Or will the winner in 2008 redefine their party as Britain's Tony (Blair) did in the mid-1990s, establishing the foundation for a new governing majority in America?
Or will a third party choice arise similar to Ross (Perot's) 1992 populist-driven candidacy, scramble the political matrix, and attract enough support to enable a candidate to win the White House with less than 45% of the popular vote?
These three wildly different scenarios were proposed recently by an influential political scientist as possible precedents for the 2008 presidential contests.
Join me below the fold to learn more.
This is the third of three posts reviewing conservative political scientist Michael Barone's cover story, "Open-Field Politics" in the current issue of The National Journal, in which he engages in a comprehensive effort to reframe the political outcome of the 2006 midterm elections.
Tragically, the Congressional Democrats' current timidity and lack of leadership show his efforts (combined with many others in the Right Wing's noise machine) are succeeding.
How did the Democrats move so quickly from November's euphoria over our historic victory to the place we are today?
I believe the answer can be found in Barone's article. Especially when you realize what's missing from the article.
The Democrats have accepted these "facts" about the 2006 midterm election results:
- The electorate was rejecting GOP incompetence but NOT conservative ideology
- The Democrats DO NOT have a mandate on any issues (other than Iraq & corruption) because the 2006 election was an "idea-free" campaign
For a complete analysis of the article, please see the preceding posts:
Part I: The Myth of the Bitter Divide, 1995-2005 discusses the revionism necessary to create what is widely accepted as political doctrine today: for a decade, America was an evenly divided nation. The Red Team vs. The Blue Team
Part II, "Why Do We Allow GOP Pundits to Define Our Victory?" looks at how Barone (and any other skilled propagandist) can look at hard numbers and spin them to tell the story they want.
An historic victory is dismissed as meaningless. The newly minted majority believes it has no power. And the conservative movement envisions its resurrection and prepares for another usurption of power.
Part III: Is the Precedent for 2008 Eisenhower, Blair or Perot?
All of this brings us to the last part of Barone's article - his "predictions" for the 2008 presidential contest. He reviews the current state of both the Democratic and Rebublican nomination battles (I'll spare you the details) and arrives at the conclusion 2008 is a wide open "presidential race different from any other recent presidential race."
He looks for historical precedent "to advance three possible scenarios for the 2008 results," specifically Tony Blair, Dwight Eisenhower and Ross Perot. He writes:
The Blair Scenario. In the early 1990s, Britain's Conservative Party was regarded as nasty but competent. Then in September 1992 Britain was forced to exit from the European Rate Mechanism; interest rates and mortgage payments shot up, and the Conservatives' reputation for economic competence vanished. The Labor Party went ahead in the polls, to remain there until 2006, an impressive 14 years. Under the leadership of Tony Blair, New Labor, as he called it, won a sweeping victory in 1997. The House of Commons shifted from 343-273 Conservative to 419-165 Labor. Prime Minister Blair's party won a similarly sweeping victory in 2001 and won by a slightly reduced margin in 2005.
In this scenario, the reader might assume Barone is envisioning the Democrats as poised for a long-term majority. Of course, Barone argues this isn't happening because the Democrats have rapidly been moving toward the left over the past six years. On top of this, the Republican candidates are all distancing themselves from the incompetence of the Bush administration and its policies. It's important to Barone's basic points:
- The Democrats are too liberal for a conservative America - and by listening to their base, they're moving further from the mainstream (wait, didn't we just WIN an election? - oh, no, the Republicans LOST, that's it)
- The failures of the Bush Administration are limited to the individual and not a result of the conservative ideology
Barone's actually making the case that THE REPUBLICANS ARE DOING THE REBRANDING.
Goebbels would be proud.
So, who is "Ike" in Barone's 2008 race? He suggests Rudy (he commanded a police force of 40,000 Barone tells us) or maybe McCain. Of course, none of the Democrats have the military background and gravitas necessary to fills Ike's shoes, with the possible exception being Richardson's foreign policy experience.
The Ike Scenario. In 1952 the United States was mired in a deadly conflict in Korea -- a conflict that took 10 times as many lives as Iraq has and that President Truman could not end. There emerged a candidate with a record of making life-and-death decisions in war: Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike captured the Republican nomination from "Mr. Republican," Robert Taft, and then defeated a refreshing new face from Illinois, Adlai Stevenson, who had little military experience. At a time when Democrats had a big advantage in party identification, Eisenhower won the election solidly, and Republicans captured small majorities in both houses of Congress.
As far as I'm concerned this scenario is the least likely of Barone's three fantasies. Neither McCain nor Giuliani is advocating ending the Iraq fiasco and are members of the party responsible for launching this war. Now, if Wes Clark were to jump into the race this might be a viable scenario.
There is no "Ike" in this race.
This brings us to the most probable scenario, especially with today's news about Mayor Bloomberg. has changed his party registration from (R) to independent and his
The Perot Scenario. In February 1992 a short billionaire from Texas told CNN's Larry King that he might run for president. Perot had enough money (he ultimately spent more than $60 million of his own money) and enough celebrity to make an independent candidacy plausible. What made Perot appealing to voters tired of stale, bitter division were his calls for reform and an end to partisan wrangling.
The newly-independent Bloomberg has reportedly set aside $1 BILLION of his own fortune (rumors started by the Moonies at the WA Times, so, we have our large grain of salt nearby, of course) to finance a run for president. (What are we Italy, for crissakes??!!! Who does he think he is, Berlusconi???). Rasmussen recently offered analysis of Bloomberg's potential to affect the presidential race. This week, SurveyUSA released polling numbers showing Bloomberg's entry would hurt Giuliani more than Hillary in nine of the sixteen states polled regarding hypothetical two-way and three-way matchups.
Barone's Perot scenario doesn't identify the beneficiary of a strong third party candidacy in 2008. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he made yet another omission.
And the only thing I can say is a third party candidacy will make an already interesting race more fascinating and entertaining.
I don't think I made myself enough popcorn for this feature, folks.
Cross-posted at Daily Kos , ProgressiveHistorians, and MyDD.