The Other S Factor

For a couple decades now, Democrats have been jiggering with their primary system, in order to try to nominate electable candidates. What they’ve been trying to do is, avoid the twin disasters they suffered in 1984 and in 1988.

In 1988, we got the first Super Tuesday — which was originally an All-South Soviet (er, event) to give the edge to some moderate southern candidate. Instead it turned out to be a great day for Jesse Jackson, and in the long run, a greater day for a northern liberal named Mike Dukakis.

OK, Super Tuesday was a bust. So Democrats tried speeding up the primary schedule. Instead of stringing out a bunch of votes for half the winter and all of the spring, everything was scheduled to pick a winner sometime in May. They tried it in 2000, and got Al Gore. Oops. Naturally, then, they’ve accelerated the race even more for 2004 — look for the winner in March or April.

The Democrats also came up with Superdelegates. They’re mostly party insiders, and their job is to act as a brake on the nominating passions of the primary electorate — shouting “stop” on the train tracks of electoral oblivion.

However, Superdelegates have, since their inception, done little more than bless whoever it was the voters selected.

Now we have this:

Self-styled outsider Howard Dean holds the first lead in the chase for delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he can thank party insiders for the early advantage, according to an Associated Press survey.

The outsider (who paradoxically is also a northern liberal) has already captured the lead in the race for Superdelegates? In theory, their job is to stand behind the most electable candidate. In practice, as I’ve already said, it’s never happened.

There have been five presidential elections since 1984, and in the two that counted, Democrats set themselves up to fail with a northern liberal.

1992 doesn’t count, because the Democrats would have nominated a Hungry Man TV dinner, if he looked electable. 1996 also doesn’t count, because they had in Bill Clinton an unopposed incumbent. And 2000 doesn’t count, because Al Gore was Clinton’s hand-picked heir apparent, and Bill Bradley was in no position to stop him.

So for the third time in six tries, the Dems look poised, despite every effort, to nominate yet another northern liberal. Did they ever consider that maybe. . .

. . .It’s the electorate, stupid?