Remember when it was obvious that the Democratic Party would choose a presidential nominee early this year because of the front-loaded primary schedule? Like a lot else that was oh-so-obvious about this year's election, things aren't working out that way (not as of the week after Super Tuesday).While John McCain has nearly locked up the Republican nomination, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may continue battling for weeks, possibly for months, and perhaps all the way to the convention in Denver, intensifying the bitterness and disaffection between the two camps. What's more, the nomination may hinge on procedural votes whose outcome seems unfair to the losing side.
Oh, no, it could be Florida again: a disputed election, a tainted result, and a Democratic fiasco. But this time, add Michigan to the mess.
If the contest for the Democratic nomination continues to be close, there is a risk that the decisive issue will be a procedural question--the seating of the 366 delegates from Michigan and Florida at the Democratic Convention--and that whichever side loses, the nomination may be regarded as illegitimate.
After the first rounds of caucuses and primaries, the prospects don't look so rosy for the Democrats or so bleak for the Republicans. The presidential race now looks like a toss-up -- perhaps even with a Republican edge.
Until recently, like most liberals, I was convinced that 2008 was going to be a Democratic year. While Republicans have been listless and divided, Democrats have been passionate and enthusiastic about their candidates for president. An unpopular war, a sinking economy, a general sense of conservative exhaustion: All pointed toward a Democratic triumph in November. A lot of conservatives had come to grudgingly agree and were preparing to spend four years in political rehab.
But after the first rounds of caucuses and primaries, the prospects don't look so rosy for the Democrats or so bleak for the Republicans. The presidential race now looks like a toss-up -- perhaps even with a Republican edge.
We may be on the verge of one of those moments when the underlying currents in American politics change directions. The conservative agenda is exhausted, public opinion has unmistakably swung away from the right, and although there are no guarantees about the outcome of the election, 2009 may find Democrats in control of both the White House and Congress. But if ever there were a time when liberals needed to be strategic about their goals and the ways of achieving them, this would be it.