As Republican pundits from Bill Kristol to Andrew Sullivan try to muffle their glee at the prospect of Dr. Dean as the Democratic nominee, cool heads of the Democratic Party have long since made the following political calculation:
Proposition the first: Barring catastrophe, there is not the slightest chance of beating Bush in 2004.
The second: No serious person wants the sort of catastrophe which could leave Bush vulnerable or worse.
The third: No serious person will seek the top spot on the Democratic ticket facing almost certain defeat.
The fourth: Democratic Party activists -- tin foil hats, Michael Moore fan club memberships, Moveon.org charter members, psych degrees, Boston, Berkeley, Seattle -- have not had a presidential candidate since 1988.
Therefore: Time for Children's Hour.
The present Democratic Party is an uneasy coalition of naïveté and sophistication, idealism and calculation. It manages to team smart union and city machine politicians with social activists and tree huggers. Black, lesbian, Burning Man attendees rub shoulders with fine old Savannah patricians who have yet to forgive Lincoln.
To maintain these alliances, the Party has to balance the necessity of achieving power with a willingness to act as a focal point for the assorted idealisms and group identities which represent a significant fraction of its electoral support and, perhaps, a majority of its activists.
For the professionals -- the Clintons, the Gores, Bill Bradley and so on -- real power matters. To attain power, the professionals know they have to keep the amateurs committed without actually inviting them to the table.
Thus: Howard Dean.
The doctor and his supporters are the last in a string of no-hopers stretching back to Gene McCarthy and running though George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis.
By endorsing Dean, the pros are quarantining the activist wing for the real election in 2008. When Dean fights the good fight and loses -- big or small; but loses -- it will be a snap for Hillary, Al, and the rest of them to, shedding crocodile tears, hail him as the heart of the Democratic Party and then get on with the serious race for the 2008 nomination.
And make no mistake: 2008 is a genuine opportunity for the Democrats. Bush will be gone with no obvious successor. If the economy is booming there will be room for arguments about redistribution, if it tanks, the Republican record of deficit spending will be ripe for attack. No matter how well the War on Terror and Iraq go, the public will be tired of orange alert after alert.
But the American electorate as a whole will not be the least bit interested in an anti-war, multi-lateralist, tax-raising Democrat in the Dean mold. Dem pros know this and are working hard to position the party to take full advantage of Bush's departure. Which means sidelining the activists and running a candidate who can win.
The pros also know how big the stakes are in 2008. It may be the last best chance of stopping the Republicans from becoming the natural governing party. And a damn close-run thing it will be. If the Democratic activists defected to a resurgent Green Party in any numbers -- and Dean implicitly suggested that if he did not win his supporters would find a new home -- the Republicans will further entrench their still-shaky majority status.
So, while Republican bigs may relish a real fight, with real positions, over the next ten months, the Democratic pros have moved on. The kids are going to have their chance -- as they do every generation -- to run a big-time campaign on their most heartfelt issues. They'll have enough money to make it feel like the real thing and they will even have professional politicians endorsing their candidate.
And when they lose, the pros will be able to say, "You did a great job. Really. Now, anyone who has learned anything come onboard." If the Children's Hour works, former Deanies, older and a bit chastened, will realize winning, not ideological purity, is what matters in politics. And the Democratic Party will have seasoned another generation of pros
Hey. For once wonderaz makes a good thread. Interesting take. This election for the Democrats certainly doesn't seem to me to be a genuine go at it for the party, more setting up straw men while the real party leaders wait in the wings.
i may be the only one here, but i am not so disenchanted with Dean. i think he is a viable candidate. i think he will win the nomination, and i think he may surprisingly rally people behind him that may have voted otherwise.
this is a great article by Ariann Huffington (yes, that's right, Arianna) in support of Dean.
i just really believe that another 4 years of Bush will be to the detriment of this country.
I see just one problem. Well, two if you count the fact that we might not survive another four years.
The best Democratic candidates in '08 will still be Gore and Hillary. Gore has already lost to Bush! That means we're moving down? Eight years later and the best we can come up with is Mr. Roboto runner-up? The other option is much much more frightening. I do not want Hillary Clinton to be the President of my country. It's very possible, as this article points out, that one of them could win the race in '08. That means the Republican offerings would have to be getting shoddier as well.
Bear in mind that the source is one of the most radically right-wing magazines published in the US.
That having been said, it may be true that this scenario has arisen in the minds of more than one Democratic power broker. Frankly, I think Bush is perceived as more vulnerable than the article would suggest, and that a number of Democrats really are in it to win.
2008: don't presume that the candidate will be someone whose record you're already familiar with. The few people who knew who Bill Clinton was in 1988 thought of him as the jackass who screwed up Dukakis' convention nomination. In 1984, nobody knew who Dukakis was. Nobody had heard of Howard Dean even two years ago.
Gore and Clinton will both be players, but they're going to be duking it out for the left wing of the electorate. There will be at LEAST one other major player, representing the Democratic Leadership Conference and the moderate wing of the party.
hurm... while i agree with most of the original post, the one thing I do not see Dean as something which makes the clintons happy. In fact, the one thing I give him credit for is making a real run at challenging their total control of the Democratic Party. It's why they have poured a ton of money into Clark. Dean is upsetting an apple cart within the Democratic Party which, IMHO, needs to be upset. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, his being so far left makes the next four years interesting.
My personal picks for 2008:
* Hillary will make a bid, but stands a good chance at losing in the primary. Too many of her own party hate her. Even if the country were to be run by a woman, she's not the one we'd pick. Ditto for Gore. We have both seen their dog and pony show, and it's one for the old era.
* i agree with Chips that 2008 will have an unknown. The Democrats are going through transition right now. The GOP went through one a while back. They need to decide whether the party remains the amalgamation of perceived victims or whether they get back in touch with America. None of their contenders are unifiers & they need that.
* Condoleeza Rice as a VP GOP ticket contender in 2008. Personally, i'd give my eyeteeth to see that one.
I would not want to see Powell run. He is not a good leader, nor have his particular policies as Secretary of State been good. He is too entrenched in career bureacracy-- both with the military and secretary of state.
It is also my prediction Powell may step down sometime in the next term.
I'm not expecting this to happen, but how I'd love to have breakfast with the author of that article the morning after the election when Dean's naive, sophisticated, idealistic platform actually proves to have appealed to a lot of people who don't vote and he wins in a landslide. When we see polls that add up to 100%, we tend to forget how many people don't vote. There is a lot of play in the system, just waiting for someone to appeal to it. Of course, not all non-voters are waiting for the same thing, but just the same, consider what Perot did by coming across as an actually viable candidate with a difference. I'm tired of the pathetic centrist bullshit that really doesn't do much to make the country better. We've bought into the media image of what we are/ should be so much that we've lost sight of ourselves.
Shit, I'm getting out of line here. Sorry about that. For the record, I plan on voting Libertarian this year. Not because I'm libertarian, but because I'd love to put them in power to pare everything down so we can start over and build a better bundle.