It's astounding that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is considered a front-runner to capture the 2008 Democratic nomination for president. After losing year after year with weak, Northern nominees, one would think that the party would have learned its lesson by now.
The only way Democrats have been able to win 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in nearly a half-century has been by nominating a Southerner. That's right, a Bubba. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. In fact, you don't even have to be a scientist.
Look at the record. Since John F. Kennedy — a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts — was elected in 1960, the only Democrats elected president have been his vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas; Jimmy Carter of Georgia; and Bill Clinton of Arkansas. In the case of Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, it was technically a Double-Bubba ticket, with two Southerners on the ballot. Actually, it was more like 1.5 Bubbas — though Gore claims Tennessee as his home, he grew up in Washington, D.C. as the son of a U.S. senator.
Yet Democrats seem lost when trying to pick a candidate for president. They can't find their butts with both hands, a map and a GPS navigation system. They are clueless and, in many instances, spineless. A poll released two weeks ago by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that Democrats couldn't be better positioned to win back the White House and retake at least one chamber of Congress.
"Voters are expressing strong and consistent anti-Republican attitudes," the report stated. "The GOP lags well behind the Democratic Party on nearly all major issues, including the economy, Iraq, education, health care, the environment and the budget deficit. And the Republicans have lost ground in recent years even on such traditional strengths as terrorism and improving the nation's morality."
A famous Democrat, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Sen. John Kerry, another loser from Massachusetts, noted that, "Now, we have a president and the only thing he has to sell is fear itself."
Bush may be peddling fear, but fewer Americans are buying it.
With the November general election less than two months away, Democrats received some encouraging news about the prospect of recapturing at least the U.S. House of Representatives.
"As in six previous surveys over the past 12 months, voters by a wide margin say they favor the Democratic congressional candidate in their district (50 percent to 39 percent)," the study observed.
Of 17 major issues — such as Iraq, the economy, taxes, health care, deficits, employment, crime and immigration — the public favored Democrats on 16 issues. Republicans had the edge in only one area.
"The Republican Party continues to hold a substantial lead in terms of having the 'stronger' political leaders — 43 percent say the GOP has stronger leaders, compared to 30 percent who see the Democratic Party's leaders as stronger," the poll found.
The reason Republicans are perceived as stronger leaders is because, in general, they hold strong, clearly articulated views. They expect and demand party loyalty. Equally important, GOP handlers have been skillful in mischaracterizing their opponents, painting those who raise questions about the U.S. presence in Iraq as traitors and linking the invasion of Iraq to the fight on terrorism.
At the same time, Democrats have been their own worst enemy. They have been timid in challenging Bush on the war in Iraq and haven't exemplified courage on simple things.
And the correct thing for Democrats to do is to nominate a Southerner for president.
In the 10 presidential elections since the JFK-LBJ era ended in 1968, Democrats have won only three times, counting Clinton's 1996 re-election victory. With a record like that, even poor students of history should have learned by now.
George E. Curry is editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service.