Nearly a month ago I predicted that Hillary Clinton would come in third in the Iowa Primary. It was not an act of genius. (Although I am smarter than almost all of the so called political strategists who appear on cable shows and who say things like “Well, Hillary needs to tell people who she is” – I heard that one yesterday. Duh). Anyway, it doesn’t take any extraordinary talent to talk to people across the country (yes you do have to know people across the country, and you do have to care and listen to what they say) but from those 20 or 30 conversations (yes my poll was more anecdotal than analytical and far more telling), I knew that people felt that experience was what got us into the war, why politicians are evil, why real people can't pay for health insurance and kids are denied an education not dependent on getting "left behind". They are angry at the Democrats in Congress who they perceive as having done nothing over the last two years. They voted to change the Congress and had expectations that with the Democrats in charge things would be different or better – which they are not. Everything is pretty much the same. And you can blame the rules, the complexity of making things work, Joe Lieberman, whatever – but Newt Gingrich kicked ass when they tookover with their ‘Contract with America’. It was not my kind of change and I would have preferred a coup (maybe it was), but things certainly changed.
Most of my friends, and they are of both parties, don’t care that the ‘surge’ is working. There should never have been troops in Iraq that needed to be surged. They want our troops to come home. They want oil prices down, health costs affordable, not to have to make a choice between medication and feeding their kids. They want a government that helps them take care of an elderly loved one. They don’t think the economy is in such great shape—they are struggling to keep their homes and pay their mortgage. And yes, some of them did over extend themselves financially, but they wanted to pay for college for their kids as well as maybe go out to a movie or dinner on occasion.
Politicians who campaign using words like ‘experience,’ and then make a list of all the things they intend to do, (but never did), or who come 180 degrees around on issues, (this being part of their learning experience (yes every experience counts) or who think that they can modify their positions based on polls, must think the public is naïve or even stupid. People want change and they want to feel hopeful. Sure, we can use any words we want and have our rhetoric considered religious or flowery, or now we are using words like genuine or authentic, but meanings are in people—not in words. When a politician talks to a voter they have an agenda—to get elected. When a voter listens to the political schpiel, they also have an agenda – to find a way to make their lives better. What happened in Iowa was that the voters felt neither hopeful not authentic about Clinton (one on one). They liked Edwards – probably Elizabeth more than John – but they are not sure he’s an agent for change.
The Republican vote is easy to understand in the same way. They felt that Willard (Mitt –think about what we could do with that in a counter events operation) was neither reliable or trustworthy, and they felt that old “Law and Order” Fred should be given another chance.
People don’t know much about Mike or Obama, but these two genuinely authentic, good speakers made them feel hopeful and that the likelihood for change is a possibility. All this may be different in NH. It is a Primary not a Caucus so there will be less personal interaction among voters (if you saw the CSpan live cam from the a Des Moines caucus site, you will appreciate how fascinating the voter / voter interaction was) – though they’ll still have the candidates to look over. And people who are infirmed or in the military will be able to vote as absentee, but do we all think that voters in New Hampshire have different priorities than voters in Iowa? They may, but based on my anecdotal survey of mostly women, who we agree are varied and complex, women have similar priorities that usually revolve around issues that concern their families—including economic opportunity, health, education, and safety. This last category is especially important because here we not only deal with international concerns like the war and non-state terrorism, we talk about internet predators, abusive spouses, and safe toys and food. As a matter of fact, I could make a pretty good case for all issues revolving around safety and I might suggest that this is not a bad place for a candidate to start if they are looking to be seen as real or valid with a skeptical voting public.
Interest in the election is at an all time high. This is a very positive turn of events. It is always better when more people feel that voting is their civic duty and can help to make for a better country. The caveat is that Iowa and New Hampshire are small states where the vote is often based on personal contact with the candidates. Because of the number (that National Primary was a terrible mistake), and size of the states participating in the electoral process after the 29th (when Guiliani rears his ugly face --and I mean that in the kindest possible way), people may lose interest and once again, a total of 73 people will elect the ‘leader’ (oh if only it were true), of this great nation. We’re just sayin… Iris