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Trouble For The Donkeys

Howard Dean won the Wisconsin straw poll. He got four times as many votes as Kerry, who came in second.

Now, it should be said that straw polls are where activist candidates shine, and Dean probably has the strongest grass-roots support of any of the candidates, including smart use of the web, so this doesn't necessarily predict his performance in primaries. But still, this isn't a good omen for them.

If they actually nominate Dean, they won't have a chance in the general election, and if they nominate someone electable, they'll anger the base. The Democrat Party is looking down the barrel of a major fissure (to mix a metaphor). The anti-war left is going to be very unhappy with any candidate that supported the war. I think that this could be as bad for them as 1968. Of course, if the economy has recovered by the spring (likely), the Dems may just write off the White House for 2004 and nominate a Dean to make a stand on what they perceive to be principle, and hope that this gets their base out for congressional races.

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 14, 2003 12:19 PM
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If course the problem (from the Dems standpoint) that if they just turn out the base, they will suffer loses in the Senate and House as well. 2004 may be one of those defining elections.

Posted by Mark R. Whittington at June 14, 2003 03:50 PM

I'd always thought that what U.S. politics needed to regain some sanity was two more parties--one on the extreme left to filter the peaceniks, eco-freaks and "cultural guilt" shakedown artists out of the Democrats, and one on the extreme right to filter the Bible-thumpers and Klansmen out of the Republicans. Once the zealots had marginalized themselves to preserve their moral purity, the Dems and the GOP could stop pandering to them and start debating issues in a reasonable manner (perhaps even agreeing with each other from time to time).

Well, the U.S. has that now (Nader's Green Party and Robertson's Reform Party, respectively). As far as the Dems are concerned, it's not helping much.

Posted by Peter the Not-so-Great at June 14, 2003 07:23 PM

That theory assumes that the center of the mainstream lies somewhere between the Democrats and the Republicans, rather than within one or the other, so that the two additional parties on the fringe should have equal impact.

It doesn't appear to be the case.

Posted by Kevin McGehee at June 15, 2003 05:30 AM


Why do you assume Democratic activists want to win?

The one thing I learned watching the Republicans flame out in 1992 is that many party activists never want to win. They are too busy expressing their emotions through their exclusionary politics. A perfect example are the California Repuplicans who go around accusing other Republicans of being "RINOs" -- Republicans in name only.

National Democratic activists are playing the same game by voting for Dean. They want anyone who isn't openly and expressively anti-war to be a "Democrat In Name Only."

Posted by Trent Telenko at June 15, 2003 10:09 AM

I definitely think that the Dems should run McGovern.

Umm... Dean.

Posted by Matt at June 15, 2003 10:29 AM

Rand - I think you meant "1972," not 1968.

Allow me a brief plug for another local KC blogger; graze on over to Rhetorica for some interesting work on who wins major-party nominations. Turns out it's not the leader of the polls in the early caucus/primary states; it's the leader in national polls.

Posted by Jay Manifold at June 15, 2003 12:13 PM

No, I was thinking 1968, as in "Chicago convention," and Humprey, the establishment candidate being split from the radical left. 1972 didn't tear the party apart--by that time, the McGovernites had already taken over. Of course, it may end up being like 1972 as well, in that they run a far-left candidate against a strong incumbent. Hmmm...maybe 1972 is a better analogy, but it's not the one that I had in mind when I wrote the post. I think that 2004 will be something of a combination of the two--a major split in the party, with the possibility of the leftists winning out.

Posted by Rand Simberg at June 15, 2003 02:08 PM

Then again maybe Rove is pulling a Segretti. It
was not a coincidence, that McGovern was nominated. Everyone from Humphrey to Lindsay,
was sandbagged

Posted by narciso at June 15, 2003 06:33 PM

Let us not forget that the Dems truly believe that they lost the White House because they were not FAR LEFT enough. (that and we stole the election)

Their symbol is a donkey, after all, or as we used to call them, JACKASS!!

Posted by Steve at June 16, 2003 07:08 AM

Every party, I suspect, has the same problem:

The volunteering, self-sacrificing, door-bell-ringing, phone-bank-manning types want red meat (red tofu?). They want ones who reflect THEIR sentiments, not "DINOs" or "RINOs". But to win the election, you have to concede some of the extreme positions and move to the middle.

For the moment, the GOP's position, for its party hard-core, is within the frame-of-reference for the larger electorate. Not on all issues, but on quite a few. For the Dems, especially on the war, but also on "what happened in 2000", they're not.

Consequently, an extreme left-wing party would gut the volunteers from the Dems, but a hard-core Right-wing party (which, thus far, has found no traction to speak of), would leach off only a small portion of the GOP (and it would be further fragmented by its motivation---religion? ONLY anti-abortion? libertarianism?).

Posted by Dean at June 16, 2003 07:12 AM

Hate to tell you, Peter, but Klansmen are as likely to be Democrats as Republicans. Remember, when David Duke was in the Klan, he was a Democrat.

Posted by Jon Acheson at June 16, 2003 11:14 AM

Peter, there are no Klansmen in the Republican party. Robert Byrd is a Democrat.

Posted by Joshua Chamberlain at June 16, 2003 01:15 PM

> Peter, there are no Klansmen in the Republican party. Robert Byrd is a Democrat.

Does Peter not know that Dems were the Jim Crow party, or does he just "forget"?

Bull Connor, for example, was a prominent Dem, a consistent presidential delegate, etc.

Posted by Andy Freeman at June 16, 2003 07:42 PM

Oh, but that all changed -- some time back in the mists of pre-history (maybe the early 1960s), all the racist Southern Democrats quit the party of George Wallace, Lester Maddox and Robert Byrd, and joined the party of Lincoln because it was so much more sympathetic to their racism.

(I don't know how even people who claim to believe that can say it without feeling soiled.)

Posted by Kevin McGehee at June 17, 2003 03:40 AM

So would this be a good year for anti-leftist people to cross over to the Democratic primaries and try and get Dean as the Democrat nominee? I know this is easier said than done, but it sure sounds like fun.

Posted by Mark Smith at June 17, 2003 11:52 AM

Open mouth, insert 'enter' to post.

I'm sorry, guys, my brain must have been in neutral when I threw out that comment. As atonement, I'd like to direct you to The Iconoclast ( Go to the Daily Notebook and scroll down to a post by Michael Zak entitiled "Retaking The Ideological High Ground: Retooling The Grand Old Party of Abe Lincoln...".

A money quote: "In fact, the 13th amendment banning slavery, the 14th amendment extending the Bill of Rights to the states, and the 15th amendment according voting rights to blacks -- all three were enacted by the much-maligned Radical Republicans in the face of fierce Democrat opposition. How many Americans know that? Again, very few."

Posted by Peter the Not-so-Great at June 17, 2003 04:47 PM

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