Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come

It's official: Cindy Sheehan has the forms to run as an independent candidate against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. If Sheehan can get the signatures of enough voters, she'll be an official candidate. But that's not the real story. The real story is how the possibility of a Pelosi/Sheehan race is an indication of how badly Democrats have mismanaged their party for the past few years.

And, surprise surprise, it all starts with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

When Bill and Hillary hit the Democratic Party scene in ernest in 1992, they were transformative figures. Within a short time, they went from a former Governor of Arkansas and his Yuppie wife to the central figures of one of the two major political parties. If Bill and Hillary would have had the party's best interests in mind, it wouldn't be so bad, but they didn't. It's always been about them and what the party could do for them. Quite a difference from John F. Kennedy's famous speech.

Once the Clintons were in place, the Democratic Party seemed to slavishly follow whatever they wanted. They had the political capital in 1993 and 1994 to set the stage for a new Democratic agenda, and the Clintons were still fairly popular. However, they didn't capitalize on the situation, which lead to the Republican Revolution in 1994. Bill Clinton was blamed in large part for Democrats losing control of Congress in full, but they stuck by him.

The Democrats reached the point of no return with the Clintons in 1998 and 1999 with the Clinton impeachment. The Democratic Party were seriously hurt by their loyalty to the Clintons during this time by not having the serious discussion Clinton's actions required. We had a sitting President lying under oath about something that may not have mattered in the grand scheme of things. This was a situation that, contrary to popular belief, was not a "vast right wing conspiracy," but was a monster of the Clintons' own making. When the Democrats made the decision to admit Clinton did wrong, but it didn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense, they became the Clintonic Party.

But there was another effect that didn't get noticed right away and still isn't being recognized. All of the political capital the Democrats spent to keep Clinton in office took away from building up the future leaders of the party, Al Gore included, and it has hurt them in election after election. Even in Election 2006, when Democrats took back the House and took back the Senate in name only, the leadership deficiency was apparent. Seriously, did Democrats really believe Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi would be great Congressional leaders? In the latter case, it's clear they didn't think beyond their desire to "make history" when choosing Pelosi for Speaker. To put it bluntly, the Pelosi House and the Reid Senate have been laughingstocks of political ineptitude.

This opens the door for people like Sheehan because it gives them a reason to run against the Democratic "leadership." And thanks to the political empowerment they've felt because of Sheehan, they will jump at the chance to take down politicians they think are shielding Bush from impeachment. What this does in the political sense is put pressure on the Democrats to appease the left wing of their party, which they really can't do without losing the more conservative elements of their party. This creates the political equivalent of a Faustian deal, and it could create situations where a Democrat who could have won easily will either be weakened or lose outright because of a split vote.

It also further splits the Democratic Party, which has been a loose coalition of special interest groups since you-know-who was President. There is enough anamosity within Democratic ranks right now that we could see a major rift appear even if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama win the Presidential election. Those special interest groups that Bill Clinton was able to hold together are now looking to advance their agendas, even at the expense of the party that gave them an audience in the first place.

In short, the Democrats created the mess they're in, and with people like Cindy Sheehan taking aim at Nancy Pelosi, it doesn't look like they're calling in the cleaning crew just yet.

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