National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: The Day The Dems Nailed It Down

All the hoopla about last weekend’s lucky date, 7/7/07, luckiest at least since 7/7/77, may qualify it as one of those we’ll remember for awhile, as in, “Do you remember what you were doing that day?” I still remember details of the one 30 years ago, back in the era when Reggie Jackson was slamming home runs for the Yankees.

I think that I may remember that, last Saturday night, I enjoyed a ginormous (one of our new dictionary-sanctioned words) lobster at The Palm with special friends.

But here’s something else to remember about it, if you are so inclined: it was the day the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election was sealed. That’s all.

It came in the form of a Washington Post article on the results of extensive polling in the Commonwealth of Virginia. While Virginia has gone Democratic in two consecutive statewide elections, for governor and U.S. senator, it has remained the reddest of the red Republican states in presidential elections since the days when the integration of schools was still being resisted and interracial marriage remained a felony.

Not since southern good-old-boy Lyndon B. Johnson bested the wild west’s Barry Goldwater in 1964 has Virginia gone for a Democrat. It’s never even been close since.

The Post article by Tim Craig and Jennifer Agiesta last Saturday was decisive, in and of itself, for the coming presidential race. It showed independent Virginians, who account for about 30 percent of the state’s adult population, and are always key to election outcomes, are now “more likely to prefer a Democrat rather than a Republican to be the next president.”

Nothing remotely approaching anything like this has ever been seen in Virginia in 43 years, and even if its significance was limited to this one state alone, it represents a huge shift in emphasis for the upcoming race.

Now, instead of Florida, Ohio and Tennessee being the sole so-called “battleground states” whose results will put one of the other party over the top in the Electoral College, you have to add at least Virginia.

But if you add Virginia, you have to assume by extension that every Virginia-like state may be shifting in a similar manner. That would be little short of every red state on the map.

Could it be that just like George McGovern won only Massachusetts and San Francisco in 1972, the next GOP candidate will win only Utah and Tampa?

Ariana Huffington, now famous in her own right as a blogger and formerly the wife of a U.S. Congressman, made a poignant remark at a New Yorker magazine conference in the Big Apple last May. She said that the way things are going, the 2008 race could be between the Democratic nominee and independent Michael Bloomberg, with the GOP relegated to the five percent of the population that refuses to believe in things like evolution or gravity.

I remain bemused by what’s going on in the Democratic Party. It’s hard to fathom how the candidate being considered as the establishment machine hack – the way Ford in 1976, Carter in 1980, Mondale in 1984 and Dole in 1996 were – is in fact a woman. Not only that, a former first lady!

Hellooo! Whatever happened to the conversation that the nation would never elect a woman, much less an Afro-American? The fact that a woman, Hillary Clinton, and an Afro-American, Barack Obama, are slugging it out for first place on the Democratic Party ticket is absolutely radical, but I don’t get the sense that people are appreciating just how culture-bending it is.

What’s even more delightful is the notion that if either one of them, or both, make it onto the ticket, they’ll win.

Of course, we can credit George Bush for this, plus the fact that 2008 will mark the first GOP election since 1964 when an obvious successor to the GOP mantle was not clearly delineated far before Election Day.

But George Bush is mostly responsible, including for things like the new Congressional Research Service report showing the price tag for Iraq and Afghanistan is now $12 billion a month. The total that Congress has appropriated for Iraq, alone, is $450 billion. It is $610 billion in war-related money, overall, since 2001.

The worst president in the history of the U.S. won’t make things easy for whoever has to succeed him on another day we won’t forget, 1/20/09.