Are Democrats too angry (and too liberal) to win back the presidency in 2004? As my old 8-ball used to divine, "Signs point to yes."
I cite the recent successes of far-left candidate Howard Dean in his quest for the nomination, which many originally dismissed as quixotic. Dean handily won an online primary conducted by MoveOn.org with nearly 44 percent of the vote, and even more ultra-liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich garnered almost 24 percent.
Dismiss this if you choose as an unscientific sampling, but then how do you explain Dean's raising over $6 million in the second quarter of this year, $2.8 million of which came in during the last eight days of the quarter? We are talking here, folks, about the Sean Penn/Alec Baldwin/Susan Sarandon wing of the party -- and it is obviously energized by Dr. Dean's message.
What is his message? Well, it's certainly not that he can lead us better in the war on terror than President Bush. It's not that he can provide better homeland security for the American people. It's not that he can restore a healthier level of growth to the economy.
It's not even that Bush is incompetent and that he can do better. No, his rallying cry is that Bush is a crooked, power-mad, unilateralist, neoconservative imperialist bent on manipulating the country into supporting his globalist designs. This preposterous mantra is what ignites the party's liberal base -- and boy, is it liberal. So liberal that it can't see past its own passions to rein itself into contention.
So consumed is the base by its hatred for Bush that it is fabricating WMD conspiracy theories to discredit him and even believes its own lies.
"Ah, yes, Limbaugh," you say, "but you have no room to talk. Look at the political right's animosity toward Clinton." Touche! However, I'm not playing the blame game here, merely analyzing the situation on the ground, as they say. Were I headed in that direction I would tell you that at least the right's revulsion toward Clinton was grounded in reality -- based on their repeated observations of his pathological prevarication and his consummate remorselessness about it.
But the point here is not that Bush-bashers are worse than the Clinton-bashers were. It's that the Bush-bashers are equally fixated and politically self-destructive, which makes the Democrats' already formidable task of unseating Bush that much more difficult.
Is the Democrats' plight not reminiscent of the Republican's Clinton-mania in 1992 and 1996? Think back: Did the Republicans really offer an agenda around which its base could unite?
In 1992, President Bush, in pursuit of a "kinder and gentler America," had spent too much time squandering President Reagan's legacy of unprecedented economic prosperity to have much of a positive message. He couldn't credibly run as a supply-sider after having broken his no-new-taxes pledge. Plus, the Cold War was over, and Saddam was not yet seen as representing an ongoing threat. Besides, he was too busy trying to counter Clinton's distortions about "the worst economy in 50 years" to offer up his own agenda.
In 1996, it was even worse. Despite Clinton's vulnerabilities, Republicans could serve up no better challenger than Bob Dole, who was anointed based on years of service to the party rather than a triumph of his ideas.
Now in 2003, the Democrats are getting no traction with economic issues. This is partly because the economy is not as bad as Democrats have portrayed it. But also, the electorate knows that the economy has been strained and the deficits increased by the terrorist attacks, homeland security efforts and the war, and because economic issues are overshadowed by those of national security.
And Democrats are going to have about as much credibility impeaching President Bush's foreign policy and national security record as Dole did attacking Clinton for the prosperity we were enjoying in 1996.
That dog just won't hunt, because people know Bush is not a liar and has been an exemplary commander-in-chief. Which brings me back to the original point.
It doesn't seem to matter to the mad-dog liberal base of the Democratic Party that Bush is unimpeachable (so-to-speak) in this area. The far left controlling the party will nevertheless force all the Democratic contenders to scramble to the westward-most end of the ideological spectrum to curry their favor.
It's a formula guaranteed for defeat, but they are too blinded by their unspent rage beginning with frustrations over their failed hijacking of the 2000 election and continuing through their failed prophecies of doom in Iraq to change course.