Bicycle Diaries: The NH Primaries

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10.1.08

The NH Primaries

boy...
were we all wrong!


This was everyone's assumption as to what the outcome would be, including Hillary and her erstwhile hubby. It was supposed to be her who, like Moses, would be forbidden by G-d to enter Zion. And Obama, filling in for Joshua, would waltz into the Land of Milk & Honey.

I'm borrowing the biblical metaphor in part because it's noticeably cropped up a number times in Obama's campaign speeches. Last March at the 45th Anniversary of the Selma Voting Rights March he referred to Dr. King and his followers as the Moses Generation.
I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation; but we've got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do. As great as Moses was, despite all that he did, leading a people out of bondage, he didn't cross over the river to see the Promised Land. God told him your job is done.

Obama then went on to declare that his generation; too young to have taken an active part in the early Civil Rights Movement, is ready to move forward.
The previous generation, the Moses generation, pointed the way. They took us 90% of the way there. We still got that 10% in order to cross over to the other side. So the question, I guess, that I have today is what's called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy; to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?
In my mind, The Joshua Generation is the more appealing face of The Jones Generation. As I've written before, all of us born between the 60s and X Generations have been waiting our turn to change the world. Although Obama is better known for successfully tapping into the youth vote I think he is trying to offer us Joneses the opportunity to become Joshuas.

Whether it works or not, Hillary is taking this challenge seriously. On the one hand, she's countered with her own offer to us Joneses based on her credentials as a bone fide representative of the 60s Generation. On the other, she's asserted that the Obama is no Joshua to Dr. King's Moses. In fact, it wasn't Dr. King who achieved the dreams of the Civil Rights Movement anyway. It was LBJ, who successfully passed the 1963 Voting Rights Act. And who better to be an LBJ (or perhaps a JFK) than Hillary?

Hillary's rhetorical jujitsu would be bad enough if it weren't for the strange feeling I'm getting that something very much like it has happened before. Jeff Greenfield, who writes for Slate, points to the aftermath of the 1984 New Hampshire Democratic Primary.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale went into the New Hampshire primary with the biggest lead in the polls of any nonincumbent ever; he left New Hampshire with a 10-point loss at the hands of Sen. Gary Hart's "New Ideas" campaign. The scent of the loser hung all over Mondale, and further losses in other New England states pointed to an imminent collapse.

But the very newness of Hart, and his scornful dismissal of Democrats' New Deal-Great Society heritage ("We're not a bunch of little Hubert Humphreys" he once said), gave Mondale the chance to rally traditional party constituencies. Black politicians in Alabama and Georgia gave him desperately needed victories. Big city machines and labor unions in Illinois and New York helped win him primaries that put him back on top.

Mondale struck gold during a March primary debate when, echoing a tagline from a popular ad of the day, he said to Hart, "When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that commercial: 'Where's the beef?' " And press scrutiny of the new guy revealed that Hart had fibbed about his age, and changed his name and even his handwriting. In the end, the combination of Mondale's appeal to the base and Hart's transformation from new to suspect proved the difference. (The next time he campaigned for the presidency, in 1988, Hart needed no help to self-destruct—reports of his affair with Donna Rice did the job.)

Greenfield suggests that this time around Hillary would do well to turn Obama, the agent of change, into the wet behind the ears whippersnapper who scorns the more mature, measured leadership she can provide the Democratic Party. Then all she has to do is wait for the media to zero in on their new target.

And I liked thinking of myself as a Joshua %(

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