THE DEMOCRATS ARE RUNNING AS FAST AS THEY can to the edge of a cliff. The presidential candidates are becoming so extreme in their hostility to the values of most Americans and to the demands of common reason that they are approaching the lunatic fringe. Whoever is radical enough to get the nomination is going to be too radical to get elected. This threatens the whole party-not just the presidential campaign, which Democrats are all but sure to lose anyway, but their representation in Congress, state houses, and local town halls. What can the Democrats do to save their party?
They ought to just nominate as their presidential candidate George W. Bush.
There are precedents for one party's nomination of a candidate who is also the nominee from another party. Minnesota's Farmer and Labor party usually nominates the Democratic candidate, and New York's Conservative Party usually goes along with whomever the Republicans pick. This happens all the time in foreign countries that have a plethora of political parties. As for a president running unopposed, this is how the first George W.-George Washington, that is-was elected.
Seconding the nomination of President Bush would be seen as a much-needed gesture to unify the country during wartime, the rejection of politics as usual, a selfless patriotic act of nonpartisan statesmanship that would command respect and that would force the public to take the Democrats seriously again.
This would not mean that the Democrats would have to compromise their core principles. There was a time when President Bush would have made a good Democrat. On the issues, he has expanded Medicare entitlements, pushed through a huge farm program, and increased government aid to education. He has promoted deficit spending, which used to be what the Democrats always defended. Like John F. Kennedy, he has cut taxes. Like Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson, he has taken us to war. Where he is conservative, though, he would simply pull his second party back to the mainstream, to its great benefit.
It is true that the current Democratic Party establishment hates President Bush with a passion and a paranoia that borders on mental illness. If their party were to nominate him, the most virulent Bush-haters would suffer a nervous breakdown, whereupon they could receive the help they need. More importantly, they would leave the party, probably to join the Green Party, which is where, given their ideology, they belong anyway. With them gone, the Democratic Party could have credibility again.
But how could President Bush win the Democratic nomination? The campaign-finance law and the rise of primaries as a way to select delegates have weakened political parties to the point that the national committee can hardly stop a popular outsider like the president .
Many of the states in the name of inclusiveness have open primaries. This means that anyone can vote for the Democratic candidate of their choice, even if they are not members of the party. Since the president is running unopposed for his Republican nomination, his legions of supporters, including those who are Republican, could cross over to vote for him again as a Democrat.
Even among registered Democrats, Mr. Bush would have a good chance in many states. He could probably come in second in New Hampshire. He would almost certainly be the big winner on Super Tuesday. He would sweep the South. By then, he might have so much momentum that the nomination would be decided before the Blue states would have a chance to vote against him.
Choosing President Bush as their nominee would allow the Democrats to avoid defeat in the election. They could save their viable candidates-sparing them the expense, the politics of personal destruction, and the label of loser-until the 2008 election, when there would be no incumbent and both parties could compete on a level playing field, with the Democrats having a good chance of winning.
What would help the Democrats the most is that Mr. Bush, as the party's presidential candidate, would become, by custom, the leader of the party, selecting the national chairman and other party officials. Mr. Bush could rid the party of the rabid abortionists, the radical feminists, the gay mafia, and the nostalgic '60s peaceniks who hold the current Democratic Party in thrall.
President Bush as its candidate could thus liberate the Democratic Party, putting it back in the hands of normal people, allowing it to become once again a serious player in the development of public policy and in the governance of this country.
Then again, why would he want to do that?