Super Tuesday: A Day Later

But, owing to the luck of time zones, one with a keen and patient eye could watch the election event known as “Super Tuesday” unfolds from east to west.

In the wake of De Venecia’s ouster, people here in the Philippines are more consumed by Czarina Arroyo’s next move—maybe against the Senate, maybe the media, or maybe the principal EDSA players.  Although they keep a keen eye out at US politics (there remains, after all, the old mentality of being the “52nd state”), not very many has shared the same passion and enthusiasm for the recent explosion of events.    The Superbowl, for example, while watched from sea to sea in the American country-continent, was given scrutiny only by sports aficionados, and even then, those who know American football.

But, owing to the luck of time zones, one with a keen and patient eye could watch the election event known as “Super Tuesday” unfolds from east to west.   A little backgrounder for those with little or no idea of this event: the American Presidential election has two primary stages: one, the selection of the nominees between the two rivaling parties—the Republican and the Democratic, and two, the election itself.  Now prior to the selection of the nominees is the nationwide voting of delegates.   Each US state has a delegate value, because, in the end, the people are not directly voting their nominees—they’re voting the delegates who will vote for the nominees.   Normally, states vote on separate dates for the delegates, but on special occasions as “Super Tuesday”, more than one or two states would participate in simultaneous vote.

 

Now, to the point: prior to Super Tuesday, there was euphoria among those who bagged initial victories.  Barack Obama, a Democratic candidate vying against Hillary Clinton, had wrestled two victories from her: one where he won, and in the other where she won, but he took the majority of delegates.    The drama centered on the wills of those two rivals, on one side.   

 

On the Republican side, McCain had secured easy victories against his primary opponents Huckabee and Romney, though the two had their share of state victories beforehand.    Romney set his sights on McCain, calling himself the “true conservative” that could defeat the latter, and the rivalry was really between the two of them.

 

Super Tuesday began. Huckabee pulled an initial victory, upsetting the careful predictions of the media, the pundits, and Romney.   Soon, it became apparent that the strong conservative states were going to Huckabee, and where there were battleground states, it was between him, and McCain.   Vindicated, he reached out to his supporters: “we were told that this race was a two-man race.   Well, it is.  And we’re in it.”    It was a slap at Romney’s face.  His campaign strategy backfired, and he alienated the Conservative vote.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama wrangled a few victories against Hillary, and won a majority of the lesser states.   She, however, secured victories in the key states of New Jersey, New York, California and—a blow considering the principal influential leaders supported Obama—Massachusetts, thus in the aftermath, gaining the majority of delegates.

But it is a long road ahead.  There are still more states left with their respective delegates.    Hillary Clinton, though she does have an edge in numbers, cannot as yet capitalize on that, as she still needs more than a thousand more delegates to win.    The same with John McCain, who met his match with the Conservative champion, Huckabee.

Forging New Strategies

What have we learned?  Romney made quick jibe on the fact that Huckabee had not carried any victory since Iowa, and scored a distant third on votes in the first states.   However, he made two mistakes: he underestimated the Iowa vote.   Though there was great media speculation on who would win that vote, Huckabee’s win was a shock to everyone.   He held the Conservative vote.   This should have been the warning sign to Romney.

 

Instead, he set his sights on McCain, who was clearly leading by victories in two states.   John McCain, for all his professions of being the champion of the Conservatives, doesn’t represent the Conservative vote.    Too liberal to be Conservative, too conservative to be Liberal, he represents the oft-forgotten Moderate vote.   These are the people who do believe in some form of welfare, and denounce Iraq, but do not adhere to the other central issues of divorce, abortion, gay marriages, etc.   They are morally Conservative, but they have leanings to the Liberals.   These were the ones that carried John McCain in his victories over the largely Democrat coastal states, and the largely Republican landlocked states.   When Romney challenged him, he was in fact vying for the Moderate vote.   But why would the Moderate vote go to him?

 

Huckabee, therefore, was a shoo-in for the Conservatives.   McCain’s “moderate” temperament was too much uncomfortable, seeing as the President himself has “moderate” leanings.   The Conservatives who rallied to Huckabee are those who believe that the miseries of the country are due to decline of morals, and a need for further “going back to roots”.   Romney still retains a lead over Huckabee, but if he does not shift his focus back to the appeal to Conservatives, and against Huckabee, he might not even have a chance to take McCain.

As for McCain, he is—though many people will disagree—the logical succession to George W. Bush.  It’s true.   His hard line tone on foreign policy and the economy seem echoes of the consistent Bush policy there.   He’s trying to win Conservative votes by these policies, but he has to also focus on the issue of “moral authority”, as he is facing off with, for lack of a more apt description, a man of God.   He can also relax some of his Conservative mantle, go back to Moderate temperament, and appeal to the Democratic vote through some form of welfare.  

 

Hillary Clinton was largely demonized by the media. Many hate her, because she represents the Clintonian legacy.   She does.   Her policies on State-provided Health Care, Stem Cell Research, and other points she hammered in her speech the night of the canvassing of votes were positions long held during the Clinton Presidency.    It even represents the core Democratic principles, that the Conservatives once rallied vehemently against in the 2004 elections, when in fear of Kerry’s support of same-sex marriages, the votes swung in Bush’s favor, conveniently ignoring Iraq.

As I explained before, she represents a Dynasty, and the old-school realpolitik, that her counterpart, John McCain, also uses.    They fear the old Democratic principles, those at least who remember Bill Clinton in a different light.    If Barack Obama wants to tackle with her, he must be willing to set his concrete set of issues, and not mere vague promises of an “idealistic change”.   He must prove to the nation that he, along with Hillary and McCain, can be firm in the way of foreign policy, and be more than the seeming underdog and “Executive lightweight”.   He’s an idealist.   But he hasn’t channeled his energies through enough.

 

If Super Tuesday meant anything, it was that George W. Bush polarized the country.   He represented the Moderate-Conservative vote, opting to alienate Republicans when he pressed for immigration reform, and alienating the Conservative vote by the scandals that rocked his Presidency (Iraq, lobbyists, Katrina).   As a consequence, the Moderates have weakened in influence, and the Democrats are entrenching in one side, on a hard-uncompromising stance, and the Conservatives entrenching on the other side, with a hard, uncompromising stance.   John McCain could bridge the divide, but then again, that’s why they hate him.

If Super Tuesday meant anything, it is that America has been gravely divided, and in the midst of civil war.   The battlefield: the precincts.   The weapon: the vote.