All men are genetically programmed to get a thrill out of seeing how far below the "E" their car's gas needle can go before re-fueling. We feel some small measure of victory when we pull into work in the morning with the "low fuel" light on and then drive home at the end of the day without having addressed this earnest warning. I'm starting to think the Democratic party is made up entirely of men who are operating it on the same principle.
One of my favorite websites is PollingReport.com. Not because its polls are reliable or especially accurate, but mostly because it's entertaining. Its hypotheticals are the political junkie's equivalent of sitting around a bar talking about who would win a game between the 1927 Yankees and the 2004 Red Sox.
They have a section devoted to 2008 Presidential Election preference polls conducted by various media and dedicated polling organizations. I find the sum of it to be unbearably depressing. This is best explained by way of examples. The following poll is representative of the standard Democratic Primary line of questioning:
"I know it is early, but if the Democratic primary for president were held today, which of the following would you support for the Democratic nomination for president? . . . " (Ipsos-Public Affairs poll. Dec. 17-19, 2004. Nationwide.)
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton 33 Senator John Kerry 19 Senator John Edwards 15 Retired General Wesley Clark 11 Governor Bill Richardson 3 Senator Evan Bayh 2 Senator Russ Feingold 1 Governor Tom Vilsack 1 Governor Mark Warner 0 Other (vol.) 3 Unsure 9
That rotating sound you hear is William Jennings Bryan rolling over in his grave. Even Mondale and Dukakis are probably shitting themselves laughing. Is this it? Is this really the best of what they have to offer? An intolerable bitch who used to be First Lady and three losers from the 2004 race (followed by the usual smattering of Governors that no one knows). Great. Good luck with that.
The only person on this list who is electable is Bill Richardson. Of the established veterans, he is the current highlight of the Democratic party. But of course he'll be outspent about a billion-to-one in the early primaries by Hillary and won't amount to anything as a candidate. For shame. Richardson is one of the Clinton acolytes who actually understands the idea of expressing a vision and projecting confidence.
In the late 1990s, after the 1996 election fiasco and the failed impeachment witch-hunt, the Republican party set itself up for success by flushing itself of its old, stale faces – Dole, Gingrich, Kemp, etc – and handing things over to a new generation. The Democrats seem unwilling or unable to do so right now. You know a party is in really bad shape when two guys who have been in Congress for about five fuckin' minutes (Barack Obama and Harold Ford) are the best thing they have to offer. But that's reality, and they'd be smarter to deal with it rather than put off rebuilding for four more years while the Ghosts of Elections Past take one more lap around the track.