Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Difference Between the Democratic and Republican Parties

Let me go on record right now as saying that I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton plans on running for president in 2016. Odds are she will - she's a Clinton, that's all you need to know - and if she does, she has a pretty good shot at winning and for two reasons:

1. The Democratic Party doesn't seem to have any one else in its ranks that has the resources, name recognition or track record of Hillary. Yes, Joe Biden is a viable candidate with an impressive resume, but as Richard Nixon found out the hard way in 1960, playing second fiddle doesn't necessarily translate to winning in a general election. In fact, excluding George H.W. Bush in 1988, you have to go all the way back to Martin Van Buren in 1836 to find an example of a sitting vice president who won the presidency.  As a side note, neither man was reelected, something for dear old Joe to ponder in the next few months. No, barring as yet an unforeseen scandal - a real one, by the way - the nomination is Hillary's to lose.

2. The Republican Party could not be in any worse shape nationally than it is at this moment in time. It is this fact, more than the former, that I wish to speak to. Succinctly put, the GOP simply can't or won't bring itself to nominate a candidate who can mount a serious challenge to Hillary or anyone else the Democrats decide to run.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is well on his way to winning a landslide reelection in a blue state, is the only viable candidate that has any real chance of winning in 2016. Virtually every pollster agrees on this point. I say this with a straight face: I have a better chance of winning the Republican nod than Christie.

That's because the Republican base is obsessed with cleansing the party of any and all impurities and imperfections. Anyone who doesn't pass the eight point inspection - or whatever litmus test is currently being employed - is tossed aside.  Long-established Republicans with proven conservative track records are being challenged and defeated in primaries if there is even the hint that they have compromised (i.e. betrayed) their principles to work with the opposition party.  Last year, Dick Lugar, hardly a moderate, was defeated by Richard Mourdock in the Indiana Republican primary.  This resulted in a reliably red state electing a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in decades. In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell is facing a primary challenge for (you'll have to sit down for this one) being too easy going.

Mitch McConnell too easy going?! Yeah, I chuckled at that one, too.

This is biggest problem besetting the Republican Party. The Tea Party's iron-tight grip on its apparatus has, to invoke a baseball euphemism, given it two strikes to start with. The maniacal pursuit of purity in its candidates who are beholden to a warped interpretation of the Constitution and are unswerving in their ideals, virtually assures them of an uphill battle in every election, where the majority of the electorate favors a more amenable approach to governing. In the myopic world of the far Right, a moderate Republican might as well be a Marxist.

In contrast, the Democratic Party has no such cross to bear. Witness the recent landslide win by Newark Mayor Cory Booker in New Jersey's Democratic primary. Despite a plethora of attacks by far-left pundits on Booker's character, in the end he easily dispensed with his "rival" Rush Holt. And that means that Booker is a shoo-in over Republican nominee Steve Lonegan in this year's special election for Frank Lautenberg's senate seat. Had Holt won, Democrats had no better than a 50/50 chance of taking it.

That, in a nut shell, is the difference between the Democratic and Republican Parties. While both have their fringe bases which eschew any trace of compromise, only one has been kidnapped by it. And that means that, for the foreseeable future, one party will likely field candidates who thrive on a national stage, while the other desperately clings to a twisted ideology that voters are growing more and more weary of.

I hope Chris Christie likes it in Trenton. He's going to be there for a while.

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