Friday, March 07, 2008

This Just In--Democrats Lose in November '08

You read it here first: the Democratic candidate for President will lose the election. Note I did not say "McCain wins;" the Democrats have the numbers and the political momentum to win the election handily, and so it is theirs to lose.

My longtime friend G.F.B., who is often prescient in such matters, just laid out why the Democrats will lose, and I find his analysis persuasive.

1. Fundraising exhaustion. To paraphrase G.F.B.'s comments: political campaign spending is even worse than burning the tens of millions of dollars in a bonfire because you don't even get the feeble warmth generated by the fire.

As anyone who has ever donated money to the candidate of their choice knows, you burn out on giving after the 5th, 10th or 50th desperate plea. The Democrats are using up their most loyal donors' money at a furious, unsustainable rate: $50 million here, $70 million there, and pretty soon you're talking serious money. Who will be left who is willing to give money, when they more or less loathe the "other Democrat" and already gave all they could?

2. The "Big tent reconciliation" is a hoax. The supporters of each Democratic candidate are not lukewarm--thay are rabidly partisan and fervent believers that the "other one" is not a wise choice. They will not "rally round" the winner, no matter how much spin is twirled by party spinmeisters. If Obama is denied the top spot by the Superdelegates (Party hacks and insiders), then his supporters will flock to McCain. Hillary supporters will stay home if their candidate doesn't get the nomination.

Remember: staying home is in essence voting for the other Party. If Obama gets the top spot, and millions of Hillary's supporters are unmotivated to go to the polls to vote Democratic, then McCain has a huge advantage. Republicans, even those conservatives who know in their bones that McCain is simply too independent to be as conservative as they would wish, will grit their teeth and vote for him as the lesser of two evils. After the bitter primary campaign, many disgruntled Democrats (by definition, about half of all primary voters) will be likely to stay home.
3. The big factor in Obama's campaign: the youth vote finally reappeared. If Obama is denied the nomination by the Superdelegates--given his lead in delegates, and the likelihood his lead will continue into the convention, then this is a real possibility--then all the young people who were energized by Obama will withdraw in disgust. They are not interested in supporting either "old school" candidate, Clinton or McCain.

4. The Democrats can't win unless the Party base--unions, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasian blue-collar voters-- is joined by independents. Too bad they dislike each other's candidate. Some polls show that up to 40% of registered Democrats have a negative response to Hillary. Of course her negatives are even higher among Republicans and independents.

Setting aside allegiances and partisanship for a moment, consider the election in terms of pure numbers. If Hillary can only count on the most loyal Party members, and she loses the independents, there is no way she can win the general election. The same is true of McCain--if he gets the loyal Republicans but loses the independents (who collectively are more numerous than either party's registered members), then he can't win, either.

Similarly, if the union/feminist/blue-collar core of the Democratic membership stays home on election day, then Obama can't win.

So who can gather up the Party loyals and the independents? Only John McCain. I know it's hard for her supporters to swallow, but Hillary is a devisive candidate. She polls extremes of support and negatives in her own party, never mind the entire populace. Her supporters are simply not numerous enough to win any general election. Independents respond negatively to her and positively to John McCain for the obvious reason that McCain has a wild-card/independent character, and Hillary does not. She is viewed by many independents as a "by the book" Democrat in a world in which "by the book" Party "solutions" (from both parties) have failed the nation.

And it's not just character issues which divide Democrat's responses to Hillary. Hillary supporters believe she can reinstate the economic good times of the 1990s, while independents chalk up that era's growth to the Internet Boom, globally low inflation (driven by low commodity prices) and benign interest rates--factors largely outside of presidential or congressional control.
They also note that some of President Clinton's accomplishments (welfare reform) were lifted from the Republican Revolution's 1994 playbook. And they recall that the Democrats controlled Congress 1992-1994 and were then steamrolled in 1994 after the abject failure of the Clinton National Healthcare proposal.

