Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Aging Democratic Party

A call yesterday from a reporter from the Los Angeles Times led me to thinking about something. She wanted to know if I thought that both the Lautenberg and Mondale replacements indicated whether or not the "boomers" are being replaced or disowned in politics. Are the old folks making a comeback? I thought about it for a while and thought the question was badly put. The real question is: What does it mean for the Democratic Party when two guys in the mid-seventies are being seen as the heroes of this election, of pulling the party’s chestnuts out of the fire, of keeping the Senate in Democratic hands? This is especially odd, I argued, given that Clinton was a boomer (and played up his youth), claimed to be a moderate who overcame the post-McGovern leftward tilt of the party, and therefore was the only Demo president re-elected to a second term since FDR. In short, he was a successful president (from the Demo point of view). Now, in their attempt to win an election (and hold the Senate) the Demos are going backwards. They are already in the process of nationalizing the election by using the tragedy of Wellstone’s death as a replacement for a political philosophy that they have been disowning. Wellstone was on the fringes of the party. Yet, in being used as a symbol, his left wing political ideology is being revivified. They are saying "let’s win this for Wellstone." Well, this clarion call may prove to be successful in the short term, but it will have bad long term consequences for the Democrats. They are on their way toward re-defining their party as more liberal, they are on their way toward justifying the left-wingers in the party, the very thing they have been trying to overcome--with success--over the last twenty years. Also, what will happen to those younger and ambitious Democrats who are trying to climb up the ladder by following in the supposed Clinton moderate mode? This could become very interesting. Especially if they are successful in holding the Senate--and it is almost inevitable that the old gezeers get the credit--there will be an open ideological battle within the party that 1) the new turks will end up losing, yet the old liberal-left cannot end up winning and, therefore, 2) the Clintons (plural) will end up dominating. This will almost certainly insure that Hillary becomes the nominee in 2008. She will be seen as the center.

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