Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Slobber Knocker Brewing

“During a political campaign everyone is concerned with what a candidate will do on this or that question if he is elected except the candidate; he's too busy wondering what he'll do if he isn't elected.”
- Everett Dirksen

The Republican primary in South Carolina is fast approaching. Current polls, for whatever they’re worth these days, show it to be deadlocked. I suspect there’ll be a lot of pandering, distorting, and politicking for the next few days. With three winners in primaries to this point, the Republican prospect of a brokered/divided convention is slowly becoming a possibility. The last time something remotely like that happened was in 1960. John Kennedy had come to the Democratic convention having won the seven primaries he’d entered. The popular tide seemed to be with him, but Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson, and a number of favorite sons also came to Los Angeles seeking the nomination. The arm twisting and cajoling was short and sweet. Kennedy, who was leading in the delegate count, offered Johnson the vice-presidency in a back room maneuver. Johnson accepted. It was a brilliant maneuver. Not only did it win Kennedy the party nomination, it also won him the White House. With Johnson southern name on the ticket, Kennedy won over southern and border states like South Carolina and Missouri by only 10,000 votes. He won Johnson’s home state, Texas, by a mere 40,000. Johnson’s support, coupled with the addition of enough deceased voters in Illinois, propelled him to the presidency.

While it was nothing like the smoke filled rooms and the hundreds of ballots in the 1920’s, it was the closest thing in my lifetime to high political drama. I wasn’t old enough to vote in that election, but I remember it as the most exciting thing I’ve seen other than watching the Boston Red Sox dismantle the New York Yankees and subsequently exorcise eighty-six years worth of demons in 2004.

Some say that the current Republican problem is the viability of the candidates, but I think there’s more to it than that. The glue that once held the Republican coalition of Reagan Democrats, big business, and values voters together doesn’t seem to be holding the disparate pieces together anymore. The Reagan Democrats are too Populist for big business. The values voters are too Evangelical for the Reagan Democrats and big business. Big business is too big for the values voters and Reagan Democrats. The result has been, and may continue to be, a political slobber knocker of the first order. The only question left then will be whether or not the survivor of the battles will have enough left in the tank to do battle with Barack or Hillary.

No comments: