Looking forward to the 2008 presidential election, as I find myself doing often lately, there are literally dozens of reasons for the Democrats to be optimistic. We can run down a lengthy checklist of positive signs. Polling data showing the incumbent and his party to be incredibly unpopular? Check. Well-funded candidates with money and name recognition? Check. A lousy field of GOP candidates with no clear front-runner? Check. Economy going straight into the shitter? Check. Wildly unpopular, expensive, and interminable war? Check. Positive outcome from the 2006 midterms? Check. Yes, it's a great time to run for president as a Democrat.

So why am I so pessimistic?

It's tempting to say that I feel like a fan of the Washington Generals (for those of you who miss that reference, they're the fake team who were created to play, and lose every game to, the Harlem Globetrotters). That would be inaccurate; the system was set up such that the Generals literally could not win. The Democrats are not hopelessly unable to compete. Instead, the sad fact is that they are not only able to win but in many cases the odds are in their favor. No, the Democrats are a team that often should win but always finds – invents, if necessary – ways to blow it. They're the political world's Arizona Cardinals. Chicago Cubs. L.A. Clippers. "Lovable losers," if you will, although they're often only half of that statement. Give the Democrats a decorated war hero to run against a draft dodging idiot and they find a way to blow it. That's the sort of thing they do…all the goddamn time.

Am I just being too pessimistic? Have years of being an actual Arizona Cardinal fan warped my mind so that I see defeat looming everywhere? Feel free to sound off and let me know how you're feeling about the odds. No matter how many polls I see or how terrible the GOP field manages to look (and make no mistake, it is historically awful) I just cannot shake the feeling that the Democrats are going to go down in flames next November. Every comment I hear – be it media or regular voters – has the same pattern: an expression of condemnation of the GOP followed by some sort of suggestive hint that, well, those Democrats just aren't any better. Ergo, if I may complete their mental road map, voting for Giuliani is the superior option. No matter how many people die in Iraq, no matter that the GOP field is laden with neocon cowboys hell-bent on war with Iran, no matter how much real wages fall, no matter how badly unequal our nation's wealth….when shove comes back to push these "middle American"/"undecided"/"average Joe" voters are going to make up some reason to vote for another right-wing gas bag. Said reason, of course, will probably be some fiscally ludicrous round of tax cuts.

So it's time for a verdict on Ed: paranoid or drifting toward the sad truth?


  • Well, Ed – I've got to admit that I am with you on this feeling of unease. I don't have a good explanation for it either, other than the fact that all my optimism in the last two elections came to nothing.

    I sort of feel like the Dems are an abusive partner, and even though a piece of me thinks, "It'll be different this time!" another part of me knows that it's just going to be the same, all over again.

  • I agree with Matthew; it's more psychological than anything else. That doesn't make it not valid, since as you pointed out, all signs pointed to inarguable victory in many recent races and we have little to show for it.

  • I have the same anxiety. If any group of people can figure out how to screw up a sure thing, it's the Dems. They refuse to get down and dirty, they attempt to appeal to people's intellect while the Repugs appeal to emotion–namely, negative emotion, i.e. racism, greed, envy, homophobia, misogyny, fear of change, xenophobia. The gut wins out over the brain every time.

    Besides, the Dems seem to be people who can screw up a one car funeral just in general.

  • The Democrats should be strolling to victory, and yet it feels like an uphill drag. It's a fractal, applying to every level of the race. Look at John Edwards — a white male southerner with good hair. How is he not doing better? And, seriously, how could Hillary be the frontrunner? Did the voters just forget about the conservative hate machine that sandbagged Bill for eight years? Do we want to relive that?

  • "Sad truth." Generally, people only vote *for* the Dems when they're voting *against* the Reps. (Witness the decision to vote for a dead man rather than for Ashcroft.) Clinton won, f'rinstance, because Bush got blamed for the economy and Perot siphoned off enough conservative voters.

    It's an easy year for people to vote against the Reps, of course, but generally speaking, Dems will find the dullest candidate (or if, say, it's someone like Gore, *make* him the dullest candidate) and then hire incompetent campaign managers who allow Reps to control the dialogue and thus put the Dems on the losing side every time. History doesn't favor optimism on this one.

  • It's some sort of weird cross between a political version of Battered Woman Syndrome and the gambler's fallacy. We're all sick.

  • I think from 1980-2004, it was just the Republicans time. Democrats were pretty successful from FDR up to the end of LBJ. And, the Democrats still controlled congress up to 1994. They regained it in 2006. I think 2006 was a huge victory and showed how low the Republicans have fallen (for many of the reasons you stated). I think it is now the Democrats time, we just had to wait for it.

    People don't understand that taxes don't disappear when a Republican is elected president, and it really only benefits you if you make over $500,000 a year. If people were not so stupid, the Democrats would never lose. There are a lot more common folk than extremely rich people. It's just the common folk are really stupid and fall for stupid crap like Karl Rove.

  • I think it's pretty clear that the Dems have more name recognition and "celeb" status then any Rep candidate. But the problem is that with all this attention (we're fucking months away from primaries and this race is already overly publicized) is that Rep candidates can sit back and let the Dems fuck it up. And that is honestly one of the best ways to win any kind of race or game. Whoever is chosen as the nominee on the Dem side is going to make-it-or-break-it for the party. I would never call myself a Republican, but I always feel a bit embarrassed saying I'm a Democrat, you know?

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