RotN on the Campaign Trail
Peter Benjamin Johnson
Democratic Correspondent


Super Tuesday is a week away and I'm in Wherethefuck, Missouri, recovering from all the action.

I've seen more states in the past two weeks than some proud Americans see in their lifetimes. Twenty-four states are having voting contests on Tuesday — which, for those of you keeping score at home, is nearly half of the states in the Union. More than half the delegates that any one Democratic candidate needs to secure the nomination will be given out. Next week we could have a good idea of which candidate is going to be fighting the Party in Seat and which candidates are going to be receiving the long, throbbing shaft of American politics.

Clinton's in Florida, looking to parley some kind of favor with the other state that the DNC gave a big “fuck you,” and Obama's in Kansas City, riding high on his endorsement from Ted Kennedy. Edwards is in Minnesota somewhere, but the maelstrom of celebrity and controversy that has attached itself to the Clinton-Obama rivalry has whipped him away like a fart in a thunderstorm. Somewhere beneath that well-coiffed hair of his the most reptilian parts of his political brain are slithering back and forth and whispering words like “endorsement” and “vice presidency.” His campaign of fighting poverty and reconciling the “Two Americas” has been lost to the noise of Clinton-Obama battle being waged in the steel cage of middle America. Put on your foam fingers, raise your signboards, and call your bets — somebody is going down.

* * *

It's hard to say exactly when Clinton and Obama decided to hate one another. Perhaps it was when his people jumped on the flap she made about Martin Luther King's legacy, or maybe it was when her husband started campaigning with (for?) her. Last night's State of the Union address, however, made it clear that they're not on friendly terms.

The State of the Union address is a strange ride. Imagine all the biggest, meanest, angriest dogs you can. Underfed rottweilers, beaten mastiffs, piss-poor pugs — a big frothing pile of them that want nothing more than to rip each other to shreds. Now imagine that you lock them all in one big cage, with shock collars attached to satellites and beamed to 20 million homes across the country, and make them play nice. It's something like that — cordial, courteous, and bubbling with decades' worth of hate right under the surface.

It was my first State of the Union and maybe my last, and I vowed to do it right-headed. This close to the mouth of the beast, you can't cower as it gapes open and ready to devour you; you can only stare it down, feign larger nuts, and say, “Open wide, Mr. President, and say ahh.” I defend my use of hallucinogens.

Before the speech began and the drugs kicked in, I spotted Clinton and Obama on the floor. They stood almost back to back, shaking hands with the other politicos and smiling shock-collar smiles, and they refused to even acknowledge each other. This couldn't have been a mistake; they were close enough together that one whiff could have picked up the scent of blood on the other's breath.

Hours later, coming down on the road to Missouri, this image came back to me. My eyes flashed up to the rearview mirror and there, in the back seat, Clinton and Obama continued their war against courtesy.

OBAMA: Didn't see you there.
CLINTON: I didn't see you either.
OBAMA: You are not worth acknowledging.
CLINTON: You are not worth acknowledging, either. Acknowledgment is reserved for those who are not trying to invade my plans.
OBAMA: Agreed.
CLINTON: This race belongs to me.
OBAMA: I am going to destroy you.
CLINTON: I am going to break you.
OBAMA: You are going to die some day.
CLINTON: Death is an inevitability of life.

I turned up the radio and tried to focus on the road. The rental car vibrated in my hands and the stars danced above the headlights.

* * *

Room service comes with my bourbon and cheap cut of beef and I give the waitress a generous tip: don't go into politics.

* * *

Sober again and free from the constant waves of paranoia, I take my respite with a grim smile and a shot. From here, I don't know where I'll go; either west to meet up with Obama or east to catch the Clinton campaign. There's a lot riding on the upcoming contests, for the candidates and for the country that we'll be living in a year from now.

There's a lot of race left, and it's still a long ride to the bottom.

-PBJ


Peter Benjamin Johnson is a student at the William Randolph Hearst Internet School of Journalism. He is covering the democratic candidates in the 2008 presidential election for Revenge of the News. Past editors have repeatedly called him both “difficult” and “tall.”