MAINSTREAMING THE FRINGE
Michael J. Totten draws an interesting comparison:
The 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston was really something. This was where Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan declared a fundamentalist Culture War on America. Blame Ross Perot on Bill Clinton’s ’92 victory if you want to. But that turkey show in Houston kept me and a lot of other people out of the GOP for a decade.
Wesley Clark and his rival Howard Dean are doing what the Republicans did twelve years ago – stirring up the fringe for votes and attention. They are letting loose forces that will not soon vanish, that cannot be accomodated, that will be their own undoing.
I would say that there’s a huge difference here. In 1992, Buchanan was a fringe candidate who had a small but enthusiastic following. As was then the norm, he was given convention time. But he didn’t represent the party then, and certainly not George Bush the Elder, who was legitimately a moderate. In 2004, it sure looks like either Dean or Clark will be the nominee.
I know of so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats. [numerous links omitted] I don’t know of a single person, anywhere, who is moving the other direction.
The damage will last a long time.
This could well be the case. However, it’s also possible that a staggering defeat with a candidate that’s well outside the mainstream will lead to radical reformation of the party. We’ve got a weak party system that’s very much dominated by individual candidates. This is especially true at the presidential level. An implosion in 2004 would seem to make it more likely that a more broadly-appealing candidate would emerge in 2008.