Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Brokering a Failure

With Super Tuesday now come and gone, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama has been able to establish themself as a clear cut favorite to gain the Democratic Party's nomination in the race for the White House. August 25th, now roughly 6 months away, looms ever larger for the two campaigns, as this is the date the Democratic Party descends upon Denver for its National Convention. If the current trend of accumulating delegates holds through the primary season, neither candidate will have garnered the 2,025 pledged delegates needed to secure the nomination. If this occurs, for the first time since 1952 the Party will be faced with the prospect of holding a brokered convention.

For a party that was beaten and bullied for the better part of this decade, the Democrats have been as of yet unable to circle their wagons and devise a strategy to unify the electorate, and to tilt the leanings of the nation back toward the left. Though they regained control of Congress in 2006, their return to power has been marked by ineffectiveness, negative approval ratings, and a sort of cat and mouse game played by trying to distance themselves from an unpopular president, at the same time they dart between verbal cannonballs launched by those on the ever vociferous right. From this political poker match have emerged Clinton and Obama, the two front runners so keen to play to the middle ground that they, for all intents and purposes, should be running as independents. Unable to gain an advantage over one another, they seem almost to be the different side of the same coin.

To their combined credit, Clinton and Obama have run relatively clean campaigns. There has been the occasional jab and counter punch, but even these instances seem to be centered more around periphery issues than on the candidates themselves. What happens though, when the summer comes, and the two candidates remain in a virtual dead heat when arriving in Denver for a final showdown? The imminent prospect of a brokered convention will bring not only increased political horse trading, but also increased negative campaigning and Democratic infighting. This may not be, however, the most damaging element to come from a convention as such. The real danger to the Democrats would come from producing a candidate too moderate for the Party's own good.

The Republican race, once thought to be headed down a similar road, is beginning to shape up as John McCain's race to lose. Even though he is wildy unpopular among those who lean to the far right, McCain has garnered enough centrist support to do well in the primaries and caucuses, mostly on the strength of support from the independent or undeclared voter. The question is whether a Democratic candidate would be able to challenge McCain in a campaign that took place largely in the center of the political spectrum. Add to this that McCain will most likely run alongside a much more right-leaning vice presidential nominee, to shore up support from conservatives, and the picture is potentially very bleak for the Democrats.

The key to any presidential race is to gain the votes that reside in the "grey area" - the independents, the left leaning Republicans, and conservative Democrats, all of whom come together to make up the holy grail of any campaign strategy worth it's salt. All of these votes, however, are meaningless if a candidate does not first secure the support of its base. Democrats, with the inherent vulnerabilities evident in some of their key demographic areas of support - the young and the poor, specifically, must be especially congnisant of this fact. By leaning too far to the right, an event sure to be made all the more likely by a National Convention convened under the duress that comes with appointing a candidate, the Democrats just may abandon their base in a failed bid to broaden it.

1 comment:

  1. Seems to me that there is something to be said to being the underdog. Obama's campaign has gained momentum, much I argue, owed to his status of being the underdog. The bulk of attention was given to Hillary's front runner status and could Barak keep closing ground.
    The New York Giants were clear underdogs in their battle with the New England Patriots. How could the Giants do what no team had done before them? How could they stop the perfection that the Patriot machine had earned?
    Most American's intellect told them that the Patriots would win but their hearts were with the Giants.
    Rooting for the underdog is an American trait, dating back to the American Revolution. The Minutemen were clear underdogs against the British Empire. And we know how that one ended.
    I argue that rooting for the underdog gives us all a sense of hope. When the seemingly impossible happens, the hope in all of us is restored. We also invariably root for the underdog as it soothes us through whatever life may throw at us. Knowing that we, the underdog, may too perhaps be victorious.