Is the “Era of Triangulation” Over?

The Puppy Blender points out something interesting, albeit fairly well-known, and I’d like to see if it justifies the above question:

I had always assumed that the race would tighten up in October, but we’re a long way from then. Why so early? What does this mean?

It is pretty much taken for granted now that the Democratic candidates have a problem: they’re most excited base voters are highly liberal, of the sort that starts to lean directly socialist-lite. To capture those voters in the primary, one has to take positions guaranteeing one’s defeat in the general election, because the Democrats, like the Republicans, are not a majority of the country. So what looks like runaway numbers for the Dems inevitably returns to something significantly more even by the fall.

Senator Obama may still take the race. However, if his poll numbers are dropping this fast, against McCain, who most observers note to be a stunningly inept campaigner, that begs the question… is the Clinton formula a failure? Most ideological liberals started to lose in the late 80s, and Clinton rejuvenated the party’s electoral successes by tacking hard towards the center while winking at the left. GWB was also a very weak campaigner, and even Al Gore as a sitting VP couldn’t quite pull a win by moving straight left.

“Winking” in the era of You-Tube and media exposure that doesn’t outright flatter one party, doesn’t seem to be working. Clinton could get away with it, partially b/c the media was in his camp, and mostly because he had the combination of charisma and chutzpah to simply pull people in his wake, even when they knew he was screwing them over (like the union folks who went for Clinton even as he stepped up with the previous administration’s NAFTA football, and took it into the endzone).

Lakoff and company seem to think that “framing” the Democratic message will work… and it might. But it seems to me that what most voters are looking for is a simple touch of consistency regarding their platforms and plans. The hard left can’t get what it wants any more than the libertarians or the hard-core social conservatives can, without having some sort of coalition. But right about now, we are in a period when the voters don’t particularly seem interested in coalitions. So what sort of “winking in the primary” could survive?

The unaffiliated “moderates” by and large don’t come out to vote when push comes to shove, thus allowing Republicans to squeak out Presidential elections they otherwise deserve to lose, and lose badly. So where could the Dems go for “message consistency?” Are Democratic primary voters willing to swallow Econ101 and look for more innovative market-based solutions to shoring up their primary issue of equality? If they did that, they might pick up most of the libertarian vote, which would hurt the Republicans, possibly enough to break the 3-4% loss margin they seem to have been stuck with lately. Most libertarians are just fine with the now-famous “happily married gay couples with closets full of assault weapons” byline and its cousins.

Or, the Dems, who frequently seem to display precisely the sorts of identity politics the Republicans have tried really hard to shed, could go hardcore populist. Senator Clinton went this route, and, had she been any other candidate, probably could have gotten a lock on the nomination. It’s the direction most Democratic candidates seem to be leaning, because it lets them propose economic liberalism to social moderates, and even winking a bit to social conservatives.

Either of these two are viable strategies, if a Democratic candidate didn’t have to tack hard-left during the primary. But right now, the harder left seems to be unwilling to forgive a candidate for trying to build the sorts of coalitions he needs in order to actually win.

But, hey, it’s July. McCain would always hold a speech or debate, and lose another 5 points…

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