- - Monday, July 27, 2015


If the Democrats want to be taken seriously, and something more than a party of self-righteous whiners, they must start acting like the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy. All the fun shouldn’t be left to the Republicans. Why should the nation be deprived of a contest for the Democratic nomination for president, the usual cat fight that always invigorated Democratic Party politics?

Southern Democrats used to say that Democrats were like cats and Baptists, whose church fights are the stuff of legend. Ferocious fights always meant more cats, more Baptists and more Democrats. A furniture-breaking slugfest would be good for both the party and the country.

Party loyalists will continue to work for the coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton at the convention next summer in Tampa. But with her polls sagging and an increasing array of old complaints about the Clintons dragged out of mothballs — there’s more scandal in the mothballs than in Fibber McGee’s famous closet — she is suddenly vulnerable within the party if not yet in the general election. That should arouse party leaders and soldiers alike to think about an alternative — a contest for the nomination to protect the party’s prospects if the cascade of “secrets” about Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy continues and quickens.

But there are better reasons, too. The country is in difficult circumstances; there’s no argument about that. There’s the lagging economic recovery and the fallout of an increasingly unstable world, neither helped by a limping incumbent who wants only to “lead from behind” and in the time before he goes home to transform the country into something no one would recognize. The debate needs a wise, reasonable, informed Democratic voice.

The debate on the Republican side is a feast of riches. Election campaigns are sometimes messy, just as they should be. The Republican fray is crowded, and some of the candidates are, it might be said, “unlikely.” The media, as usual, is often obsessed with trivialities, foibles, gaffes, and mispronunciations, which it can understand, at the expense of serious issues, which it usually can’t. But that’s the price of the show.

Democrats could have other candidates besides this year’s Clinton. They might well emerge from a younger generation. The Republicans, with its array of younger candidates, threaten to reveal the Democrats as stuck with a rich old lady from the counting house, reeking of a corrupt past in a previous century, her reputation “enhanced” by scandals in the new.

Democratic stalwarts hiding in the grass-roots understand this. That’s why a relative unknown and definitely minor figure like Bernie Sanders from Vermont, more a boutique of refugee New Yorkers than a state, threatens to make it a serious race, after all.

The Democrats know how to make noise and burn barns when a campaign gets under way. That’s what we need on the left. The nation needs a Democrat to provide that real debate, with charge and countercharge. So far on the Democratic side, Marie Antoinette is content to “let them eat cake.”

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