Perhaps it comes down to this: if you believe the Clintons were responsible for the 1990s economic "good times" (which didn't end well, and you can't blame Bush-- the stock market collapsed in 2000, long before he entered office)--then you are an ardent supporter of Hillary's campaign. If you think Bill just got lucky, and it was long-term factors like rising productivity, China's joining the global economy, record-low commodity prices, rocketing capital gains and the Internet boom which fueled the 90s, then you are skeptical of the idea that another Clinton in the White House will restore the economic lustre of the 1990s.

In fairness, the Clinton Administration and the 1992-1994 Congress showed far more fiscal discipline than did the tax-cut-and-spend Reagan and Bush I administrations. Dramatically smaller Federal deficits lowered the cost of money, and Bill Clinton cannot be blamed for the disastrous policies of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. But it is also fair to note the global winds of good fortune which blessed the nation in the 90s were forces outside the control of either the White House or Congress.

Let's be candid: race matters in America. Many of Hillary's supporters will not vote for Obama because they don't find supporting an African-American an appealing idea. If you disagree, I will have to inquire about your circle of contacts and just how much you get out in "real America." Open your ears, people; subtly racist views don't reside beneath any one skin color, they reside in varying degrees beneath all skin colors. Is this the top consideration in people's minds? Perhaps not; but add in an unhealthy chunk of bitterness over Hillary's loss and you get a lot of people who will decide to stay home on election day.

If the Democratic Party core stays home in any major way, Obama loses.

So line them up: McCain vs. Clinton: McCain gets his Party loyals and the independents; Clinton gets her party loyals and few independents: she loses.

McCain vs. Obama: Embittered by the vitriol of months-long primary war and their candidate's loss, the Democratic supporters of Hillary stay home in droves. Obama splits the independents with McCain but cannot overcome the advantage of the Republican core holding their noses and voting for McCain.

I think the crucial point of debate here is this: will Hillary and Obama supporters give lip service to Party loyalty but stay home/vote for McCain once election day arrives? Based on the Democrats I know personally, I would say few Obama supporters will vote for Hillary because they have little party loyalty and they don't view Hillary favorably. Hillary's supporters will have a hard time joining the Obama bandwagon, and as I have said above, elections are lost not just by who shows up but by who stays home.

G.F.B. offered some striking advice for the Obama campaign: openly declare that if he is ahead in delegates at the convention but the Superdelegates throw the nomination to Hillary, he will declare a third-party candidacy. I believe his supporters would cheer this gutsy call, for they have no loyalty to the Party platform or the Clinton dynasty. Yes, such a move would wipe out any chance of Democratic victory. But should any party which so openly flouts the "one citizen, one vote" rule be allowed to win? Many would say no.

Of course the Democratic Party hacks who are Superdelegates spout an array of absurd justifications for the arcane nonsense, but they never mention the real one: McGovern. After the Democrats chose McGovern, and his candidacy imploded in 1972, party leaders vowed "never again, we'll pick the candiate from now on." It would be ironic indeed if their desire to rig the nomination led to the party's downfall in 2008--and I consider that a very real possibility.

McGovern ran a dismal campaign of snafu after snafu, but he was a combat veteran of World War II (pilot) and an honorable man, and his defeat was honorable as well. The Democrats came to power soon enough, and any Democratic candidate would have lost to Nixon anyway after the 1972 Christmas Bombing of Hanoi led to the Vietnam Peace Accords that spring.

G.F.B. also suggested that Obama should immediately announce that he will refuse the "loyal negro" position of vice-presidency on the Democratic ticket.

If you haven't yet found some reason to give an Obama candidacy a chance, consider that Paul Volker is a supporter: It's the Dollar, Stupid (Wall Street Journal)

"Given that Sen. Obama has garnered the support of Paul Volcker, the highly-respected former chairman of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Carter and Reagan, U.S. voters are apt to get a meaningful and well-considered reply. "I think we are skating on increasingly thin ice," Mr. Volcker noted in the Washington Post in April 2005. He warned that the stagflation of the 1970s was characterized by "a volatile and depressed dollar, inflationary pressures, a sudden increase in interest rates and a couple of big recessions." Mr. Volcker's solution? Act now to comply with "the oldest lesson of economic policy: a strong sense of monetary and fiscal discipline."

Not that fiscal and monentary policy should have anything to do with electing the President....

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