WASHINGTON -- A news story is creeping into our major newspapers. From there it is making its way into the broadcast media. It is a story that bodes ill for the Democrats. Once a story spreads like this it takes on the nature of Truth to journalists, and they then repeat it or variations on it for a mercilessly long time. The headline is this: "Democrats Fragmented and in Disarray." The story has two aspects that must trouble those Democrats who understand media. The first aspect is that it is filled with dire portents. Journalists are attracted to dire portents whether the portents are true or palpably absurd. The second aspect that must trouble Democrats is that this news story happens to be true. The Democrats really are fragmented and in disarray.
We saw this late last month when their Joan of Arc, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, gave a perfectly sensible speech -- at least for her. The next day all hell broke loose, and it broke loose against her. Hillary has been the Democrats' leading presidential hope since roughly 2002. In normative politics that would be surprising because in 2001, right after the Clintons were both being blamed for the pedaling of presidential pardons, the trashing of the White House by the Clinton staff, and the pilfering of White House property by the couple themselves, Hillary's approval rating had plummeted to 38%. The New York Times was calling for congressional investigations. The New York Observer was calling on Sen. Clinton to resign.
Of course "normative" has rarely applied to the Clintons. Within a year Madame Hillary began her weird ascent with amnesiac Democrats, and soon she was the most popular Democratic office holder in the country -- at least with Democrats. She has remained so. Today she is almost a shoo-in for the party's nomination. Still, late last month she was the object of obloquy from what is being called her party's angry left. All that she had said, aside from her usual denunciations of the Republicans and of the diabolical George W. Bush, was that "It's high time for a ceasefire. It's time for all Democrats to work together … let's start by uniting against the hard-right ideology."