This started out as a comment on another blog, but it got so involved and off-topic that I thought it would make a good post of its own.
Russ Feingold in 2008: Why Not?
People on some blogs, here for example, are already talking about 2008 Democratic candidates. And I've seen three names mentioned so far that aren't leftovers from 2004: Russ Feingold, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Notice anything odd about that list? It's a Jew, a black and a woman. And in all of American history, Kennedy was the only president who was not a male, religiously observant* WASP.
Some are wondering how this will affect things. The country seems like it's in as bad a state as it's been in my lifetime, the progressives in America are as weak and divided as they've been since Clinton, terrorism is the greatest threat to the country since the Cold War**... should the party that's not hopelessly corrupt and %110 in the pocket of the oil industry really nominate a candidate who a certain fraction of the country are just too bigoted to vote for***? On the other hand, would those people vote Democratic anyway?
I think Hillary and Obama would be bad for other reasons, (he's inexperienced, and she would bring a former President as First Husband), and I don't know much about Feingold, but I think the only response to those concerns in general is "What have we got to lose?"
The thing I don't think many liberals have noticed is, Bush's current unpopularity doesn't really reflect all that much on conservatives principles in general. For every person who looks at the Islamic Republic of Iraq and what's left of New Orleans and says "Wow, people who want to minimize government shouldn't be running it," even more people are saying "Wow, the feds can't do anything right." And hell, they're wrong, but not totally - competent management of FEMA has always been the exception rather than the rule, I think.
What Bush's %39 approval rating (%38? %35?) does show is distaste for blatant, naked politicking and the use of power for its own sake rather than accomplishing anything. Not reacting to a disaster until it's already hurting approval ratings, rampant patronage and cronyism, rewarding loyalty above all else, putting Karl Rove in charge of reconstruction... People obviously weren't happy to start with, but I'll bet history would show that "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" was the part that was really beyond the pale.
With all that at the heart of the Republicans, the Democrats would have to be even dumber than usual to look for electability and universal appeal. Kerry was supposed to be the most electable candidate, and a guy who spent the Vietnam War in Louisiana and presided over Abu Ghraib beat him by three percentage points. It's clear that the Democratic base has a tone-deaf ear for electability, and/or putting so much emphasis on that looks like soulless political maneuvering.
So if "electability," "centrist appeal" or "inoffensiveness" appears anywhere close to "principles" and "leadership ability" on the list of qualifications of whoever the Democratic candidate is, I'll probably be making my own threats to move to Canada.
*Actually, Thomas Jefferson was a Deist, and several others of his era probably were as well. But that's just details.
** Which isn't saying much. %90 of the fear-mongering has been just that, but there's still the %10 that isn't.
*** To be more diplomatic, and also more optimistic, I'd substitute "reactionary" or even "anti-PC." But claiming that bigotry doesn't exist anymore is, pardon the pun, a whitewash, so...