Running Scared

The Republicans are absolutely stark staring skeered of Hillary Clinton.
Over the last year, as Republicans have sought out their next standard bearer, no candidate has excited their passions and united their focus more than the Democratic senator from New York. Clinton is regularly evoked in stump speeches, presidential debates and fundraising events as a symbol for all that the Republican voters stand to lose in the coming election. She is, in many ways, the glue now keeping the Grand Old Party from further splintering into disarray after the 2006 elections.

"It unifies the party. It motivates a part of the base," explains Grover Norquist, a longtime party activist who runs the group Americans for Tax Reform. "Hillary can be scary."


The Republican focus on Clinton may say more about the Republican Party than it does about her inevitability as the Democratic nominee. Though she polls better nationally than her Democratic rivals, she currently trails slightly in most Iowa caucus polls to John Edwards, and she has been surprisingly outstripped in fundraising by Barack Obama. But this has not stopped Republicans from referring regularly to the Democratic Party as a shell organization at the beck and command of the Clinton family, even if that's a flimsy caricature at best.

Norquist, for one, insists he is confident that Clinton will come out on top. "The Clintons run the Democratic Party the way the Bhutto family runs the PPP," he said, in a reference to the corrupt and dynastic Pakistan People's Party. Republican leaders, such as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, long ago elevated the Clinton family to nearly mythic stature, claiming that the Clintons are backed by a vast "George Soros-funded, Harold Ickes-led shadow party." But Republicans have a history of glaring disconnection between their strategic prognostications about the Democrats and the way things actually turn out. As recently as the fall of 2003, presidential advisor Karl Rove was betting hamburgers in the White House that Howard Dean would be the Democratic nominee. A few months later, Dean's campaign deflated after the first caucus returns in Iowa.
If this proves anything, it's that after six years of bug-eyed fearmongering about terrorists and such, the Republicans have begun to believe their own press releases about the Worst Thing that Could Happen.

It also tells you that the most important thing to the Republican Party isn't fixing what's wrong with the country: health care, education, the infrastructure, and providing solutions or ideas for fixing them. The most important thing to them is winning an election and clinging to power, so they don't care about finding a candidate that could do anything more than win an election.

I'm not sure which is more disconcerting: the idea that the Republicans still think they can run on fear or that they believe the voters will buy it. Either way, it shows you how little regard they have for the electorate, the system, and their own ability to field a candidate who can acutally offer something more than just the slogan "I can beat Hillary."

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

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