I have blogged about this before in other contexts, but this post is an attempt to set out the evidence. I’m not convinced that the Democratic Party has been serious about wanting to win the presidency since the 1960s.
Below you will find the rough details of the Democratic nominating process for the last twelve presidential elections. Take a look, if you will, and see for yourself.
But first, some venting.
Question Number One: How many of these Democratic nominees would you say were obviously the result of a serious process designed to find the strongest possible candidate and mount the strongest possible campaign?
Question Number Two: How many of them appear in retrospect to have been throw-away candidates, predestined to lose?
The only Democrats to win election since 1964 have been Jimmy Carter (once); and Bill Clinton and Barak Obama (twice each). Now be honest, do any of those three seem like obvious, strong choices? If you’re old enough to recall Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, did any of them make you think, oh yeah, the Democrats have this one in the bank? All three seemed like dubious propositions to me.
I’m giving George McGovern a pass. He was much more likeable than Nixon (who wouldn’t be?), and they might have thought that public sentiment against the war would carry him in.
Even of the winners, all three must be seen to have been weak candidates. The peanut farmer? The draft-dodging hippie redneck from Arkansas? The (gasp!) black African guy? I’m willing to bet that a lot of Democrats were bloody surprised when they won. After President Obama was elected, the Democrats in congress didn’t seem to know how to react themselves, and they never seemed to be strongly supporting his efforts as president.
Of the remainder, does anyone actually think that either Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis had a snowball’s chance in hell of even coming close? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that anyone thought so at the time either.
Al Gore had a leg-up after eight years as Vice-President, and, to be fair, he actually did win the popular vote, and probably the Electoral College vote as well. If it weren’t for that (redacted; seven words) Ralph Nader, Al Gore would have had a sufficient margin to beat even those cheaters who stole it from him. Absent that stint as Vice-President, though, he’d have been an unforgivably weak candidate himself.
Well, that leaves us with Hillary. On balance, I like Hillary, but not many people agree with me. Even I have my reservations. Choosing her over her Republican opponent seemed to me to be a no-brainer. At least you could be sure that Hillary would not crash the entire world; she would continue Obama’s success with reducing the deficit and addressing that climate thing. She might even have done some good in the areas of taxation and regulation. At least you could never seriously propose that Hillary was an existential threat to the United States. No, but she is less than likeable, and only a decent public speaker, and she does seem to make a lot of people just plum angry. So yeah, the thinking obviously went, we hate Hillary, so let’s all vote for the real existential threat. Let’s roll the dice!
Hillary lost to Donald J. Trump. Let that sink in a minute.
Wouldn’t it have been advisable to wait for a woman candidate who wasn’t widely disrespected, disliked, and disapproved of? You think? Give it a shot in another four or eight years? No, let’s go with Hillary. How did that work out for you Democrats-in-charge?
I’m not convinced that Bernie Sanders could have won many of the states that went to Trump, but had he been embraced and presented correctly he would probably have done as well as Hillary did. And that’s a seventy-four-year-old Jewish socialist from Brooklyn that we’re talking about! Where were the strong, electable candidates?
Do the Democrats even care about winning?
Democratic primaries beginning with 1972 (because 1968 was just too horrible to think about):
Potential Nominees: George McGovern; Hubert Humphrey; George Wallace; Edmund Muskie; Henry Jackson.
Nominee: George McGovern.
McGovern was a true war hero; he was a much decorated bomber pilot who completed his tour of missions over Europe in World War II. He was also a Senator, with previous service in the House of Representatives. He was a quiet man who didn’t like to brag about his battle experience, so it was, and still is, a well-kept secret. He was seen as weak due to his reluctance to continue the Vietnam War and his willingness to entertain amnesty for draft-dodgers.
Result: lost to Richard Nixon
Potential Nominees: Jimmy Carter (2,200 delegates); Mo Udall (330); Jerry Brown (301).
Nominee: Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter was the unknown governor of a southern state. He had an excellent and honorable service record, having been the executive officer and engineering officer of a nuclear submarine for many years. He was also seen as weak, due to his general modesty.
