Jewish World Review May 31, 2002 / 20 Sivan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | IT'S still far too early to know how the 2004 field for the Democratic nomination is shaping up, but the lessons of the 2000 primary season would seem to tilt the field to a moderate, like Joe Lieberman or John Edwards, and away from Albert Gore Jr.
Since most states (unlike New York) let independents vote in either party primary, these voters have truly become the tail that wags the dog. Some 40 percent of all voters identify themselves as independents, more than say their loyalty belongs to either political party.
In 2000, that power was masked because the independent vote was split between John McCain, running in the Republican primary, and Bill Bradley, who sought the Democratic nod.
In each primary, the party loyalists sided heavily with Gore or with George W. Bush while exit polls show that the overwhelming majority of independents backed one of the two insurgents. But because there were two candidates who attracted independents, their votes were divided and could not overcome the party regulars in either primary.
Of course, there will, most likely, be no GOP primary in 2004 as Republicans rally around President Bush in his bid for re-election. That will leave all independents free to vote in the Democratic primaries.
This influx will tip the primary to the center and give out-and-out liberals like John Kerry of Massachusetts or Chris Dodd of Connecticut a hard time. The beneficiaries will be centrists like Connecticut's Joe Lieberman and North Carolina's John Edwards.
It thus becomes less likely that Gore will venture forth in 2004 to seek the nomination. The same folks who backed Bill Bradley in 2000 will be there in droves, their ranks augmented by independents who backed John McCain the last time.
The independent voter also changes the way we must analyze party primaries for the presidential nomination. In the old days, the Democrats held their primary and the Republicans theirs. But where independents can vote in either primary, the primaries are really a beauty contest among all candidates: All Democrats and all Republicans run against one another.
Voters select their candidate and then choose to vote in the primary in which he or she is running. Ideologically, this robs the Democratic Party of its leftist and the Republican Party of its rightist orientation and forces each to the center, particularly in years when only one of the parties has a primary.
In 2008, of course, both parties will have primaries as Republicans seek to find a candidate to succeed Bush (who, one assumes, will win re-election in 2004). The independent vote will be split, as it was in 2000, giving the advantage to conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. This leftward drift of the Democrats in 2008 is likely to make Hillary Clinton an increasingly viable candidate for the nomination.
The order of succession for president in this poor, benighted nation might well be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. And don't count Jeb or Chelsea
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction