Jonathan Schell on the old order slipping away
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Jonathan, Super Tuesday has come and gone. From what happened last night, do you see any emerging trends or patterns that we should be looking at?
JONATHAN SCHELL, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, I think it was pretty interesting. Super Tuesday on the Republican side certainly put McCain in the front of the race, as everybody says. I have nothing to add to that. On the Democratic side, it’s produced a dead heat, and that’s pretty much the conventional wisdom too. Beyond that, in terms of predictions, I wouldn’t hazard any, because I’d just wind up making a fool of myself as so many pundits have done over the last several weeks. Nevertheless, I think some interesting things have appeared here. You know, Super Tuesday was in a certain way followed by flat Wednesday. Everybody thought that things were going to be all wrapped up, and that might be nearing the case on the Republican side, but certainly is not the case on the Democratic side. But I think what we do see is the disintegration of some old patterns of political life that have been really ruling our country for the last eight years at the very least, and maybe even going back several decades. But what’s not clear yet is what new patterns may be emerging, although there are some interesting hints.
NKWETA: On the Democratic side, did you see anything that you haven’t seen before in terms of support for specific candidates in different parts of the country?
SCHELL: Well, it’s pretty interesting if you look at the exit poll results for Hillary and for Obama. It’s turned out that some rather surprising coalitions have developed. For instance, on the Obama side you have strong support among African-Americans and also among white men. Now that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that combination, I think. And then you throw in young votes. So it’s just something new and something fresh. Or if you look on Hillary Clinton’s side, you see strong support among women and among poorer white people and Latinos. Once again, it’s hard to know what it all means, but certainly these are divisions of some different kinds. Or look at the geographical map. It turned out that Hillary really won on the two coasts, which are often in sort of classic iconography or stereotype are rather the more liberal part of the country, while the center is thought to be more conservative; and yet it was Hillary—who is probably a shade less liberal, in some sense, than Obama—who cleaned up in California, New York, Massachusetts, and so forth, although Obama did win Connecticut. And Obama’s strength was in the center of the country. So, once again, it ran counter to stereotype and counter to cliché.
NKWETA: Now, John McCain is the front runner, but he didn’t win the traditional southern states. How do you see this affecting his campaign going forward? Or does this result give you an indication of anything different that we haven’t seen before?
SCHELL: Well, I think it does show something different. And the main thing it shows is the crackup of the Bush coalition. And that has been something that’s been taking shape for quite awhile, and the social conservatives on the one side and the economic conservatives, the business community on the other, and then finally the kind of super-hawks, the imperial hawks in regard to the Iraq war, and so on and so forth on the third side, if you will. And they’re all taking potshots at one another, and in fact, as everybody’s pointing out, an open insurrection among so-called conservatives, who are not conservative at all, of course—they’re really the radical right among the talk show hosts and so on, really leveling their fire at John McCain. And I think what stands behind that is that so many of the Bush policies have really in the eyes of the American public, or a majority, crashed and burned. Bush doesn’t get mentioned much in the Republican primaries. But the fact that they can’t salute him or mention him or praise him and have to go back to Teddy Roosevelt and so forth to find their predecessors or above all Ronald Reagan, really means that that whole formulation, that whole sort of crystallization of a certain polarized politics that we’ve lived in for eight years has really come to an end, and that Republicans are struggling, sort of, but without very notable success so far, to put together some new coalition that their party can get behind.
NKWETA: Anything we should be keeping our eyes on in the campaign going forward?
SCHELL: Well, once again, I think on the Democratic side it’s rather the most interesting, although quite frankly in the Democratic Party the people kind of hid their will, you might say. The people in a certain sense went into hiding, and it’s in the sense that they gave no clear verdict. And even the patterns of voting, as I say, are only now appearing to take shape. I think, if I may use a very familiar word, that we are unquestionably in a moment of very, very deep flux, or to use the cliché word change, at present, and an old order is sort of slipping away. And yet it’s by no means clear on the Democratic side what new offering is being put in place there.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.