For those that have been around me for the last four or five months, it is clear to see two things:
- The original slate of Democratic candidates for president was as strong as the Republicans’ was weak.
- Barack Obama is clearly the best candidate (though I still have a soft spot for John Edwards).
This has remained unchanged, even as we have whittled the candidates down to four.
At the same time, something else has transpired: those inevitable discussions of inevitability.
You know the ones.
The book on the Democrats is that they have two perpetual “problems”, as the conventional wisdom suggests:
- The coalition of constituents is too broad and will inevitably break down.
- The party, regardless of the quality of the candidate, will find a way to lose/blow its lead/self-destruct, etc..
Clearly, both of these “wisdoms” are ridiculous and unscientific. I will briefly address the former, but my main interest is in the latter—and you will soon see why.
The “too” broad coalition is made up of women, racial minorities, homosexuals, the wealthy, the middle-class, the poor, workers, unions, teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, Vatican II Catholics, Mainline Protestants, the college educated, the greens, and internationalists, whereas the Republicans have made their bed with CEOs, Xenephobes, and fundamentalists. Our diversity is clearly an asset. Neither of these camps could properly be described as homogeneous. The difference is this: the Republican Party has built two things up in place of homogeneity: K-Street and the simple message that taxes are to be seen with the same condemnation they reserve for abortion (and ‘the gays’). That’s it. The heart of the Republican message is that taxes and health care are evil. The ‘fracturous’ Democratic Party is not too broad a coalition—it is not allowed to stay on message the way Republicans are.
Now the other.
The Democrats didn’t blow the 2000 and 2004 elections any more than they won 1992 and 1996. The party is not wholly responsible for one candidate’s victory and another’s defeat. The fact is that Bill Clinton was a savvy campaigner despite his staff. Al Gore had the world’s dumbest staff (the Clintonistas) many of which also served on John Kerry’s staff. They encouraged a platform of playing not to lose. It’s like this (beware the sports metaphor): You take a three point lead into halftime and come out in the second half in your “prevent” defense*. It’s your own fault that you lose!
[*a prevent defense allows the opposing offense to move the ball freely without giving up a big play—fine with 30 seconds left in the game and 80 yards to defend, but horrible at ANY other time in the game. It is the ultimate playing-not-to-lose play.]
Besides, the Democrats didn’t ‘lose’ those elections any more than the Republicans ‘won’ them (remember
But look at this campaign season. Think about the two top Democrats. Think about Senator Clinton’s drop from favorite to also-ran. Think about former Pres. Clinton’s remarks about Obama in January. Look at the desperate attempts to erode support for Sen. Obama. Think about the reports we hear from the Clinton Camp in which they “really don’t trust him” and think that he is a “stuffed shirt without substance”. Remember what I said about the
My fear isn’t that “the Democrats will blow it” but rather that this one group of Democrats, that served as outsiders and new blood in 1992 have over-indulged on the red Kool-aid and are about to play the spoiler role in this election. Who cares about Ralph Nader, hanging chads, and Republicans counting ballots, Sen. Hillary Clinton can easily make it so that a Democrat will not win the 2008 election. The more desperate she becomes, the more her aging Baby Boomer old guard lob live grenades at the Obama camp, the more likely the election devolves into a morass that looks more like the Iraqi “election” than 1996’s (the last seemingly ‘clean’ one).
With the presumptive candidates as Senators Obama and McCain, we have the opportunity for the first substantive, issues-oriented, hopeful, and unifying election in decades. Sen. Clinton, please don’t destroy it like a suicide bomber.