The Jerry Springer Debate

That was some tussle tonight. I'm surprised nobody walked away with a fat shiner, or a bloody nose. If the eventual nominee -- be it HRC or Obama -- scraps half as hard come general time, the Republicans haven't a chance. It'll be an absolute bloodbath. The Democratic primary has been a bit too dirty, but overall the combativeness is useful and positive. Remember what Hemingway said: "Strong at the broken places."

Of course, the internecine feuding could become too ferocious and fatally tarnish the victor, leaving him vulnerable to Republican tricks. That's always a risk, but perhaps one worth taking.

Both Clinton and Obama deserve praise. They proved their mettle, alright. Neither wilted in the limelight, though I think Obama's performance lagged towards the end. If I had to choose a "winner", it'd be HRC by a hair. Edwards continues to be a joke. When will he drop out already?

Mainly, I was struck by the essential weakness and incompleteness of the Democratic agenda, and how far they've fallen since the '06 triumphs. Coming out of the midterms, it seemed a robust, all-American, "purple state" liberalism was finally ready to emerge.

This brave new liberalism was colored by civil libertarianism and steeled by a healthy appeal to economic nationalism among Rust Belt and Heartland voters. Even the anti-war message was cloaked in that America First rhetoric (i.e. "American dollars for Americans, not Iraqis!").

This new liberal hearkened back to the "Reagan Democrat", but resisted playing into blue collar anxieties over sensitive cultural issues. At the same time, it situated deficit reduction as crucial, suggesting that tax raises were better suited to shrinking the national debt than expanding the welfare state. This 21st century liberalism was refreshingly free of technocratic sympathies (there was no talk of a "brain trust"), and it arose from the American interior by popular demand.

Unfortunately, the new liberalism doesn't appear to have had much staying power. The Democrats are back to their old games, bribing voters with the promise of curing all their problems using other people's money. The enormous and nefarious scheme that is socialized medicine is the base's favorite horse this cycle, and they candidates are clearly prepared to ride that sucker into the dust.

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