The Iowa caucus victories by Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee Thursday night were also stunning defeats for the status quo in American politics. Angry voters sent a strong message that they are mad as hell and they ain’t gonna take it any more.
Democratic caucus attendees told Hillary Rodham Clinton that America doesn’t need four years of her kind of politics. She finished well behind Obama and a close third to John Edwards, a slick trial lawyer with an anti-corporate greed platform.
Clinton, in many ways, is both the face of the status quo and a poster girl for corporate greed. Her campaign is funded in large part by big business.
On the Republican side, one-time GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney also represented the face of corporate America and he dumped millions of his own money into a do or die effort in Iowa. Republican straw voters said no dice and went with Huckabee, who emerged from the second tier of candidates to crush Romney.
In their victory speeches, Obama and Huckabee sounded similar themes: Unity, not division; coalitions not partisanship and America, not political parties.
Obama noted that his victory, built on a coalition of Democrats and young independents, showed that there are no more red or blue states but, instead, “the United States of America.”
You know, they said this day would not come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned, to ever come together. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.
Huckabee noted that his victory showed his opponent that attack politics doesn’t work in Iowa and he predicted it wouldn’t work elsewhere.
Tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics. And tonight it starts here in Iowa, but it doesn’t end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The victories by Obama and Huckabee left the campaigns of Clinton and Romney, once hailed as well-oiled machines, in disarray. A subdued Clinton met her supporters and promised she was in the race for the long haul but muted applause and a dour Bill Clinton standing silent behind her sent a more downbeat message. Romney, invoking Olympic metaphors, said he had one the silver but would go “for the gold” in New Hampshire.
By contrast, Obama’s victory speech came amid loud cheers with all the trappings of an old-time revival, eclipsing even the evangelical style of former Southern Baptist preacher Huckabee.
Voters in Iowa reminded America Thursday night that pundits, politicians and talking heads don’t select Presidential candidates.
That privilege still belongs to those who vote and the record numbers who took part in the process in the frozen tundra of Iowa told us that this Presidential election year will not be business as usual.