Don’t believe the hype surrounding the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates, says Patrick Ruffini.
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan says there’s one big reason why George W. Bush is smiling when he looks to 2004: Al Sharpton. Sullivan writes:
Suddenly, in American domestic politics, it’s the 1980s all over again. Faced with a gung-ho cowboy president, who’s cutting taxes and pursuing an aggressive foreign policy, the Democrats have gone wobbly at the top and left at the bottom. Terrified of being on the wrong side of a war on terror, most of the Democratic leadership gave the president a complete pass in waging war against Iraq, leading to their slaughter at the last Congressional elections. Meanwhile, the core of the party has veered left – into the anti-war movement, an increasingly paranoid anti-Bush movement, more and more convinced that America is in the grip of a right-wing political and media cabal.
And then just as the president’s ratings drifted upward into the low 60s, things got even worse for the opposition. A new specter now faces the Democrats: Al Sharpton. Sharpton is the inheritor of Jesse Jackson’s wing of the Democrats: an African-American street preacher turned racial activist who rose to prominence in the 1980s by championing a young black woman’s claims of gang-rape. Those claims turned out to have been fabricated, and in 1987, Sharpton was convicted of defaming one of the alleged rapists. In the 1990s, Sharpton – with his huge girth, dandy clothes and extremely important hair – played New York’s racial politics to the hilt. In 1995, he demonized a Jewish shop-keeper in Harlem, helping incite the racially motivated murder of seven of the shop’s workers. He has been convicted of tax evasion and non-payment of rent. But his gutter style of racial politics has won him a devoted following and considerable clout in New York City Democratic politics. A a weapon in American politics, race still works. More worrying for the Democrats, Sharpton has shown no compunction in taking his racial grievances out on the party itself – leading to the bitter and complete defeat of the last Democratic candidate for mayor in New York City. He may not have much chance of winning anything outright, in other words. But he’s a proven and effective spoiler.
It’s waaaaaay too soon to say this with any certainty, but there’s a very good chance that it’s Morning in America for George W. Bush. Unlike his father, who inherited an astoundingly robust economy that was coming to the end of its (to coin a phrase) seven fat years and whose long overdue, and extremely mild recession occurred just as he was running for reelection, Bush 43’s timing could be spot-on perfect: a quick victory in Iraq, followed by overwhelming proof that Hussein really was the Stalin-like tyrant he’s been accussed of being all these years, followed by a long overdue rally in the stock market, and several years of growth whose peak coincides perfectly for Bush’s reelection, made all the easier because of Al Sharpton’s corrosive presence, either in some prominent role with the Democrats, or as Sullivan speculates, a third party, Nader-like spoiler.
This is all pure speculation on my part, and a lot could happen to make 2004 a very, very different scenario. But Bush is in the driver’s seat here.
Fortunately, he knows it. And unlike his father, he knows what to do with it.