Divide in the party of Andrew Jackson

By Dan Streib

Are we seeing a split in the party of good ol’ Andrew Jackson? Democrats, it’s happened before. And yes, I’m talking about a fracture much more recent than the one that earns Mr. Twenty-dollar Bill his fame.

See, there used to be a time not too long ago when southern conservatives rode high on the donkey’s back. But then, out of nowhere, the more liberal wing of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition strayed too far left for them, so they took to living among elephants instead. But no worries. I just wrote all that for dramatic effect. As of right now, there doesn’t seem to be a split that will drastically change the fabric of the Democratic Party.

Just one that could lose an election.

The split occurs between two very popular presidential candidates at a time when the Democratic Party is earning itself record voter turnout. These sheer numbers easily overshadow another type of story: voter motives.

Their cause célŠbre? Well, children cover your ears, because the truth may be hard to handle. Here it is: They don’t like President Bush. In fact, they kind of hate him. A lot.

This may actually give the liberal base pause when confronted with an Arizona senator who is tough to align with the president. But when I say a split, I’m talking about one group of voters becoming totally disenfranchised and walking away from an election: And these won’t be the people yearning for the second coming of the 1990s.

It’s true; many Obama supporters absolutely cannot stand the GOP and will be reliably Democratic. And yet, there are those who were once apathetic (see the higher turnouts) who might just return to apathy with renewed conviction at an Obama loss.

For the Obama camp, these political newbies are those who are dissatisfied with America’s position in the world, its reputation and how it conducts itself internationally and domestically. For them, Obama has spot-on rhetoric and is inspirational – thus, there is “hope” for our nation’s future. Strangely enough, all of that hope is embodied in one man.

Yet overlooked is the fact that Sen. Clinton must be getting a small extra turnout from someone, otherwise she would not be beating the young senator in delegates. These people might be your normal general election voters who don’t normally vote in a primary. Once again, our current president might have a role in the higher turnout.

Yet these particular anti-Bushies are not taken up by idealistic notions of America’s standing and conduct. They’ve seen a few elections and politicians before, and what revolts them is what they see as incompetence in the White House. Who better to fix that problem than a woman as tough and well-versed on policy as they come?

However, these two sides conflict. If the lady who, in many Barackophile eyes, is so calculating and cruel to their savior happens to be the nominee, they will say, “Politics as usual,” and walk away. That’ll deprive Hillary of much of the advantage in voter numbers she’ll need from her party to combat her high negatives and McCain.

Yet, if Obama is anointed as the Democrat of choice, something very bad could happen for donkeys everywhere. Hillary voters might do what the senator now endorsed by the “Governator” has done for them numerous times throughout his career: Take a walk across the aisle. In that scenario, John McCain’s age and bipartisanship is an advantage, not a disadvantage.

No, the Democrats won’t start the general election race at a disadvantage to the Republicans. In fact, they might just hold many of the advantages they possess in polls until voting day.

But citizens of this country can do unexpected things as the days tick down to the most important point in their civic lives.

And although it’s been obvious to many that the Republicans need a united base to have a chance at winning, a new reality has now come upon us: Nothing is set in stone until Democrats get their house in order, too.

Dan is a sophomore in political science who wishes his football predicting skills were sharper.