As the train wreck known as the Democratic Presidential primaries rattles into Pennsylvania, practically the entire party establishment is looking at Chairman Howard Dean and muttering as Oliver Hardy would to Stan Laurel, “this is a fine mess you’ve got us into…”
Fine mess indeed. This could be such a triumph that I have to think Howard planned it this way. Instead of the unforgettable shriek he let loose after the Iowa primary results were in, I expect he is rubbing his hands and chuckling the way leaders do when a great plan comes together.
Everyone knows this is an election where the only way Republicans can win is for Democrats to find a way to lose.
The independent vote that GOP nominee John McCain once attracted is bitterly opposed to a disastrous war that he would pursue for another hundred years.
If that weren’t enough, there’s the declining dollar and 4-buck a gallon gas. And it is a given that no incumbent party ever won an election when the economy went into recession on their watch.
So how can Democrats possibly lose? Well, there are problem areas, such as the nasty name-calling that has another two months to run, what to do about Michigan and Florida, and those up-for-grabs super-delegates.
Some Democrats worry that week after week of bitter primaries just might hurt their chances. Real Democrats know this back-and-forth bloodletting generates continuing interest among voters and media while conditioning the eventual winner to withstand whatever muck the GOP swift-boaters throw in the fall.
While it is true that voters like both Obama and Clinton, it is also true that the candidates themselves and their top staff people detest each other (anyone ever involved in a political campaign knows this is true).
So forget the “dream ticket” scenario—the eventual nominee is more likely to select Eliot Spitzer as a running mate.
Lots of nasty things have been said about each candidate, mostly by surrogates, but nothing Democrats haven’t heard before.
Because of race and gender, epithets are riskier than usual, allowing pundits to find affronts that often don’t exist.
There are Nervous Nellies like Democratic strategist Matt Bennett who is concerned that these attacks “could make our nominee the New York Mets of politics—winning in the spring only to lose in the fall.”
Others fear that with Democrats fighting on and on with no end in sight, while the GOP contest is over, gives McCain a tactical advantage. He has time to relax and shore up his vulnerabilities.
Not to worry. His first act was to traipse over to the White House, where he received a toxic embrace from President Bush, providing Democrats with a photo-op that will be featured on millions of “McSame” campaign posters in the fall.
Democrats should be proud of their much-ridiculed party rules.
When Howard Dean invalidated nearly two million Democratic votes in Michigan and Florida, he was playing by the rules. Even after all the primaries and caucuses, neither of their extraordinary candidates is likely to have enough pledged delegates to claim the nomination.
What saves the day are party rules, enlisting the aid of super-delegates who have been waiting since the1982 DNC convention for the opportunity to exercise their judgment and “do the right thing.”
(Those who worry about a “backroom elite” ignoring the wishes of the majority need to understand that super-delegates are savvy, lifelong Democrats who didn’t get where they are by disappointing people.)
Play by the rules. The American Dream is built on the notion that if you play by the rules you’ll get ahead. That hasn’t been true for several years, but that’s why “change” is the dominant theme of this election season.
Only the fighting Democrats are on the media radar these days. The anointed but unloved Republican nominee simply grows older. By November voters may see his name on the ballot and ask: “Who knew?”
Nice going Howard. This time when the results are in, a simple yell of victory will suffice.
Victor Kamber is a political consultant for both Democratic and Republican candidates and an author.