim that no meeting took place, when a memo was released saying that someone on his staff did indeed meet with a Canadian emissary. He’s playing the loose-cannon/I-don’t-know-what-my-kids-are-doing-all-the-time card. But in an election this close and a state where too much of the workforce has generic mac-and-cheese as the base of their food pyramid, it’s that niggling doubt that you’re really on the side of the monied interests that can make an election swing faster than George Michael.
This year in Ohio, it’s all about who’s going to bring the bigger goodie bag after January 20, 2009 (since it’s certainly not going to happen before with a President who thinks he can resurrect the economy if everyone goes out and buys a new car stereo, and who spends so much time thinking about rising gas prices, he said last Friday at the prospect of $4 a gallon gasoline, “Really? I didn’t realize that.”).
John McCain has already let the cat out of the bag and said that manufacturing jobs won’t be coming back. And they certainly won’t under a McCain Administration, unless he can convince Ford and GM to take their shuttered and languishing plants and go hybrid. That seems particularly unlikely, though, given his recent 0 out of 100 rating on the League Of Conservation Voters Scorecard.
A smart candidate would be about taking all of the closed auto plants and turning them into a chain of Industrial Decay Theme Parks.
Hillary and Barack are falling all over themselves to propound a menu of revuvenating “green-collar” manufacturing that will revitalize the area, put everyone back to work, and save the planet.
Green, yellow, blue, or red, though. In the end, it doesn’t matter what collar, just as long as it pays more than $7.15 an hour and you don’t have to wear a blue greeter smock with a yellow smiley face.
RED HERRING PHONE: There was all kinds of back-and-forth about Hillary’s “fear” ad against Barack Obama that launched Friday, which portended a dark night while America’s children were sleeping and the White House phone was ringing, and who did Americans want to answer that call–a tested, experienced leader who knows the world’s military leaders and has been through the pressure cooker, or a kid from Chicago who gives beautiful speeches but has never had to throw down in the rough-and-tumble of international politics in the most volatile climate the world has ever known.I heard the joke at least three times Monday, and there will be many vying to claim ownership, but for the record, I did hear it first on the well-meaning but dishwater-bland (and blandly-named) Bill Press Show on Air America yesterday morning, at 5:05 AM, where one of his minions noted of the commercial that the phone rings at least six times–don’t you want a leader who’s going to answer the red phone at least on the first or second ring? (It’s probably not a coincidence that the bit was picked up less than 40 minutes later on MSNBC’s Morning Joe by Mike Barnicle, who has in the past proven he can’t be trusted around someone else’s clever material).
A listener on Randi Rhoads this afternoon noted that this commercial was the best argument against 71-year-old John McCain, as would be apparent to anyone who has ever called an aged parent in the middle of the night and spent the first five minutes just trying to make them aware of who was calling.
SUPER TUESDAY DRINKING GAME: Sit down in front of the network of your choice, with a bowl of popcorn and a huge stein of brau, and take a drink every time Major Garrett, Candy Crowley, or David Shuster says “Texas Two-Step” in reference to the Lone Star State’s complicated dual caucus-primary system, and how many times during his victory speech John McCain says “my friends”. Small sips, though: It’s going to be a long night.