Is there hope for Wesley Clark to rescue the Democrats from likely disaster in the 2004 presidential contest? Only if he runs to his nearest bookstore before he digs himself a hole just as deep as the one his Democratic opponents are stuck in.
The book Clark needs to read is a controversial one that will be heard about in the coming weeks. "A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat," by U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., is a two-by-four across the collective heads of national Democratic Party leaders.
Miller is the former state senator, lieutenant governor, governor and now U.S. senator who has decided not to stand for re-election in 2004, despite being wildly popular in his home state. His lifelong affiliation with the Democratic Party includes having steered then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas in 1992 to a burgeoning political strategist named James Carville, engineering a campaign-saving Georgia primary victory for Clinton and then delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention for the soon-to-be president.
In light of this resume, few can fairly challenge Miller's right to state his uncompromised disappointment in the state of the Democratic Party. This is especially so, given that Miller has refused to abandon the Democrats even as he feels they have abandoned him. More, he laments its forsaking of an entire region of the country. As Miller puts it in his book, "Today our Democratic leaders look south and say, 'I see one third of the nation and it can go to hell.' "
Presidential election trends back him up. Just about every poll so far has shown Democrats faring poorly against President Bush in the South. And no, racial divide is not the reason. Miller was the first Georgia governor to stand up for removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag. Today, he is a lone voice in the wilderness for advocating government-assistance initiatives to help rural African Americans escape from a seemingly endless cycle of poverty.