Every time one of the Democratic candidates seems to get “the momentum” after a spate of contests, they lose it the next go-around. Could their foibles and scandals really be so precisely timed as to take the wind out of their campaign precisely after it seemed like it was gaining strength?
Philosophically, I’m a Taoist. Taoism believes that everything in the universe is in constant flux. Things ebb and flow, wax and wane, increase and decrease, with regularity. As soon as things seem the most awful, they get better; as soon as things hit a peak, they slip. So it seems like the rising and falling fortunes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on this neverending campaign for the Democratic nomination don’t have any end in sight.
There is something either about the way campaigns continually fine-tune where concessions to voter groups and concerns each give and take market share towards a 50:50 stalemate. I’ve heard the US electoral system described as similar to a parliamentary system, except coalition building is done before the election rather than after. This would seem to explain candidates constantly courting new groups, and why we all seem to have some reason to get pissed off at a candidate (we gays got pissed off when Obama brought some homophobe on a campaign tour last year, but by doing so, he probably gained enough additional votes among gay-hating black bible-thumpers to offset those gays who defected).
I have another theory, which I feel is equally valid. Americans are stubborn and hate to be told their decision is a foregone conclusion. There is something about a candidate enjoying the lead that makes part of us root for the underdog. No sooner do pundits proclaim a candidate as having “unstoppable momentum” than voters suddenly find renewed interest in the other guy/gal. There is a tipping point at which people do throw their weight behind the front-runner, but that’s only when people really do collectively agree that the contest is over (or they’re bored and want to move on). Before that, though, each surge seems to immediately sap its own strength.
All of this seems to explain why Americans are always split 50-50 on everything; there are a few things going on that reinforce an equilibrium in the political sphere, that always guarantee that half of us are pissed off at the way things are going. I find it somewhat amusing that Hillary and Obama are neck-and-neck, and equal numbers of Obama and Hillary supporters say they’d rather vote for McCain than the other Democratic nominee should the candidate they support not win the nomination (let’s hope they’re bluffing, something entirely plausible considering how childishly pouty a people we are).
The only thing I find reassuring about this is that, at least, an anti-Christ or modern-day Hitler will never drum up enough support in this country. We are never of one mind, and truly resist efforts to comply with conventional wisdom. There is something genuinely, if oddly, reassuring about that, even if the relentless bickering can sometimes wear on your nerves.