The Spectacle Blog

Sentiment Over Substance

By on 1.3.08 | 10:34PM

Tonight is a sad one for America. It marks the triumph of sentiment over substance. Mike Huckabee's speech was nothing but empty platitudes. Obama's is not much better. Again, this is a comment on their substance, or lack thereof. On an emotional level, they connect with people. Their tone is right. That's why all year long I have warned people to watch Huckabee -- because I knew he was a threat to win the nomination. But if he does, Susan Estrich is right: The Democrats will be dancing on inauguration night, because they will make mincemeat of this unethical, insubstantial, unconservative rube from Hope, Arkansas. Of course, it also shows that the people of Iowa aren't serious about electing a president; they are serious only about "sending a message" about the tone of politics. That message is a correct one -- the tone does need to improve -- but the inexperienced and unaccomplished Obama (what, pray tell, has he actually ever achieved as a legislator?) and the money-grubbing, parochial governor full of more demagoguery than of knowledge are NOT, repeat NOT, men who have any business sniffing the Oval Office. Men of substance such as Joe Biden on the left and Thompson and Giuliani and Hunter and Romney on the right have, for this night at least, been overwhelmed by empty rhetoric. (And not JUST empty rhetoric: In Huck's case, there has been a nasty undercurrent of anti-Mormon bigotry, of sneaky and snarky negative attacks while disavowing the same, and of too-clever use of religious symbolism that together all amount to demagoguery.)

One other thing: It also shows that the American people have no idea how good their lives are. The strong response to economic grievance-mongering shows that people who are incredibly wealthy by every historical standard are somehow convinced they are barely making ends meet -- barely making ends meet while their families have two cars, three TVs, four cell phones, and untold numbers of other gadgets in homes they themselves own. There is a word for this: spoiled. Huckabee and Obama are smart enough to appeal to the spoiled Americans who have no idea what real hardship is.

A word of warning, though: If people think that with Mike Huckabee they are getting good "values" and "authenticity," they are wrong. Huck fakes good values really well. Leading conservatives from Rush Limbaugh to George Will to Peggy Noonan have figured this out already. When the mainstream media begins proving it after Huck wins the nomination (if he wins), the man will be one flattened huckster.

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