Sunday, October 22, 2006

Can't You Feel the Earth Move?

Elections 2008: Hillary Clinton has moved ahead of John McCain, 51-44%, in polling for the 2008 presidential election. Obviously, the poll is not a reliable indicator of who's going to win in 2008. The first primaries are still fifteen months away. But it's still significant. Democratic Party insiders assume that Hillary is unelectable because she's too "polarizing." However, Hillary's 51% matches the best that George Bush has done in two presidential elections. The 2008 election will probably be polarizing anyway. As a result, the most important question is who can squeak through to win a toxic political environment and who can govern in a polarized country. Hillary not only looks electable, she is the best qualified to govern in an environment that will still include a hyper-aggressive right wing. She's tough, disciplined, and smart, and she's not above going toe-to-toe with right. All of those qualities are going to be needed because any Democratic president is going to have to stand up to 12 hours a day of hostile examination by right-wing radio.

Can't You Feel the Earth Move: Of course, things could get worse. The tide of anger and bitterness over the Bush administration and the war in Iraq keeps rising. It can be seen in the the on-going disgust over the incompetent response to Katrina, popular reaction to the Mark Foley scandal, and Lou Dobbs' campaign against the "war on the middle class' on CNN. Today, Kevin Tillman, the brother of Pat Tillman, the slain poster boy for post-9/11 war fever, came out with a scorching denunciation of the Bush administration on Referring to the Bush administration, Kevin Tillman wonders why "the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country." Although I agree with Tillman, his eloquent rant introduces the possibility that American politics will start to fragment the same way that Iraq is fragmenting. If the Bush administration is filled with "incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals," the Democratic opposition has been characterized by incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous opposition. If both of them are nominated for the presidency, Hillary Clinton and John McCain may find themselves appealing to an electorate that is holding them both accountable for the disasters of the Bush years. As polarized as the nation has been during the Bush years, the situation may be worse by 2008.

Another Wild Card in the Deck. The other wild card in the American deck will be the activist right-wing--the religious right, anti-abortion activists, disappointed neo-conservatives, small government idealists, neo-confederates, and their fellow travelers. There is not going to be a major party candidate on the right-wing of the Republican Party in 2008. The three Republicans who poll best are John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich--none of whom is affiliated with the right. All of the potential right-wing standard bears have been disqualified by failures in leadership (Bill Frist), revelations of their racism (George Allen), upcoming electoral defeat (Rick Santorum), and lack of name recognition among Republicans (Sam Brownback). If the right runs a third-party candidate, they will be guaranteeing their worst nightmare--a Hillary presidency. If McCain or Giuliani win, the right knows that it's in at least four more years of condescending pats on the head. Disgusted with the Bush administration for failing to deliver on its promises and disgusted with the American people for our tolerance of divorce, pre-marital sex, the sin-soaked popular culture, and gay rights, the right might be another source of seething anger for 2008 and beyond.

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