The Democrats' recipe for defeat

My fellow Democrats appear to be doing everything possible to lose this year's presidential election, even though President Bush and the Republicans are hugely unpopular with the voting public. How is that possible?


It's easy to see why the Democrats are in trouble as their presidential contenders, Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York, continue daily attacks on each other rather than concentrating their political firepower on their Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.


If Sen. Obama, who already leads in the popular vote and elected convention delegates, wins North Carolina and the hotly contested Indiana primary on Tuesday, he'll be the Democratic nominee for president. But if Mrs. Clinton wins Indiana all bets are off and the nomination battle will go all the way to the party's national convention at Denver in August.


I remember the old joke attributed to legendary folk comedian Will Rogers. "Are you a member of an organized political party?" someone asked Rogers. "No," he replied, "I'm a Democrat." That's how I felt at my neighborhood political caucus last January. "Who are these people?" I wondered, as Clinton and Obama supporters eyed each other suspiciously across the Carson Middle School gym. I became a non-participant when my preferred candidates, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson, dropped out of the race a few days earlier, and I'm still sitting on the sidelines.


My favorite national political columnist, David Broder of the Washington Post, has written frequently about the Democrats' nomination dilemma. "There is still no strong demand from grassroots Democrats for the two senators (Clinton and Obama) to end their battle and turn to the challenge posed by McCain," he wrote late last month. Most Democrats "feel that it's more important that their favorite candidate win, even if the race goes into the summer ..." Well OK, but the longer the Clinton-Obama struggle lasts, the better it is for McCain.


"The Democratic politicians I interviewed are more critical of the campaign, and more worried about its effects on the party's chances, than the voters themselves," Broder added. "They see that, despite the big Democratic lead on the so-called generic ballot, McCain has already achieved a near statistical tie with either Clinton or Obama." That's bad news for the Democrats and they'd better hope that Obama wins Indiana on Tuesday in order to put an end to their party's internecine strife.


If Obama manages to lose a nomination that he should have captured by now, he can "thank" his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has become a religious albatross around the neck of the Obama campaign. Instead of shutting up and going away after his hateful anti-American and anti-white sermons appeared on the Internet and national TV, he mounted a full-scale defense of his despicable comments last weekend, telling a National Press Club audience that attacks against him represented attacks against "the black church." No way! responded his critics, black and white, as Obama finally cut all remaining ties with the controversial preacher.


I only have one question: What took him so long? Obama sat in Wright's Chicago church and listened to those race-baiting sermons for more than 20 years before he realized that something was wrong. Obama is much smarter than that and should have denounced Wright long before he decided to run for president. At this point, it may be too late as his opponents from both parties attempt to paint him as the black candidate for president - a la Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton - rather than as a presidential candidate who just happens to be black. There's a big difference between those two depictions of Obama, and his candidacy hangs in the balance.


While McCain has consistently downplayed race as a campaign issue, Bill and Hillary Clinton have played the race card repeatedly. According to liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, "Things have gotten to the point where Bill Clinton, a president once adored by African-Americans ("Our first black president," according to poet Maya Angelou), is now being accused of racially insensitive statements ... Clinton is widely believed to always know precisely what he's saying - too cunning a politician not to always know the impact of his words. Maybe so, but his recent record of bloopers, errors and rhetorical pratfalls suggests otherwise."


That's true and with friends like Bill Clinton and Jeremiah Wright, both Democratic presidential candidates have plenty to worry about before one of them faces off against a genuine American hero in November. Although I disagree with Sen. McCain on three major issues - Iraq, illegal immigration and Yucca Mountain - he'd be a decisive commander-in-chief, and that's just what we need in the War on Terror.


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HISPANIC ANTI-GANG EFFORTS: A UNR extension educator, JoAnne Skelly, has informed me that local Hispanics have already formed an anti-gang coalition headed by Citizen Outreach Coordinator Javier Ramirez. While I'm delighted to learn about the existence of the Carson (Hispanic) Community Coalition, I wonder why they haven't publicized their admirable efforts over the past two years and why the community leaders who are spearheading the broader anti-gang campaign - Mayor Marv Teixeira, Sheriff Ken Furlong and D.A. Neil Rombardo - haven't mentioned the Hispanic Coalition in their interviews and public statements. After all, we're all in this together.




• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.


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