Saturday, April 14, 2007

Off To The Races

You can practically smell the churned dirt in the air (or at least the horse shit) as the 2008 Presidential horse race rounds into its first curve. As it has always been my "policy" to answer questions emailed ( or left in comments, I will try my poor hand at handicapping this mother of all electoral races.

The Democrats: Born to be Bland

Don't misunderstand me; I'm (mostly) a loyal party man. If nothing else, I understand what having the other party in power means for this country and the world. But I don't think I've been less inspired by the field of Democratic candidates at any time since, well, 2004. I have great respect for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; I think they are fine politicians. Perhaps a little too fine, especially where their politics comes into play. The one lesson I keep hoping the Dems will learn, and yet never do, is that issues are secondary to personality in the eyes of our electorate. Sad but true. Conservatives didn't vote for Bush twice because of his positions on foreign military interventions or government profligacy (he was against both back when he was a governor running in 1999). They voted for him because he had swagger and confidence. He presented himself as a cocky, git 'er done type of guy, in direct contrast with Gore's reserved academic. A large chunk of this country wants a strong father figure as President, regardless of the person's actual ability to do the job. I think we're seeing the high price paid for that sort of blindness, but the reality is what it is.

In any case, I really think Obama and Clinton are missing the boat on this yet again. Democrats have the issues on our side. We know this, the Republicans know this and yet they continue to win big in elections. The reason is because the Republicans are much more tapped into our national image consciousness. They treat winning the Presidency as a PR contest and it works. Democrats treat it as a an intellectual contest between competing ideologies. That's what it should be, of course, but in our nation of 30-second soundbites and celebrity worship such a contest is a pipe dream.

Therefore, my thoughts on the Democratic ticket are this: John Edwards. Assuming Al Gore really isn't going to run, which I don't believe he is, John Edwards stands the best chance to win the field. He's been by far the most consistent on his positions, which helps limit the moronic attack ads from the Right. He also just radiates personality, which is key to winning a big national election. He's a familiar name, a familiar handsome face and a sympathetic figure with a winning smile and confident humility. He also has that Presidential magic; that special ability to appear 10 feet tall and flushed with conviction in his speeches. As much as I also like Bill Richardson, whom I think would make a great VP candidate, I just don't think he can muster the national recognition to overcome the other 3 candidates.

As for Dennis Kucinich, well, keep trying, buddy. You've got a whole pocket full of good ideas who's time will come in about 20 or 30 years.

Democratic Primary Winner: John Edwards with Bill Richardson as his VP.

The Republicans: Down on the Upside

Boy is it hard out there to be a Republican these days. The failure to deal with Katrina, the largest foreign policy disaster in American history and more scandals then you can shake a congressional subpoena at have built a public almost openly hostile to the GOP. In spite of 6 years of total control in Washington, government spending is out of control, abortion & birth control are still legal, flag burning is not a crime and our military is cracking under the strain of an unending foreign occupation. So much for that permanent majority, eh Rove?

On this side of the fence, again we see the power of celebrity. Is there any other possible reason for the sudden interest in Fred Thompson? Not that he's not a loyal Republican; just that he's not a very prominent one in any political sense. By far his biggest claim to fame is playing a fictional lawyer on TV. That may be compelling enough to thrust him along for now, but I believe that thrust will burn out long before Fred reaches that Presidential orbit.

John McCain, the Democrats' favorite conservative Republican, has crashed and burned the worst of any Republican candidate and I doubt he even has the chops to make it to February 2008. McCain's strategy has been to hug Bush as close as he can and run on the war. Too bad a large majority of the country left Iraq, at least in their minds, a long time ago. McCain's jetpack to the top has now become an anchor, pretty much solidifying his place as one of the most prominent also-rans in American political history.

Rudy Giuliani, America's mayor and the one Republican left who can still flog 9/11 for political gain has the lead and I believe he'll keep it. While he's certainly far more socially liberal than any other Republican on the national scene, that doesn't seem to be bothering the Republican rank and file (yet). I believe they've had their fill, at least for now, of the Christian theocrat movement that's gripped the party for some time. Giuliani may not be a staunch conservative but he is a loyal party Republican and has no problem running his political opponents into the ground. And he looks great in an evening gown! Truly an election of firsts for America: a black man, a Latino, a woman and a drag queen...

Finally, Mitt Romney. Notwithstanding that the Christian right thinks Mormonism is a satanic cult, Mitt just isn't going to get it done politically. He may be the one candidate for whom his stance on various issues will sink his candidacy. Mitt's trying so hard to fling himself bodily into the arms of the right wing and I think they're going to throw him right back. Given his 180 degree reversal on just about every social issue, from abortion to gun control, the Democratic political strategists have to be licking their chops at the attack ad options Romney gives them.

In a larger sense, I think Mitt's actions give the lie to a favorite Republican talking point after the 2006 election: the soft, chewy center of American politics is what the American people want. I believe Romney's political flip-flopping demonstrates just what a fallacy the Mythical Middle really is. The Republicans are running towards the right wing base as quickly as they can, not the middle. They know what the middle really is: the Democratic party.

Bipartisanship is a myth used by political losers to erode the power of their more successful rivals. As a progressive, I don't want bipartisanship. I want progressive policy and I know I cannot get that from Republicans, just as the staunch conservatives aren't going to get their political agenda from the Democrats. That's why we have parties, to advocate different platforms and different visions for the country. Not to play "go along to get along" and show how much back-slapping camaraderie can be manufactured on The Hill.

In any case, my pick:

Republican Primary Winner: Rudy Giuliani and I have no idea who he'd consider for VP. Maybe Sam Brownback to woo the religious authoritarians?

Overall winner:

Are you kidding me? John Edwards, of course. I may be shamelessly partisan but I honestly can't foresee any way a Republican wins the next Presidential election. They've got the worst Republican President in history to follow. They have no issues to run on and no way to both embrace conservatism and distance themselves from an extremely unpopular President. And no, Richard Viguerie, calling Bush a liberal isn't going to convince anyone, if it even convinces you.

(Thanks to reader GB for the question. -S. Sam-)


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on Rudy: he'll win the Republican primary.

And I like Edwards too.

But I don't agree that Obama doesn't quite have it. I think he really really does, actually. And if he can get all those young people on myspace to vote, he's got a real chance to win. Unfortunately, I still think race is an issue in this country, plus he is "green" and that might turn a lot of older voters off. Maybe even me (although I really like him). I hope to goodness Clinton doesn't get nominated. We have a good chance of losing the general election if it's she vs. Giuliani.

Samurai Sam said...

I wonder if Obama's lack of a record might actually be a benefit? Hard to attack him on his record when he doesn't have one. Besides, I still think elections are won on personality which Obama has but which Edwards has more.

But you could be right. And I agree that Clinton is a bad choice. There's no such thing as a swing voter where Mrs. Clinton is involved.

gifted-1 said...

My two cents:

I personally prefer Edwards. I think he has the widest mass appeal.

I do think it would be wonderful to have a black man or a woman president, but I don't know if Hill or Obama can pull it off. I would love to think that this country has progressed enough, to have that happen, but...