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.

Andrew Sullivan and Stephen Green also think the inmates are running the Democratic asylum. Steven Taylor merely finds them amusing.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. “so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats.”

    My wife and my good friend Stan (mentioned in my blog as ‘Comrade Ben’). Two, life-long, yellow-dog Dems who are shaking their heads and saying stuff I cant believe.

  2. melvin toast says:

    I “weak” party system probably comes as a result that it is a two party system. You’ve basically got one line to divide up the political landscape.

    One would not think a priori that this is the best arrangement but I think it is. Having more than two parties generally results in small parties yielding power larger than their constituency. Two parties force candidates to appeal to a broader spectrum of political views. Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich are not as far apart as what you might find in French or British Parliaments.

  3. Baba says:

    What makes Clark and Dean so outside the mainstream? Which ridiculous policy positions do they hold?

  4. If I was more versed in the structure of the post-Goldwater GOP, I’d say the Dean campaign eerily reminds me of it. If somehow the Deaniacs could set up the infrastructure that conservatives did post-1964, then I wouldn’t be surprised if a neo-Leftist revolution (akin to Reagan) would take place around 2016.

  5. Paul says:

    What makes Clark and Dean so outside the mainstream? Which ridiculous policy positions do they hold

    Well… Let’s see….

    Clark says 9/11 could have been avoided and that if he were President it never would have happened. Further he promises that if elected, we will never suffer another terrorist attack. EVER.

    Where to start on Doc Dean. He is such a whack job it it hard to know where to start. But let’s take his recent statement that homosexuality is not a sin because God made homosexuals and therefor it was not a sin.

    By extension, murder is not a sin because God created the murderer. Same for rape, theft etc etc. Basically there is no sin because God created the whole shebang.

    If you really think that Clark and Dean are in the mainstream you either need to accept that you too are on the radical fringe or you need to watch the news.

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