Thursday, January 22, 2004

Dividing the Democrats

I've been thinking about how the four leading candidates for the Democratic nomination seem to be close reflections of four divisions within the Democratic rank-n-file. From my perspective there are two major divisions each having two minor divisions within them.

The first major division is on the question of whether the current Democratic leadership has failed the Democratic rank-n-file. Within the group that believes that it has, there are two divisions that are represented, respectively, by Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. The primary thing that seems to divide the two groups is who will best be able to succeed in "throwing the bums out" (the electability question again). The Dean side also seems to be more inclined to publicly link the Democrat leadership with those "bums" even though the level of frustration with the bums appears to be about equal in both groups.

The other major group consists of those Democrats who are not convinced, yet, that Democratic problems are primarily because of ineffective leadership. They recognize that the party is failing, but they don't blame the leadership. The division within this group is over who best can deal with the problem. Is it the same tried-and-true leadership (represented by Kerry) or some new blood (represented by Edwards).

Right now I would say that all four groups are of about equal size (20-20-20-20) with the remaining 20 primarily breaking whichever way the media winds are blowing today (Kerry right now).

Of course, this is just a rough division of Democrats. Since this is a generalization please don't take this to mean I think that all Dean, Clark, Edwards and Kerry supporters fit into these categories. But this model can be useful for dealing with the inevitable problems that will come about when the nominee is finally selected.

The biggest thing I would warn against is thinking that Dean's 20% means that the discontent is limited only to a small group of disaffected Deaniacs. A large portion of Clark's support comes from Democrats who are equally pissed off with the leadership. It is clear that a large minority of Democrats are sick and tired of what they as appeasers in the leadership. If the things-are-not-so-bad group comes out ahead in the nomination battle (which looks like the safest bet right now) it would be a serious mistake for them to think they can go back to business as usual.

The Democrats have a serious problem no matter who their nominee will be and no one should take this lightly.


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