With economic growth and name recognition of the average Democratic presidential candidate both running at about 7 percent, the Democrats are in trouble. Unable to rouse more than the Saddam-supporting left with their kooky foreign-policy ideas, the Democrats had been counting on a lousy economy.
It turns out that, given a choice between "shock and awe" and "run and hide," the American people prefer the former. Now that the Bush tax cuts have already started to kick in and boost the economy, it was beginning to look as if the Treason Lobby would have nothing to run on.
But the Democrats have discovered a surprise campaign issue: It turns out that several of them have had a death in the family. Not only that, but many Democrats have cracker-barrel humble origins stories and a Jew or lesbian in the family. Dick Gephardt's campaign platform is that his father was a milkman, his son almost died and his daughter is a lesbian. Vote for me!
So don't say the Democrats aren't the party of ideas. As they keep reminding us, their ideas are just too darn complex to fit on a bumper sticker. Consequently, the Democrats can't tell us their ideas until after the election. Instead, their version of a political campaign is to stage a "Queen for a Day" extravaganza – which has special resonance in the case of the Democrats.
Al Gore famously inaugurated the family tragedy routine at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, where his idea of an inspiring political speech was to recount the story of his son being hit by a car. At the 1996 convention, Gore told a tear-jerker about his sister's long, painful death from lung cancer. It got to the point that Gore's family members had to fear any more runs for higher office.
In the current campaign, Gephardt has taken to spinning out a long, pitiful tale of his son's near-death three decades ago. If a lingering family medical tragedy is the main qualification for becoming a Democratic presidential candidate, what's Michael Schiavo waiting for?
At dozens of campaign stops, Mrs. Gephardt weeps anew as her husband tells the same gut-wrenching story over and over again. The relevance of his son's illness to Gephardt's run for the presidency is this: It inspired Gephardt's call for national health insurance. With his wife softly weeping in the background, he intones, "I get it."