Paul Greenberg

Now that that the smoke has cleared to reveal more smoke, here's what happened on the Democratic side in New Hampshire's presidential primary:

The candidate who's Ready for Change, meaning her chief rival isn't, but who used to be the candidate with the experience to do the job from Day One, has edged out the candidate who's for Change You Can Believe In, meaning his rivals aren't to be believed. He used to be the candidate of Hope, or maybe Audacity, but that was long ago - whole days or even weeks. Which might as well be years at the pace this race for the presidential nomination is going. (Things are moving at avalanche speed this election year, leaving behind similar disorder.)

John Edwards is still in the Democratic mix, just barely, but Joe Biden isn't, but you can bet that somewhere he's talking and talking, talking, talking while among the GOP also-rans, Ron Paul keeps illustrating the persistence of Coin Harvey's wacky economic theories in American history and populism. (Or do I repeat myself?) Not that Mike Huckabee, with his not so Fair Tax, is any sounder when it comes to tax policy. No wonder so many Americans believe in divine Providence; it's pretty clear from our leading politicians that we can't save ourselves.

What was the significance, if any, of this whole New Hampshire blur? I have no idea, and I'm not sure it matters. Because the more things change, the more confusingly the same they remain. To quote the National Review's delightful, insightful, playful, sorrowful Mark Steyn, the Democrats, for all their leaders' endless talk about change, "are the party of stasis: On affirmative action, there can be no change; on abortion absolutism, there can be no change; even on a less cobwebbed shibboleth such as the Iraq War, there can be no change - they've booked the band and caterers for the Big Defeat Parade and no matter what happens on the ground in Baghdad and Anbar they're not going to change their plans."

On to South Carolina! Or maybe Michigan or Nevada, and does it matter? It's going to be a long, long campaign jammed into the few short, short weeks before Super (Duper) Tuesday on February 5. Here's hoping this is the last front-loaded, backfiring, over-before-February-is, just plain awful nominating system the country will tolerate. It pretty well cuts out the whole deliberative process, what there was of it when it came to nominating a president.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.