Long primary won’t stop Dems from taking the White House

Column By Robert Kahne

It would be difficult for me to say that the past few months have been good ones for the national Democratic Party. It seemed that just a few months ago that a Democratic victory in the presidential election was inevitable, and that the fall campaign would be just a coronation — whoever the nominee happened to be.

However, over the course of the primary season, the rhetoric from Democratic candidates has gotten increasingly nasty. This fact, coupled with the fact that Republicans quickly decided on nominating John McCain, has had bad effects on the national polling for Democrats.

Real Clear Politics’ most recent polling averages for match-ups between Barack Obama and McCain give Obama a very slight edge, and those for Hillary Clinton and McCain have McCain with a slight lead, despite both Clinton and Obama having significant advantages in October and November of last year. The initial reaction from Democrats would obviously be to worry.

However, I’m not at all worried. This is what I have realized: The Democrats in this election speak much more directly to the issues which Americans care about than McCain.

McCain is running for president on the issues of fear and hate, which won George W. Bush the last election. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, created a lot of fear in Americans. Republicans managed to play off of this fear to win elections in 2002 and 2004. By pushing us to unnecessary war, warning us of phantom menaces and even pushing immigration legislation that played on our base fears of those different from us, Republicans managed to scare us into electing them.

McCain is attempting to do the same thing now — he has said he is willing to stay in Iraq for 100 years and refuses to set a timeline for withdrawal. He has made overtures about “a strong military in a dangerous world,” obviously attempting to play on fear again.

It is too bad for McCain: Americans have moved past our fear. We now realize that we live in a world where our actions don’t occur in a bubble. Now we are seeking a president who will represent our interests to the world in a friendly and non-aggressive tone. A President Obama or a President Clinton would do much better than a President McCain.

Not only are the Democrats better poised on foreign policy issues, but the domestic issues Obama and Clinton are running on will help move America forward. Obama and Clinton have both rolled out extensive plans relating to health care and the environment, issues McCain has said very little about. Americans are beginning to notice that these issues will define the future and have begun caring about them much more.

So, despite the fact that divisive rhetoric between the two Democratic candidates has pushed down their polling averages, I am not worried. The truth is that the Democrats running in this race have spoken to the issues that Americans care about much more eloquently and forcefully than McCain.

I strongly doubt that McCain will change the direction of his campaign and speak to the progressive issues that Americans care about. Therefore, the inevitability of a Democratic president in 2009 still exists in my mind.

Robert Kahne is the president of UK College Democrats. E-mail [email protected]