More straws in the wind
The internal breakdown of the Democratic Party is nicely summed up in two articles. First, this NYT piece on how the democratic leadership find the progressive base "trying." http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/washington/12memo.html?hp
The other, this Op Ed from a progressive standard bearer telling progressives to reregister as independents.http://baltimorechronicle.com/2007/101207Lindorff2.shtml
Ah, the base. The leadership thinks you can't win with 'em. The progressives think you can't win without 'em. Both are right, as the Republicans proved in '04 and '06.
The problem is, we don't have leadership these days. Leaders of the left and right, such as FDR, Kennedy, and Reagan had a gift of delicately balancing the conflicting demands of their key constituencies while appearing sensible enough to mainstream voters to win support. Today's leadership in either party doesn't understand that. The Democratic leadership lives in mortal fear of being "too liberal", "too anti-business" or "too anything" and thus offending the supposedly "vital center" that they believe lives off the political equivalent of Happy Meals and vanilla ice cream. Keep repackaging the same blandly flavored junk in new wrappers with some new themed prize or contest and they'll stay happy. Democratic leaders are all about chasing the imaginary center with non-stop polling and an utter refusal to take strong positions.
The Republicans, by contrast, have the opposite problem. They seem to think that if they can just get their base angry enough, passionate enough, and confused enough then the rest of the country doesn't matter. That means being in your face, always extreme, and never missing an opportunity to make a big deal about irrelevancies. But while you can probably get somewhere by focusing enough people on Barack Obama's lapel or Edwards hair cut or Clinton's...being Hilary Clinton, most voters want to see some actual substance. The vast majority of people are damn uncomfortable with their economic condition and healthcare situation. They've learned that no matter how bad the Dems may seem, the Republicans can in fact do worse.
Recently, the entrails have gotten murkier and murkier. I think the Democratic party is in for a nasty shock to its system when it tallies the quarterly contributions to the party campaign fund. While I expect corporate contributions to be up significantly (as Dubner and Levitt observed in Freakonomics
, money follows winners rather than determining winners), I expect individual contributions to be way down. Not that this will help the Republicans much, as I expect them to continue to have dismal fundraising on both the corporate and individual side.
Several questions remain to be answered before guessing the outcome for the 2008 election. First, what will happen to contributions to political organizations like Moveon or BlueAmerica or Votevets? While the ideologically driven individuals, increasingly the backbone of fundraising, shift away from candidates and parties to groups that promise to drive ideological agendas and support more activist organizations? Or will we see a general decline in donations from economic circumstances and general disenchantment with the system? Next, how will parties read the early warning signs. Both Democrats and Republicans in their respective leadership have proven ungodly stubborn in reading the data to conform with their own opinions rather than using it as a reality check. Third, will a front runner emerge in the January and February primaries, or will things remain a muddle? Finally, how influential does the mainstream media remain in setting the agenda?
I've been gutting pigeons for awhile now trying to figure this one out, but it still remains a damn mystery to me. All I know is that I see too many Democrats walking around like 2008 is already in the bag no matter who wins the primary. But if I were buying political futures, I would definitely be hedging my bets.