Thursday, August 14, 2003
Hitting The Wall
Candidates See Oklahoma Primary as Early Test of Electability
Former Vermont governor Howard Dean -- viewed as liberal here -- is also paying uncommon attention to the state, quickly following Lieberman's lead in bringing paid staff here. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Edwards plan to open Oklahoma offices in the next few weeks.
"Whoever comes out of here victorious will emerge as a strong general election candidate because -- more than some of the early liberal states -- we are more representative of the general electorate," said Rep. Brad Carson (Okla.), a Lieberman supporter and the only Democrat in Oklahoma's congressional delegation.
Can someone please remind this gentleman (and a whole bunch of other blinkered Democrats) that Al Gore ran to the left of the “leave-no-child-behind, middle-of-the-road, compassionate-conservative-uniter-not-divider” George W. Bush in 2000 and WON? And, between Al Gore and Ralph Nader, the hated and despised “liberals” beat George W. Bush by almost 3 MILLION votes?
This is not to say that the country is ready to blindly endorse the fondest wishes of the liberal wing of the Democratic party but, it does indicate that the “vital center” of this country is not personified by Oklahoma politics.
(I realize that being a hated “liberal” or even “Democrat” is totally uncool in 2003. When I read about the perfidy of the Democratic party as it behaves like a bitchy clique of shallow stupid Heathers here in California, I can understand why so many eschew the label --- we appear to have no honor, no loyalty and no guts. If you were going to pick a party based upon its winning game plan --- and for many Americans that is the only question that counts --- you sure wouldn’t pick the Democrats. But, that is for another post.)
To assume that the country is more like Oklahoma than Iowa or New Hampshire, however, is just plain absurd. That would mean that James Inhofe and Don Nickles are representative of the nation at large, even though they are as far right as it is possible to be without being actual card-carrying fascists. And it would mean that the congressional delegation of 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat is representative of the country’s preferences.
Democrats are so cowed by the in-your-face ballsiness of the Republicans that they are conceding to Rove’s bandwagon strategy. The truth is that the Congress is in Republican hands by the smallest of margins and Bush’s re-elect numbers reflect absolutely no gain from 2000. We are still at parity.
If the last presidential election hadn’t been manipulated by the political machine of the president’s brother and decided by a partisan Supreme Court, the Executive branch would be in the hands of the Democrats, thereby requiring the government to compromise on legislation that would fairly reflect a centrist position.
If the system had not been compromised in 2000, we would have a pretty good picture of where the center really is in a closely divided electorate. Instead, with a combination of spin, institutional strong-arming and a will to power unlike anything we’ve seen before in this country, we are now dealing in a form of fantasy in which the Republicans are selling their far right philosophy as the center despite all evidence to the contrary.
I understand why the lone elected Democrat from Oklahoma feels that he has to portray himself as a reflection of “real America.” I just hope that the Democratic presidential candidates don’t decide after the primaries that they need to adopt his logic.
Because we have hit the wall, folks. The Nader vote should have been a clue --- not that we need to move left, but that we’d gone as far to the right as we could. Any further and we lose the base, either to a third party or apathy. In a closely divided electorate this is suicide.
Karl Rove knows this which is why he’s working so hard to exacerbate the differences between the “electable” centrists and the “radical” leftists within the Democratic party whhile papering over the divisions within his own GOP.
It’s all about turn-out.
Demosthenes wrote a very provocative and interesting post about this next election that seems pretty much on target to me --- and that is if things go well:
So we get a war. The Republican base against the Democrat[ic] base. The Wurlitzer against Dean's army. (I would not be overly surprised if we hear that term first being used in the mainstream media before the year is out.) The immovable object against the irresistable force, with no concept of civility, fairness, or restraint accepted, let alone followed. All of this, too, against a backdrop of an American populace that is newly re-engaged with politics, which understands how important this is, and which will likely be as evenly divided as it was in the past. I have a vision of the most brutal election campaign that the Republic has ever seen, and I don't think I like it, and even less like that it may be necessary.
I find it just as likely that Dean's Army will be portrayed as a radical out-of-the-mainstram group of scary 5th columnists (when they're not flaky ineffectual over-educated hippies) while the Democratic Party establishment ties itself in knots trying to distance itself from them in the mistaken idea that the great middle (or "silent majority") will see them as the way to avoid a distasteful confrontation.
I don't think such a middle exists and I don't think that there is any hope of avoiding such a confrontation if we hope to survive as a political party. The country is divided and the result is a huge political struggle with enormous consequences.
The Republicans are governing far to the right without a mandate from the people. They are unresponsive to reasonable calls for bipartisanship. They are using undemocratic tactics to solidify a majority they have obtained dishonestly. The Democrats are on the defensive everywhere.
I don't see how you can avoid a political war under these circumstances. The Republicans are demanding unconditional surrender.
Dean's angry and motivated Democrats are being seen as the left's version of the Conservative Movementarians. I can only hope that we have even half the staying power and dsicipline they have.
Because the truth is that the two sides are going to be fighting very different wars. The Republicans are fighting for political dominance as far as the eye can see, by any means necessary.
The Democrats are fighting a war of survival.
digby 8/14/2003 01:00:00 PM