Result: Won over Gerald Ford, who had served out the previous term as President after being appointed Vice-President after the disastrous resignations of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.
Potential Nominees: Jimmy Carter (10,043,000 popular votes); Ted Kennedy (7,381,000).
Nominee: Jimmy Carter, the sitting President.
Jimmy Carter was tough minded and brilliant, but he was seen as weak and unsure of himself in particular, and the country in general.
Result: Lost to Ronald Reagan, due in some part to Reagan’s illegal conspiracy with Iran to delay the release of American hostages in exchange for weapons sales.
Potential Nominees: Walter Mondale (1,600 delegates); and Gary Hart (1,100).
Nominee: Walter Mondale.
Walter Mondale was Jimmy Carter’s Vice-President and a former Senator. He had zero charisma and little to recommend him for the job of leading the country in the midst of a persistent recession and high inflation.
Result: Lost to sitting President Ronald Reagan.
Potential Nominees: Michael Dukakis (1,792 delegates); Jesse Jackson (1,023 delegates[!!!]); Al Gore (374).
Nominee: Michael Dukakis.
Michael Dukakis, another man with zero charisma, was the unknown governor of Massachusetts. He appeared way out of his depth on the national stage.
Result: Lost to sitting Vice-President George H.W. Bush.
Potential Nominees: William Jefferson Clinton (3,372 delegates); Jerry Brown (596); Paul Tsongas (289); also in the race, Tom Harkin and Bob Kerrey.
Nominee: Bill Clinton.
Bill Clinton was the unknown governor of a small state. He was a decent public speaker, a former Rhodes Scholar, and a graduate of Yale Law School. He was also an obvious redneck Bubba. He did, though, have charisma.
Result: Won over sitting President George H.W. Bush.
Potential Nominees: Bill Clinton; Lyndon LaRouche (who won no state primaries).
Nominee: Bill Clinton.
Result: Won over Republican nominee, Senator Bob Dole.
Potential Nominees: Al Gore (3,000 delegates); Bill Bradley (522).
Nominee: Al Gore.
Al Gore was the sitting Vice-President. He was seen as a nerd and he was a poor public speaker. Little or no charisma.
Result: Lost to George W. Bush. (This result should have an asterisk.)
Potential Nominees: John Kerry (2,500 delegates); John Edwards (559); Howard Dean (167).
Nominee: John Kerry
John Kerry was a Senator with a good record of service in the Vietnam War. He was also a plodding, pompous public speaker who was completely unlikeable. He was easily attacked for his post-service history as a high-visibility anti-war protestor. He was seen as a dilatant and JFK wannabe.
Result: Lost to George W. Bush.
Potential Nominees: Barak Hussein Obama (2,270 delegates; 17,584,692 popular votes); Hillary Clinton (1,978; 17,857,501).
Nominee: Barak Hussein Obama.
Barak Obama was a first term Senator from Illinois. His national exposure had consisted mostly of delivering the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. He was, and remains, a wonderful public speaker with considerable personal charisma. He also was, and remains, a youthful black American with an African name.
Result: Won over Senator John McCain.
Potential Nominees: Barak Obama.
Nominee: Barak Obama.
President Obama had immediately been greeted with a 100% stonewalling agenda by the Republican Party. There was zero cooperation with the President from day one. The obvious strategy was to prevent Obama from accomplishing anything at all and beat him with a stronger candidate in 2012.
Result: Won over Willard Romney (aka, “Mitt”).
Potential Nominees: Hillary Clinton (2,842 delegates); Bernie Sanders (1,865).
Nominee: Hillary Clinton.
After serving as First Lady during her husband’s two terms in the Whitehouse, Hillary Clinton went on to serve as Senator from New York and Secretary of State. She is a fair public speaker. Her charisma is subject to review by individual observers. She came to the election with high negatives and she was subjected to ruthless, vicious campaigning by her opponent and others that was generally based on false information. She is usually viewed as unlikeable and a mediocre campaigner.
Result: Lost to Donald J. Trump.