Bob Herbert is off today, so the NY Times Op-Ed people turned the space over to someone named Timothy Egan, who proceeded to write one of the dumbest things I've read all day.
Look, I know it's taken on faith that Democrats are unorganized and that we're better than the New Orleans Saints at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. There is a little truth to it--the danger of building a party around a coalition as diverse as ours, often made up of oppressed minorities, is that no one wants their priorities to be suborned in favor of others, and so there's always tension around some faction or another threatening to leave. But even with that constant tension, things are not as bad as lazy commentators would have us believe.
Egan chooses as his model for the Democratic party... the Donner party. That's right--we're a bunch of ill-prepared settlers heading for a new world who get stuck in the snow along the way and eat each other. I won't go into the myriad ways this doesn't literally work--for instance, Egan says we don't make it out of the Rockies, but anyone who's approached Denver from the east knows that the approach into Denver from that direction is fairly flat. You don't have to get into serious mountains until you head farther west. Instead, I want to point out that the Democrats are not nearly in the disarray that Egan wants to make us out to be.
Just which party is it that's turning on itself? Congressionally, that would have to be the Republicans. In the House, the Republicans are already facing 29 retirements including the former chair of the NRCC, and this only two years after having given up the majority because of their landslide losses in 2006. You'd have to think a lot of those first-term Democrats would be vulnerable, but instead of challenging them, the Republicans are going to be defending even more seats. When it comes to fundraising, both the Republican House and Senate campaign committees are lagging far behind their Democratic counterparts, and the Senate committee is also having trouble finding people to challenge Democrats in tough seats. The Democrats look like they'll pick up anywhere from 3-6 seats there in this cycle as well. So much for eating each other.
Then there are the long term trends. The image is from Kos, via a Pew Foundation poll, and let's just say it bodes well for the cannibals.
The share of voters who call themselves Republicans has declined by six points since 2004, and represents, on an annualized basis, the lowest percentage of self-identified Republican voters in 16 years of polling by the Center.Which party is eating itself again?
The Democratic Party has also built a substantial edge among independent voters. Of the 37% who claim no party identification, 15% lean Democratic, 10% lean Republican, and 12% have no leaning either way.
But Egan isn't interested in that. It's the Presidential race that he cares about, the big enchilada, and there, certainly, the Democrats are eating themselves alive. The blogs are brimming with intra-party division, Obama supporters will walk if Clinton gets the nomination and vice-versa. Oh the humanity! (Side note: Egan's image of Howard Dean as the gibbering simpleton is too precious to be believed.)
Except that it's not likely to happen, for starters, and secondly, the excitement is all on the Democratic side. Remember those record turnouts? We're not talking about a few percentage points difference between Republican and Democratic party turnouts--if you compare the numbers from states where both nomination battles were competitive, there were cases where the Democratic frontrunner had more votes than the Republican candidates combined, where the Democratic second-place finisher had more than the top two Republicans combined. And this was well before the overstated "Rush-effect." Even if we focus on money, McCain had his best month of the campaign in February, where he raised $12 million. That's just over a third of what Clinton raised, and Obama raised about four-and-a-half times as much. But we're eating ourselves.
The Republicans look like the model of unity right now, just because they have a candidate and there's little internal sniping going on. But there are obviously some issues they're dealing with. The news that McCain sought out the endorsement of psychotic pastor John Hagee shows that McCain is worried that the religious base might not turn out for him, and if the Republicans want to play a game of "whose religious people are crazier," I'll see their Jeremiah Wright and raise them a Hagee, a Rod Parsley, Pat Robertson and a Jerry Falwell. And that's just the mainstream ones.
The Democratic race is, for all intents and purposes, over, and has been for a while. That's not to say I think Clinton should drop out--her continuing to contest the nomination means we continue to build the party in those states, and get them ready for the general election in November, and what's more, it keeps our issues front and center. There will be plenty of time to train our political fire on John McCain after we get to Denver.