LAS VEGAS -- In the middle of his life, Sylvester Garcia decided he'd had enough of the cold and the heat. He'd been a welder in the copper-mining towns of New Mexico for almost a quarter of a century, but, he says, "I got tired of welding, of the mud, of the rain, of too much hard work. So I told my wife, 'I'll try the casinos.'" In short order, he became a dishwasher at the Dunes Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, then moved to the Luxor when the Dunes was leveled to make way for the Bellagio.
There are two kinds of Democrats in George W. Bush's America: those who are on the outside and know it, and those who are on the outside and don't. And the peculiar fascination of the Democratic presidential campaign is to watch the interplay between these two groups.
Over the past two weeks, California's new chief executive has made abundantly apparent the kind of governor he means to be. During his abbreviated gubernatorial campaign in late summer, Arnold Schwarzenegger ran as something of a Rorschach test. Voters could choose from among a number of Arnolds: the enviro, the tightwad, the Kennedy-by-marriage, the Friedmanite-by-inclination, the compassionate centrist. By scrupulously avoiding print journalists and limiting his debate appearances to a measly one, Schwarzenegger never had to clarify exactly which Arnold would be calling the shots in the statehouse.
Now we know. It's Conan the Barbarian, in one of his less reflective moods.
The Democrats' scenario for picking up the White House next year looks increasingly like drawing to an inside straight.
That doesn't mean they won't be able to do it. A number of states could fill their hand. But with the continuing rightward gallop of the South, the Democrats are going to have to perform near-perfectly in the swing states of the Midwest.
Like Richard Nixon before him, George W. Bush has waged a war in a way that has polarized the American people -- infuriating Democrats while strengthening his support among conservatives. But as a recent mega-survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press makes clear, the American people were drifting apart -- and the South was going south for the Dems -- even before Bush used his war as a wedge.