It is hard to predict how the Democratic contest will end after Iowa. Is Howard Dean out of the game? Perhaps, but voters can surprise. The idea of electability certainly has certainly come to the fore, but I'm not certain we really know what it takes to be a winner yet. Dean's position is that warmed over neo-whatever is not the way to go. Many of his opponents represent just that, presumably safer bets, more comfortable old shoes. Perhaps that is the only thing that Americans might buy which, given where it has led us, is pretty depressing.
Meanwhile, George Bush's performance on Tuesday night reminded me how silly and staged our State of the Union speeches have become regardless of who is President. Clinton was no better also using those human props in the peanut gallery to signal yet another mindless breakout of applause and leaping to the feet. Well our public officials do need some exercise.
Bush's speech also reminded me of why I still hope for a Dean victory and would settle for most of the others, save Joe Lieberman. What stuck me in particular, and what was most offensive, was the religious coda in which the President appealed to his core constituency with a series of statements that to my mind had prejudicial overtones. Invoking the sanctity of marriage (code words quickly understood), he made short shrift of the deviant sinning same sex partners and offered a paternalistic hand to the unmarried poor (guess what color they are) who so notoriously avoid tying the knot with God's blessing. Echoing Nancy Reagan, he seems to think that the ultimate solution to AIDS is to "just say no." And what if you can't or don't want to? Finally another passionate plea for funding faith-based organizations, his continuing effort the subvert separation of Church and State. I don't remember the Supreme Court appointing George W. Bush as my pastor and frankly don't look for spiritual guidance from people like Rick Santorum or any other elected official for that matter. Don't get me wrong, I respect their individual faith and the conviction that goes with it, but not their imposition of it on others.
This year is going to be a real test for America. Let's hope we don't face another election in which most people sit at home voting there for none of the above. I'm not sure we can afford it, nor do I think can the world.