Political Suicide: The Democratic Convention

So what, I hear Clinton supporters argue, why shouldn’t she take this to the Democratic Convention? Well, it wouldn’t be a first time that a Democratic candidate took their bid to the National Convention. But it would be the first time that a Democratic candidate had less than eight weeks to prepare him/herself for a successful presidential bid.

If you look at recent presidential political calenders, successful campaigns needed more than 10 weeks for success. Take for instance the choosing of Jimmy Carter during the Democratic National Convention of 1976, which occurred on July 12-15 in New York. In 1976, the presidential election was on November 2nd. This gave Jimmy Carter over fourteen weeks to prepare his national campaign against the incumbent Republican, Gerald Ford. These fourteen weeks were instrumental for Carter to invent himself as the anti-Nixon, moral leader that the country desperately needed.

However, just four years later, Carter was faced with only ten weeks to build a campaign against the new contender, Republican nominee Ronald Reagan. Reagan had clearly captured the Republican nomination before the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Michigan, which officially declared him the winner in July. Contrary to this, Jimmy Carter had to fend off a vicious internal rivalry led by Ted Kennedy, that lasted until the Democratic National Convention on August 11-14, 1980 in New York. Reagan of course won, and there are a multitude of reasons for this, but the absolute pummeling that Carter suffered (he lost electorally 489 to 49 votes) suggests that more time and a more unified base could have helped him.

Now, it appeared that the Democrats had learned their lesson, for in 1992 they scheduled an early Democratic National Convention on July 13-16 in New York. This gave the Democratic contender Bill Clinton fourteen weeks to develop his national campaign against the incumbent George Bush. However, in 1996 the Democratic National Convention met on August 26-29 in Chicago. This time line would have given the Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton only eight weeks to prepare his national campaign, but luckily he had only token opposition in Lyndon LaRouche. Unlike Carter’s difficult battle with Ted Kennedy, Clinton sailed on to recapture the nomination, and his second term in office. Clinton did not have to wait until the Democratic National Convention to build his national campaign, and had no fractured base to heal.

I can continue on looking at how the political calender helps determine presidential candidates every four years. In each scenario, two very large influences is the internal political climate– is it a hotly contested primary, like Carter versus Kennedy, or lukewarm, like Clinton versus LaRouche?– and the duration in which the presidential nominee can plan his/her national campaign.

In 2008, the Democratic Party- in their infinite wisdom- chose a late date: August 25-28 in Denver Colorado. Democrats from around the country will meet to officially decide the Democratic nominee for president. The Republican National Convention is September 1-4, 2008 in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. This deadline would give each nominee between seven to eight weeks to prepare their national campaigns. There is, of course, one important difference at this point: The Republicans have known who their nominee is for the past several months.

If Hillary Clinton decides to push her campaign into the Democratic National Convention on August 25, this will give Democrats only eight weeks to try and convince independent and swing voters– and only these same eight weeks to mend the internal wounds, as the Presidential Election is on November 4, 2008.

It would be a political suicide for Democrats to let their decision last until the Convention, but I wouldn’t put it past them. When it comes to strategy and political processes, the Democratic Party is severely lacking. Howard Dean is fighting against time and poor planning at this point, and the Democratic base continues to fray. As the Democratic primary continues, I cannot help but see the irony of the situation. Lack of foresight and political planning cost the Democrats the election in 2004. Now, the same issues are coming to rear their heads in the current political calender. Superdelegates, anyone?