Daniel Henninger had a nice op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday (sorry, paper edition), entitled “The Democrats Have a Failure to Communicate.” As you may have heard, presidential hopefuls Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt, and Dennis Kucinich all skipped out on last week’s NAACP convention, and the NAACP was none too pleased. As Henninger put it, group president Kweisi Mfume “went ballistic,” saying that each of the absentees was now “persona non grata,” and had “political capital equivalent to confederate dollars.” Maybe it’s just as well for Kucinich et al, turns out that Al Sharpton scored highest on the applause-o-meter that night when he announced that he was the only presidential candidate to have done jail time. Inspiring, isnt he?
Henninger makes the point, and I think it’s a good one, that Lieberman, Gephardt, and Kucinich all sent their regrets because they believed they could afford to. In the land of Democratic politics, you might say, they had confederate money to burn—or at least they thought they did. According to Henninger, this is because the Democratic Party has been replaced by “literally dozens of largely independent political groups, of which the NAACP is but one.” So, a rationally calculating presidential contender surveys the “crowded Darwinian marketplace” and tries to pick from a NASDAQ of political stocks—human rights, NARAL Pro-Choice, the Children’s Defense Fund, gay marriage, the public worker’s union, Green Peace, and the NAACP. But the candidates proved, as only Democrats and my broker could, that it’s still possible to be rational and calculating, and wrong. After all, John Kerry, who attended the event, followed Sharpton’s popular criminal history with a more rational history of his own, telling the tale of how he once became friends with a black man over in Viet Nam—seems Kerry was quite the civil rights soldier. (Inspiring, isnt he?) And Joe Lieberman, after begging off for the evening, quickly calculated that he was now a few confederate bucks shy of his very own White House, apologized to the NAACP, and offered Kweisi Mfume a seat on the Supreme Court. Rational, calculating, and oh so wrong.