The race for the Democratic Presidential nomination is a pretty depressing sight right now. It appears that Senator Clinton has it in the bag; but history cautions against early wagers, even in normal circumstances, which these are not.
I see Rove attacking Clinton on his way out the door, and Bush anointing her the nominee and quietly advising her to leave some wiggle room on Iraq. And I think, they really seem to want to run against Hillary.
Yeah, it’s true that they’re incompetent, ideological, moronic, thieving war criminals. But how’d they get where they are today? I’m neither talking about nor omitting the blatant cheating in the 2000 and 2004 elections. How did they get with Diebold range to begin with? The only great skill the Bush administration exhibited was in politics, in particular the divisive Rovian sort.
Of course Rove was disastrously wrong in his predictions about the 2006 election, but his official position required him to make sunny statements. It’s impossible, for me at least, to tell whether he was really wrong, or just saying what he knew he had to say. I tend to suspect he was wrong, but I don’t think that’s been proven.
At this point in the previous cycle, Rove was attacking Kerry. As Matthew Dowd, a political strategist formerly in the Bush camp, said:
Whomever we attacked was going to be emboldened in Democratic primary voters’ minds. So we started attacking John Kerry a lot in the end of January because we were very worried about John Edwards.
I don’t think Rove was afraid of Edwards because he thought the trial lawyers could beat the insurance companies and oil companies on a level playing field (much less an actual election). I agree with the purists who claim we should support Kucinich because his proposals are the most progressive of the available candidates. I except Gravel here; I’m proud to call him a fellow citizen, and I’m happy he’s at the debates to call bullshit on the spectacle; we need more of that. He reminds us of our civic duties. But Kucinich has clearer and more detailed proposals, and indeed a more detailed understanding, than Gravel. In Rome the proper office for Gravel would have been Censor, a former Consul essentially in emeritus status, still called upon to resolve thorny civic disputes, and beyond veto, or at least some vetos, if I remember correctly.
The problem I have with Kucinich is that I don’t think he can sell the US on his policies in the 2008 election. I love him, I think he did great things as mayor of Cleveland, I re-registered as a Democrat to vote for him in the primaries last time around. I was very disappointed with what seemed to me to be his capitulation to being a nobody at the convention; but in exchange he does seem to have been granted a seat at the table, the ability occasionally to be asked a question in the debates, and to sit beside Al Sharpton as a commentator after the convention. It’s not nothing, and I give him full marks for determination, principle, and ability to accomplish something over the long term when most people would have given up. I would happily vote for him if I didn’t think anyone with a realistic chance was acceptable. Which in most years would be my position, but not this year. (Notice I made it all the way through the paragraph on Kucinich without mentioning his wife.)
So far, Edwards is taking enough of my positions that I can vote for someone who’s got a ghost of a chance of selling the country on progressive ideas. He’s good but not perfect on Iraq. His health care proposal won’t pass as is, but I love the touch of having the insurance companies compete with single payer in the marketplace, and let the most efficient approach win. A lot of people have a visceral distaste for him I only partly understand but encounter often enough to know it’s real. And he’s raised lots of money, but that’s lots less than Hillary and Barack. All of which makes him an outside shot in the race for the nomination. And even that probably depends on making a good showing in Iowa.
But he’s been a driving force in the conversation that takes place at the beginning of the process, which determines in large part what the themes of the full campaign will be. He was, for instance, the first major candidate to come out with a health plan, and to my mind his is still the best; it’s the only truly universal one. In fact most of what I like (that I know of) about the plans of Clinton and Obama seems to have been lifted from Edwards’s. Edwards has said that in the negotiations over how to set up universal health care, the insurance and drug companies should not have a seat at the table. And that statement got lots of media coverage — in some alternate universe where the mega-corporations don’t control our news.
Personally I have two worries about Clinton. First, I don’t really trust her, given her Republican past and the Republican policies of her husband. She’s peeling away a progressive here and there, in a sort of Rovian style, probably folks who have calculated that she’ll win and they may as well get on her good side early. But she’s still a Goldwater Girl at heart.
Second, I think the Democrats can only fail to win the White House if they nominate Clinton. I’m not saying she can’t win, only that she could lose when Edwards or Obama wouldn’t. Rove et.al. seem to be salivating over a campaign against her, so they’ll be well prepared. And my guess is that they wouldn’t have to make as much stuff up as they did against McCain. Take Norman Hsu, for example: not just pushing the envelope of the fund-raising laws, but psychologically unstable. Or Mark Penn, whose firm’s connection to Blackwater the Clinton campaign is busy spinning, but whose union-busting past is unspinnable. The Clinton campaign’s people seem about as likely to deliver to progressives as Bush’s were to evangelicals.
Sure, she kicked ass in her Senate campaign in a relatively wealthy, relatively liberal state, spending something like $35 million against token opposition. Some Democrats apparently complain that some of that money could have been passed to candidates in close races, but there it is. All along her best strategy has been to seem inevitable. Which might be effective in the primary. Come next fall, the Clinton haters are not likely to be intimidated; for one thing, what Altemeyer calls the high RWAs, right-wing authoritarian personalities, are less reality-based, and don’t calculate inevitability the same way as the rest of us. Many of them are quite used to believing three impossible things before breakfast.
Then there’s the polarizing effect of the name Clinton.
If Giuliani convinces Republicans that only he can defeat Clinton, the right wing may overlook his less-than-conservative views on such issues as abortion and gun control, experts say.
“The specter of Hillary Clinton is enough to have Republicans overlook things,” said [Marist College pollster Lee] Miringoff. “That buys him some leeway in their estimates.”
President George W. Bush added fuel to the fire recently when he predicted Clinton would win her party’s presidential nomination but lose the November 2008 election.
“She’s got a national presence, and this is becoming a national primary,” Bush said.
Then there’s the possibility of the Clinton backlash hurting down-ticket Democrats. And the non-trivial possibility that Rove has some valuable oppo on her, or her husband, that will remind people of the sleaze factor the rose-colored glasses of hindsight have endowed us with.
And the fact that if she wins the nomination the Democratic wing of the Democratic party will have lost, or caved, causing some to vote with their feet.
The war machine grinds on. This primary is, so far, an object lesson in how it operates at the mundane level; but we can still change the outcome…
I don’t think Rove is afraid of Edwards because he fears a groundswell of opinion like mine. Not in this universe, at least. I think it’s because he sees Edwards as the potential opponent who’s most capable of selling the progressive policies that Rove’s people fear more than anything, a sort of New New Deal. They failed to keep FDR out, and once he got in he became an American demi-god. Hopefully we’ll never have another one. But the progressive movement has seen peaks and valleys before; it seems to me a good time for a resurgence.