Friday, September 23, 2005

2008 Democratic Nomination There For The Taking

While it makes enticing cocktail-party conversation, who will run and who will ultimately get the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, is a topic best tabled until after November of 2006. We have a House and Senate to win back and important gubernatorial contests to win in the next 13 months and it's vital that we keep our eyes on those prizes.

But as I observe the contrast between the fed-up, combative stance of most progressives and the apparently weak conviction of our elected Democrats, I become increasingly convinced that the 2008 nomination can be effectively wrapped up by whichever potential candidate steps emphatically to the plate in the next year.

The veneer has been decidedly stripped from the contrived George W. Bush political-power juggernaut of 2002 and 2003. His poll numbers in every area are sinking faster than occupancy rates at Galveston hotels. The war he created in Iraq has become an unpopular quagmire, his scheme to privatize social security has fallen off the face of the earth and Hurricane Katrina revealed him to be the out-of-touch, incompetent chief executive that many of us have long known him to be.

His political guru, Karl Rove, and House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay are barely treading political and legal water and it has now been revealed that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist may have some emerging insider trading problems.

Under Bush's watch, the United States has become arguably the most hated nation on the planet, while at home more Americans struggle, lose health insurance and slip into poverty.

So why then, do the big names in the Democratic party find it so hard to stand up, stick to Democratic principles, concede nothing to the Republican party and fight for the issues that concern the majority of the country? It certainly can't be that they fear President Bush's alleged personal popularity. If it ever did exist, it doesn't now and Republican candidates will not exactly be jumping at the chance to have him appearing at their campaign events next year. And, were it not for having more numbers on the Congressional tote board, Frist and DeLay would be politically neutered entirely at this point.

Politicians are by nature a calculating, cautious lot. But, when viewed through a cynical, political eye, any Democrat hoping to become president in 2008 could not possibly have a better opportunity to stand out to angry, frustrated and mobilized liberals, starving for a national leader. Giving powerful voice to the Bush backlash being felt and expressed all over America could allow someone to separate from the Democratic pack long before the presidential primaries even begin.

In recent days, John Kerry and John Edwards have been front and center assailing Bush's lack of leadership, but it still is not loud enough. Nor is it a sufficiently uncompromising match for how millions of us in the Democratic rank and file are feeling about this government.

To be sure, disgusting spectacles like Senators Leahy, Kohl and Feingold weakly reaching across the aisle to vote in favor of Chief Justice nominee John Roberts today, typify everything most Democrats are tired of seeing. Senator Feingold may be touring New Hampshire these days, but his presidential hopes may well have died in the Senate Judiciary Committee today – even among those of us who had not forgotten his 2001 vote to confirm John Ashcroft, but were willing to give him another look.

I once heard Gary Hart say that the biggest sin in political life is not to be wrong, but to be irrelevant. In a divided country and one in which Democratic voters are sick of losing and tired of fighting battles that our leaders should be waging, weaklings and those with no spine are quickly becoming irrelevant.

Progressives – and, I would venture to say, a large part of that coveted electoral middle as well – are waiting for a political "Rocky" to stand up and take the fight to the bad guys. And, for those looking for the massive support they will most assuredly need to become president in 2008, there has seldom been a more opportune time to stand up, be loud and be counted.

There doesn't seem to be much competition in staking that claim right now and we're all open to a strong Democrat with the brains, guts and commitment to truly take on the Republican party. But, at this stage of the game, no wimps, equivocators or compromisers need apply.