Obama and Huckabee breathe life into stale political sceneBy the time many of you read this, the race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination may well be over. As I write Sunday night we’re several days removed from Sen. Barack Obama’s stunning 10-point trouncing of presumed frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton at the Iowa Caucuses, and we’re two days away from what appears more and more like an Obama cakewalk in New Hampshire.
Obama, who trailed Clinton by12-15 points in New Hampshire as late as last week, opened up a double digit lead over Clinton and John Edwards seemingly as soon as he touched down in the Granite State. And while the country focuses on the energetic and magnetic Beltway newcomer hailing from Illinois, the Republican race is wider than ever after Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s surprising Iowa win.
While driving around town last week, I decided to take a break from the iPod (still suffering some separation anxiety from lack of Soulja Boy) and checking on what the conservative talking heads had to say about Iowa and the state of the Presidential contest.
I spent the better part of a day listening to KVI and “The Truth”, contemplating the pearls of wisdom offered by several different hosts, both local and national.
The conversation was dominated by the victories of Huckabee and Obama. Several points were consistently discussed by the right leaning analysts. First, the commentators were effusive in their back-patting about what Obama’s win showed about the “tolerance” of our country.
The typical line went something like this: “I may not agree with Obama’s policies, but it sure says a lot about how far we’ve come if a black man with a name like ‘Barack Hussein Obama’ can win the approval of a state that is 98 percent white.’” We’ll get back to this in a second.
In regard to Huckabee, the self-titled “Christian leader” from Hope, Ark. (Yes, the same Hope, Ark. that gave us Bill Clinton) the commentators seemed to steer credit for Huck’s win away from the large number of born-again Christians in the Iowa Republican caucus and more towards Huckabee’s ambitious “Fair Tax” plan that would dissolve the IRS and institute a 24 percent Federal Sales tax.
Last month, several political websites circulated a memo reportedly issued by the DNC stating that the national Dems were to avoid any negative talk in regard to the Huckabee campaign.
A Huckabee nomination, the memo deduced, would result in a cakewalk for any of their Big Three candidates come November.
It’s almost too easy to dismiss Huckabee. Last week, when asked what the U.S. should do in response to the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, Huckabee stated that we should build a fence between America and Mexico (?).
This is not the first puzzling statement from the personable Southern Governor. This is the same man who has stated his belief that the earth is no more than 6,000 years old and that abortion is the driving force behind our nation’s need to import low-wage labor from Mexico.
It’s head-scratchers like these that make it easy to see why the talking heads want to steer conversation towards a tax plan that abolishes the hated IRS.
The plan (originally designed a decade earlier by a Texas think-tank) calls for the abolition of federal income tax to be replaced by consumption taxes collected by the states and forwarded to the Feds. Huckabee says the system would insure a fair, equitable and fiscally sustainable tax system that would allow Americans to take home 100 percent of their paychecks.
It all sounds good until upon further examination it becomes clear that the plan ain’t that “fair” if you’re not already rich. Let’s just put it this way economists at the Brookings Institute predict the Fair Tax plan would initially require a Federal sales tax of 39 percent, which would create a 47 percent sales tax for Washington state residents. Ouch.
After writing the last few paragraphs, I realize that I too may have fallen into the trap. Originally, this column was supposed to be a little more about Obama and a little less about the Huckster. I don’t have enough column inches to get into the discussion I had in mind, so we’ll save it for the OtR blog or for a future column.
A quick preview though: Is it in any wonder that conservatives are going out of their way to speak on the racial “progress” Obama’s victory entails? Or is this a thinly veiled attempt to make Obama’s run about race instead of hope, change or whatever other platform he wishes to run on. Because while Obama’s father is Kenyan, his mother (who raised him in his father’s absence) is a white lady from Kansas. So is it really that surprising that a white, Christian, Harvard graduate won the Democratic Caucuses in Iowa, and later the New Hampshire primary, or does that story line just not illustrate enough progress?
Now, I’m not one of those people who are naïve enough to say something so imbecilic as “I don’t see color, just the person,” but it seems like the real progress will be made when back-pats won’t be appropriate when somebody with a little bit of pigment inspires the confidence of voters. But that’s a story for another week.
Kevin Hulten is the former Managing Editor of the Lake Stevens Journal and maintains the Off the Record blog. He is happily married and is the proud parent of fourteen adopted children and three ferrets.