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By Michael J. Smith on Sunday December 30, 2007 09:38 PM

A couple of days ago our pal Mike Flugennock passed along, with comment, a burbly column from Sam Smith (no realtion, as far as I know) arguing that an Edwards victory in Iowa (Iowa!) would be "the most significant progressive primary win since Eugene McCarthy got 41% of the vote in New Hampshire in 1968."

Y'know, that could even be true. And so what?

"Progressive" primary wins happen all the time. There was that chappie last year in Connecticut, for example -- what was his name? Cranston? Something like that?

Primaries really are the Grand Illusion of contemporary American politics. Somebody should write a critical history of this fiendish idea, a classic of political manipulation masquerading as democracy. (Of course we owe this bizarre scheme to the original Progressives, those goo-goo bureaucrats who absorbed and neutralized the last dying spasms of Populism, and used the impetus so gained to build a Chinese wall against any further recrudescence of the Populist impulse).

Primary elections are really runoff elections -- and in the case of Presidential primaries, an interminable series of runoff elections, one after the other, draining the process of any real meaning through sheer, numbing monotony, quite apart from the predictable institutional consequences. ("Lather, rinse, repeat until desired effect is achieved.")

Let's hop in the wayback machine and revisit... that snowy winter of 1968, in New Hampshire. McCarthy got the nod, LBJ bowed out -- which was, of course, delightful at the time -- and that little rat Bobby Kennedy moved in but was unexpectedly taken off the board by a wild-card intervention.

Then, of course, Hubert Humphrey got the nomination, on a somewhat Clintonesque "War? What war?" platform. And Nixon became our next President.

[Voice from the gallery]: So what's your point, Smith?

I guess it's something like this: Democratic primaries are a snare and a delusion. Once you start caring about them, it shows you've drunk the Kool-Aid. Mors in olla, vir Dei!

Comments (9)


father i think hits a kill spot here

the prog sublation of popular discontent
with pigeon feed
the late great mrs roosevelt
saw the same prog path to reform
thru the puralism and open flap
of the dembot circus tent

recall the barnum
"hustle the rubes out "

this way to the e-gress

this way to the people power booth
errrr primary booth

American politics is a grand illusion - the idea is to make the back room choices seem like popular ideas. The media plays a vital role, establishing "front runners" and ignoring the ones who might make trouble. Occasionally a true populist takes the lead and the media takes him out, ala Howard Dean.

Don't kid yourself. It will be Hillary. She doesn't threaten.


"Occasionally a true populist takes the lead and the media takes him out, ala Howard Dean. "

i might perk this up some

never confuse candidate targeted base speak
with inner soul
never conflate
apparent base target for real base target

howie was after
a " get clean with gene " type movement
updated to the millenium
this pied piper
of the democratic wing of the democratic party
turned out to be ....john lindsey II
the free thought
manhattan wasp career amateur pol
wing of the virtual party
of gentleman liberal america


"She doesn't threaten"
neither did fdr

we need to post something on this paragon
don't we ....

fdr :what was his greatness


FWIW I agree with Mark -- it will probably be Hillary, barring some wild unexpected event. The others are all fighting for the veep spot, and so it's their job to stroke and cajole the "base". Of course they'd also like to be poised in case of the wild unexpected event, too, even if they're not counting on it.


mother clinton

the dem dame nixon ???

or just another

big ed muskrat ???


Neither of the above, Owen -- just Bill Part Deux, I think.


bill part deux....

theres a freedon trail
in that father s

two stale slabs
of white bread

bush I and mother C

sand-witched in between ....

two slices
of cooked cold meat

ham boner bill
bologne the boy emperor

One other structural aspect of "primaries" needs a mention: They HUGELY multiply the paint-peeling financial expense of running for the neo-kingly office. Ergo, they are a very extreme but highly deniable (because of all the "campaigning") structural bias against the emergence of boys and/or girls of the people.

The "primaries" are, along with the Electoral College, the Senate, and the Presidency itself, institutionalized anti-democracy. As planned.

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