Sunday, June 17, 2007

What the Horse Race Shows

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is out. The good news, for the lesser evil party is that 52% of Americans now say that they want a Democrat to be President, while only 31% want a Republican. The bad news is that Clinton’s numbers are up since April – from 36% to 39% -- while both Obama’s and Edwards’ are down. Obama fell from 31% to 25%, and Edwards from 20% to 15%. The “expert” view is that Clinton got a bounce from the two debates – because she seemed more “presidential” than expected, and because she gets high marks for competence and experience. Of course, it is far too early to make predictions based on these numbers. At this point, only party stalwarts and political junkies are even paying attention. But there is already reason to fear a repeat of the run up to the 2004 primaries when Democratic stalwarts and political junkies outsmarted themselves. Being for “anything but Bush” and putting competence first, they gave the nomination to John Kerry. Of course, this time around, the reasons to be for “anything but Bush” – or anything Bush-like – and the need for competence have increased exponentially. So has awareness of the Bush government’s failures. But these are hardly reasons to persist in the old losing strategy.

On the other hand, there are analyses that suggest that most of Clinton’s lead over Obama comes from Democratic women, and that women who describe themselves as “independents” hate Hillary with almost as much passion as Republican men. If this fact penetrates into the thinking of the pundit wannabes who got the nomination for Kerry, perhaps the trend will change. One can only hope so. For there is no doubt that it will be better for the country and the world if the Democrats’ candidate has more than just competence to offer, and more than a Clintonite Restoration. Only powerful popular movements can change policy fundamentally, and then only when conditions are right, but having a government that can be brought along -- as in the New Deal or, to a lesser extent, the Fair Deal and Great Society -- can help. John Edwards is not there yet, but he’s the only major candidate so far – indeed, the only Democrat since Jesse Jackson in 1988 --who has shown any inkling of promise. Chris Dodd has taken some good positions, but he’s ensconced in the second tier; Dennis Kucinich has taken far better positions, but he has no chance at all. Among the plausible candidates, Obama’s views remain a mystery. Clinton’s are well known. Notwithstanding some of her recent remarks on trade (see “Hooray for Hillary? Hooray for Us!, June 13), it is safe to assume that there is no space whatever between her and her husband. She’ll say what she must to get the nomination, but she remains the Queen of Clintonism. Since she shows no sign of self-destructing, let’s hope that her rivals rise to the occasion.

The approval rating for George Bush is now down to 29%, his lowest ever. His disapproval rating is 66%! But the approval rating for Congress is even lower than for Bush – it’s just 23% -- and only 41% of Americans think their representatives “deserve reelection.” Those numbers are similar to what the polls showed before the 2006 election. As the Wall Street Journal reports, this is bad news for Democrats or at least for Democratic incumbents.

Thus it is clear that, for now, Pelosiism is doing poorly, while classical Clintonism is still doing fine. [I define and discuss these concepts in “Combat Clintonism!” (April 27) and “Pelosiism: the Highest Form of Clintonism” (May 28).] A Pelosiite will talk left and act right – for example, by nominally opposing Bush’s wars and then funding (and therefore supporting) them. A classic Clintonite will just shamelessly screw you over – so long as you’re not a major donor or a pillar of global capitalism – while charming your pants off (sometimes literally) and “feeling your pain.” For as long as there have been Clintonites, there have been Pelosiites too – think, for example, of those “advocates” of universal health insurance, like the “maverick” Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, who somehow always found reasons not to back even such timid proposals as Paul Wellstone’s, while effectively supporting the Clintons’ plan – helping to set the cause of universal health care back a generation. But it is only now – with an electorate fed up with Bush but wary of corporate globalism and other Clintonite obsessions -- that Pelosiism is in the ascendant. If not combated effectively, it could lead the Democrats to defeat.

It probably won’t, though, because Bush continues to do the Democrats’ work for them, and because, on the Republican side, the situation is so dismal that the mediocre and famously lazy former Senator and “Law and Order” actor, Fred Thompson, has jumped into second place, at 20%, without even formally declaring his candidacy! Rudy Guiliani is still in first place, but falling – from 33% to 29%. As his character and record as New York mayor become more widely known, his numbers are sure to fall further. Bush and Cheney squeezed all they could out of 9/11; there isn’t much left for Rudy. [Imagine too how easy it would be to organize Firefighters for Truth!]. Next, the godly family man and world-class flip-flopper, Mitt Romney, is tied, despite his money, with the “maverick” war monger John McCain at 14% -- a slight gain for Romney, a big drop for McCain. Since Romney, a Mormon, isn’t quite Kosher enough for the religious Right, there’s also Mike Huckabee at a whopping 3%, up from 2%, and the guy who’s the matter with Kansas, Sam Brownback; his numbers are even lower. Where did they find these losers! Clearly, the stars are lining up for the Democrats. The main fear, therefore, is not that the Democrats will lose – they won’t, no matter how much contempt they earn -- but that, with their victory, everyone else will lose.

We voters can mitigate that eventuality. We pushed John Edwards to the center-left [see “Bravo for Edwards (Sort of),” May 3] or at least made it possible for him to situate himself there. If he doesn’t turn back, there may actually be a serious candidate beyond the Clintonite fold – for the first time in twenty years. We can certainly change the political climate enough to bring alternatives to Clintonism in from the margins. We have done a lot already in shifting the framework of discussion into more constructive territory. We can do more.

1 comment:

ardeth01 said...

What the "horse race" shows is that if Dems don't support the best candidate, they lose. And Kucinich is the BEST CANDIDATE, bar none. Start supporting him and he will instantly become plausible. Vote for him and he'll win the primary. Dems make me nuts, they're such wimps when it comes to making a bold stand.