I confess I'm looking forward to the Democratic National Convention in Denver about as avidly as I did the NCAA Final Four. There is every sign it will be as exciting as the old days when party hacks got in a back room in 1952 to plot the nomination of Adlai Stevenson, even though Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver had won 3.1 million primary votes and Stevenson had 78,000. Yes, 3.1 MILLION to 78,000.
Kefauver, from Madisonville and a UT graduate, had a habit of campaigning in a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, which the people loved. But the party bosses loved the intellectual Stevenson. Kefauver didn't have quite enough delegates to win on the first ballot and they eventually wore him down. Gen. Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower beat Stevenson in a landslide. In 1956 they did make Kefauver the vice-presidential candidate with Stevenson. Ike beat them again.
But if you are filling out a bracket for Denver, you have to figure the name on the championship trophy will be Sen. Barack Obama. The screaming, the maneuvering, and the gyrations of the Clintons will be amusing. But the day is long past when, depending on your point of view, the Democratic Party's leaders can a) screw the leading candidate and get away with it, or b) do what's best for the party and step in and pick a new nominee.
This despite the re-emergence of Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to preach, screech, and crucify Obama's campaign leading up to primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. It is doubtful the Democratic superdelegates will have the stones to deny Obama the nomination, even though they know in their bones he has dangerous liabilities in the fall election. The reluctance to dump Obama is also an indication of how many of them despise the Clintons and would hate to see them back in power.
A lot of Republicans are thinking this never-ending bloodbath in the Democratic primaries will help elect Sen. John McCain. They have reason for hope. Ask former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., a recent Senate candidate, if there are people who will not vote for a black candidate under any circumstances. It was easy to say you wouldn't vote for Junior because of his criminal Uncle John. It will be similarly easy for people to say they won't vote for Obama because his pastor hates America.
But the Republicans have real problems, much worse than the Democrats' Clinton-Obama fight. President George Bush has destroyed the Republican Party. He can't even draw a crowd on Deal or No Deal. The economy is in the tank and it is going to get worse.
Republicans can sit around and blame the Democrats for the country going to hell, but they only have themselves to blame. The Republican Congress and Bush spent us into bankruptcy. The dollar is a joke on international markets, driving the cost of a barrel of oil to record levels. There are food riots in Third World countries because we think it's a good idea to subsidize burning food for fuel.
The Republicans can talk about the Rev. Wright every day (and they probably will) but it won't matter. Gas will be over $4 a gallon, milk will be $5 a gallon, and inflation will be off to the races. Osama bin Laden can endorse Obama in a YouTube video and it won't matter—the Republican nominee is toast.
As a fiscal conservative, I shudder to think what the Democrats could do to the economy, though it would be hard to do worse than Bush. But November won't end the agony for Republicans. Where does there exist a new generation of Republicans to come back in four years with an alternative vision for America's economy or our foreign policy? Try and name a Republican in national public life who offers any hope for the party's future.
If there were one, the 72-year-old McCain would not be the nominee of the party.