It was to be the election they literally couldn’t lose.
Under Republican misrule, the value of the dollar has plummeted, we’ve blundered into two endless wars, and our economy is headed over a cliff. For seven years, corruption and incompetence have oozed from every pore of this administration’s mangy hide, and the president’s popularity rating rivals that of a bad case of head lice.
It would take an act of stupidity so implausible — a series of blunders so colossal — that the very idea the Democrats could let this presidential election slip away shouldn’t even be in the realm of possibility.
Yet somehow they are doing just that.
In all likelihood, Barack Obama will get the nomination, but he is a wounded candidate who probably cannot garner enough white working-class votes to win the crucial rust belt states. While the espresso-sipping NPR crowd may have been impressed by Obama’s race speech, it tanked with Joe Six-pack — who is the most critical swing voter on our contemporary electoral map.
Yet the only other plausible outcome would involve Hillary stealing the nomination (presumably through some trademark act of Clintonian chicanery). While she may enjoy slithering into the nomination, her victory would be Pyrrhic. Such an outcome would tear the Democratic Party apart. African-Americans, who have long been the most loyal Democratic voters, would rightly feel betrayed by the party machine. They would rise up in fury, or merely stay home. Either way, Hillary would be crushed in the general election.
Normally, this wouldn’t be much cause for concern. After all, neither party has shown itself to be honest and competent enough to properly govern America, so why should anyone care if the Democrats are forming a circular firing squad?
While I sympathize with this attitude, there is one little fly in the ointment: the Republican nominee.
Our country is collapsing under the financial and moral burden of imperial hubris. The system of government bequeathed by our Founders cannot long survive a policy of perpetual war for perpetual peace. The federal budget is skyrocketing, the national debt is exploding, and the government is systematically undermining the Constitution…all in the name of fighting an ever-increasing number of unseen "enemies."
In this regard, John McCain is even worse than George W Bush. With a maniacal look in his eyes and absurd war songs on his lips, McCain seems bent on escalating our existing wars and adding a few new ones for good measure. For the voter who loves the America of our Founders, a McCain presidency is the worst-case scenario. While the Democratic candidates admittedly may not be much better, it is nearly certain that they can’t be worse.
Thus, at the very moment when America needs the Democratic Party most, it is devouring itself with shocking blood-lust.
How did it come to this?
The answer to this riddle lies in the make-up of the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party is not a coherent entity, but is actually a coalition of identity-based "groups" (feminists, blacks, gays, etc.) united by only two things: a deep-seated sense of victimization, and a burning desire for government largesse and/or preferential treatment.
Aside from these two things, the various groups have little in common and don’t even particularly like one another. Their marriage is strictly one of convenience.
For many years, the white liberal elite sitting atop this simmering stew has empowered itself by radicalizing these "groups" with brazen propaganda. This strategy engendered each constituency with a fanatical belief that they has been wronged by history and that they have a right to unlimited compensation.
In short, identity politics was a strategy used by the white liberal elite to leverage political support for their program of activist government.
The system worked fairly well until the "groups" began wondering why the white liberal elites were the ones forever sitting in the driver’s seat.
After all, why should the presidential nominee always be a liberal white guy (Mondale/Dukakis/Kerry/Gore etc.)?
Why not a feminist? Why not a black man?
And if the nomination is no longer restricted to liberal white guys, then which of the other groups should get the prize?
By itself, this turn of events shouldn’t have been a major problem for the Democrats. It could have been contained within the dynamics of the party, but fate intervened to throw a curveball.
So long as there was only one "identity group" candidate in the race, everything could have worked reasonably well. But unfortunately for the Democrats, two of the "groups" found a champion in the same election cycle: one feminist and one African-American.
Consequently, what could have been a propaganda-laden "historic campaign" for "equality" quickly became a dog fight between two competing "groups." In the process, the brawl has exposed the ugly, seamy side of identity politics.
So now the Democrats are trapped between two petulant, angry constituencies who each believe that "their time has come." Neither group particularly likes the other, and neither group believes the other has grievances equal to its own. Each group furthermore believes that if its champion should lose the nomination, the loss would represent yet another injustice in a long train of historical abuses.
Simply put, the Democrats have lived by the sword of identity politics, and they are now dying by that same sword.
In ordinary times, one could merely sit back and enjoy the poetic justice of it all.
But these are not ordinary times, and the outcome of this debacle may well be a McCain presidency.
And that, my friends, is no laughing matter.
Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.