Jonah Goldberg

Three stories from Monday of this week tell the tale. The headline of a front-page Washington Post article on House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: "Hoyer Is Proof of Earmarks' Endurance." And there's the Los Angeles Times' front-pager on Hillary: "Clinton rolls a sizable pork barrel." And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it best himself in Monday's Roll Call: "Have we stopped the war in Iraq? No. Have we gotten health care? No. Have we improved education? No. But we have been able to do what we've done. We've done a lot of things."

If I were a netrooter, I'd be so frustrated that I might post a really, really angry comment on a blog in ALL CAPS.

The re-emergence of traditional rifts on the left was inevitable. Years of powerlessness obscured the divides between, for example, liberal internationalists, left-leaning realists and ideological opponents of American "empire."

Still, Democrats are doubling down on their 2006 promises even after a year of coming up short. If Democrats win the White House and more congressional seats in 2008, they vow, then suddenly the world will change.

But that's a delusion, too. They may pass more legislation, but increased Democrat power will further highlight the party's fault lines. And the emotional oomph that self-described progressives draw from their rallies, protests and blogs cannot be sustained as a governing program because our government is blessedly designed to siphon off such excitement.

The lesson that Democratic victory isn't magically transformative is a grievous one for the activists who'd dreamed of a fairy-tale deliverance from Bush. And the first stage of grief is denial - that's why they're flocking to Obama.

As Washington politics grow more disappointing, Obama's appeal grows because not just any Democrat will do anymore. As Oprah put it over the weekend, "You got to step out of your box. We can step out of our box and dream America anew again by supporting Barack Obama."

Translation: Voting for Hillary will keep you in the box. The first female front-runner for president is, amazingly, the candidate of the establishment. For all except a few feminists, she's a buzz-kill. Voting for Clinton just doesn't make Democrats feel good about themselves.

They still want a victory that will magically change the world. Unfortunately for her, neither "Democrat" nor "Clinton" nor "Hillary" is an abracadabra word anymore. But "Obama" is.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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