Utter collapse of Dems is likely

    As the New Year rang in, many newspaper opinion sections served the annual predictions about the coming year from many nationally syndicated political columnists. Most pundits predict a bit of doom and gloom mixed in with a splash of unflagging support for their politician of choice. However, because syndicated columnists have to make realistic predictions and give “”educated”” estimates about the future decisions of policy makers around the world, they are not allowed a great deal of wild and possibly abstract conjecture.

    Thus, to pick up where the pundits left off, and with the same reckless arrogance, I too will cast my clearly infallible prediction on the coming year. Then, I will strongly extol all students who are apolitical to support a cause of their choice and get involved to either dissuade this fate or embrace it. Well, I will at least extol a glance at a newspaper once and a while, because this year, according to me, is going to be interesting:

    I predict that the 2004 presidential election may very well be the harbinger of doom for at least one of the two contemporary political parties. That is to say, either the Democrats or Republicans will disappear into obscurity, if not implode in a politically cataclysmic event.

    The more likely of the two parties to collapse will be the Democratic Party. At the center of this collapse would be Howard Dean, but in truth, he would be only the final straw that broke the party’s back.

    The premise for the fracture of the Democratic Party comes with the attempt of Howard Dean to overthrow the Democratic Leadership Council, the group of moderate Democrats who gave America Bill Clinton, as the leaders of the Democratic Party. This may seem like petty in-party bickering, but because of Dean’s significantly more liberal stance than Clinton, his victory or defeat will determine the future of the party.

    For Dean, the problem is that Americans, as an electorate, do not swing drastically in either direction. If anyone cares to remember, in the 2000 election most swing voters didn’t care about either Bush or Gore because they “”were practically the same candidate.””

    The nature of the American two-party system strongly suggests that it is unlikely for an extremist to make their way into positions of great importance. No doubt partisans on both sides will shout me down and cite opposition “”extremist”” examples, but in a worldwide political scheme, our candidates always look nearly the same. For a real contrast, take a glance at Italy’s capitalist Silvio Berlusconi verses his rival, decidedly leftist Romano Prodi. Or even more prevalent, the newly elected government in Northern Ireland, with Ian Paisley’s extremist Unionist party against Gerry Adam’s socialist Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA.

    Thus, as many analysts suspect, if Howard Dean wins the primaries, as is probable at this point, his negative rhetoric and blatant hate for all-things-Bush combined with his own Vermont brand of socialism will cost him an embarrassing defeat at the hands of a popular war-time president and a largely optimistic public.

    This, alone, would not cause the downfall of the party. Both Democrats and Republicans have lost embarrassing elections before. However, the Democratic Party is at a particularly precarious point in time. They are facing a president who consistently has high approval ratings and who has a monopoly on the issue of national security, which is arguably the most important at this time.

    To add to this, the party is fielding nine different candidates who are tearing each other apart with negative campaigning, while Bush continues to look optimistic. Since the core constituents of the Democratic Party care about anger at this point, energy spent toward imagining a better America, rather than merely a Bush-less America is next to nothing.

    Even worse for the Democrats, the country is definitely in the middle of a pendulum swing to the right. At the 2000 election, regardless of the outcome, Americans identified themselves with the category “”conservative,”” two to one over the category “”liberal.””

    Bush is capturing the rest of the American moderate by compromising on issues like Medicare and backing down on illegal immigrant issues, while at the same time attacking affirmative action and attending church regularly, which pleases his base.

    The DLC, meanwhile, has nearly had enough. If Dean wins the nomination, via strong turnout by the party’s left, and then goes on to lose the national election, it is very feasible that the moderate Democrats could fracture into a new party. Conversely, if Gephardt or Lieberman wins the nomination, the throngs of angry Democrats may very well fracture into a socialist party. This would be particularly possible given the number of energetic and idealistic young political enthusiasts that support Dean.

    All of this is not to say that the Republican Party may not fracture. I predict that if Bush loses the election, the Republican Party will be in more of a danger of splitting than the Democrats. Exhibit A is the California recall election. Social conservatives and fiscal conservatives, that is, McClintock and Schwarzenegger respectively, spent most of the recall biting each other rather than Davis. The national Republican party would have the same problem except that, through a variety of both conservative and moderate policies, President Bush has managed to keep the Republican party together.

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