The closing “God bless America, and good night” of George W. Bush's State of the Union address this week will signal not just the official ending of his speech but also the end of the debate surrounding Bush's last major pronouncement, his second inaugural address.
Democrats are ready to put 2004 behind them -- and who could blame them? After raising more money than ever before and building a turnout operation for the ages, Democrats this week will join the world in watching George W. Bush take the oath of office once again.
While this image will be a bitter reminder of this past fall, Democrats are resolutely looking toward the future. There is new leadership in the Senate; a heated race for a new party chair is well underway; and any number of thinkers and wonks are shopping their prescriptions for the party's resurgence. As the party's elder statesman, Senator Ted Kennedy, told CNN last week, when asked about the 2004 election: “You can learn from history, but we are looking towards the future.”
For those Democrats unable to escape to Barbados or Tuscany, the past week has been one of intermittent moping punctuated with long bouts of commiserating and a general inability to get out of bed.
In between the finger-pointing and self-flagellation, most Democrats in Washington have been maniacally surfing the web, scouring the papers, and watching cable chat shows to figure out what went wrong. Unfortunately, most of the current analysis misses the mark.
There are two distinct misconceptions -- one micro and one macro -- that pundits are making when looking at this election. And when set right, the outlook is not as bleak as Democrats think, and it points to the work that needs to be done over the next four years.
One deeply ingrained political superstition is to never talk about what will happen after the election until your candidate has won. These days, for instance, no matter what the polls say, every speechwriter pens both a victory and a concession speech (and now a third speech in case of a tie).
But at the risk of tempting fate, allow me to pose a question: What will George W. Bush do if he loses the presidency?
In 1960, the bosses who delivered the election to John F. Kennedy were Richard Daley of Chicago, John Bailey of Connecticut, and courthouse rings throughout the South. In 2004, the boss who may deliver the election to John F. Kerry is The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.