Wednesday, October 24, 2007
In 2004, Howard Dean famously declared that he represented the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party before he ultimately crashed and burned. This year, at least two Democratic candidates (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama) are visibly if subtly courting the Democratic wing of the Republican Party. Now, to be fair, the meat of their policy proposals are soundly Democratic. But between Hillary's robust national security stance and Obama's emphasis on bi-lateral consensus, two of the three Democratic heavyweights are making serious overtures to moderate Republicans.
So what gives? Democratic anger over the Bush years and the Iraq War doesn't seem to have subsided in the three years since then. And all the forecasts for the 2008 Congressional and Senatorial elections seem to be pretty encouraging for a workable Democratic majority.
My guess is that it reflects a generalized trend among most of the major democracies at the moment (England appears to be an exception) whereby the margin between right and left is so narrow that elections now turn on a candidate's ability to cement together a center-straddling coalition. In a parliamentary system, that often also gives an inordinate amount of power to parties on the extremes of the political spectrum. In the case of the American two-party system, on the other hand, a closely divided electorate exclusively inflates the importance of the center.
I'm a little surprised that Clinton and Obama's strategy doesn't seem to be hurting them at all in the Democratic primary, and that John Edwards' more genuine vintage of traditional Democratic values hasn't played better. But it seems to corroborate the soundness of the strategy.