November 03, 2004

Who's The Man?

Whence the Next Great Charismatic Democratic Leader?

Edwards has the Mondalean Taint to him now. And there's little, if anything, he can do in the next four years to pump up his vitae. Unless he, say, sues bin Laden and/or the Saudis.

As much as we like Barack Obama, he's (a) too young, (b) too inexperienced, and (c) too black (sorry, but it has to be said; the mouth-breathing, queer-bashing red-staters who voted Bush in won't go for it) to contend any earlier than, say, 2020. He'll also have to get in a term or two as IL governor.

Gavin Newsom is Obama redux, but too gay (by association) instead of black. Again, a solid candidate in 2020, but not until then. And he, too, needs a couple terms as CA governor.

As for Hillary Clinton ... well, the Confidence Man has to confess to having had a serious crush on Hillary for over 15 years. Really. No, really. She's hot, she's smart, she's serious but with a goofy streak (remember "okey-dokey, artichokey"?) ... ok, anyway ... Hillary unfortunately is the Newt Gingrich of the Democratic Party. She simply has no national electoral future.

There is talk around the despondent left blogosphere that the Dems need to cultivate some more smooth-talkin', flouncy-haired Southern charlatans to paw at the electorate. This, in the abstract, is not a bad idea; but whence y'all gonna find 'em? The Dems are going to struggle to elect anyone to gubernatorial or Senatorial office in the South for a while; their farm system looks like the Yankees' right now, bereft of real prospects and in need of propitious draft picks. Which means that the Dems won't have any decent national candidates from the South for, say, at least 12 years.

The pro-Southerner argument is predicated on a negative proposition that is certainly true enough: that the Dems can not put forward a Northeastern candidate for the foreseeable future. If for no other reason than the constituency politics of a Northeastern state (excepting, perhaps, Pennsylvania) would necessitate too onerous a track record.

The Midwest and Southwest are much more fertile breeding grounds. If Obama can develop an effective Midwest machine, he could likely prove to be a real power broker in the immediate future. Bill Richardson's moment is probably over, gone with Kerry's rejection of him as a VP candidate. The new senator from Colorado, Salazar, shows some promise, but it's early yet.

Which brings us to ... California. Now, as moribund as the CA GOP is (Schwarzenegger is not even a figurehead for the CA GOP; he is a distraction from a state party that has zero support or power, and Arnold isn't interested in machine-building, he's interested in Arnold-boosting), the CA Demo party is itself in trouble. The CA Dems are in the same position the national party was in Congress back in the '70s: solidly in power, but out of touch and unable to develop charismatic leadership. Newsom is the only "name" Dem in the state right now: the rest are either Gray Davis/Al Gore-style technocrats or Willie Brown-style porcinoma barkers.

The wild card, of course, when one considers California is Hollywood. Now, the obvious activist types (Alec Baldwin, Rob Reiner, Sarandon & Robbins) are all obvious electoral losers; not so much because they're liberals per se (although that -- and their collective sanctimony -- doesn't help) but because none of them are superstars. When discussing actors-turned-politicians, most folks tend to draw the wrong lessons from Reagan. Yes, Reagan was a minor B-actor in his Hollywood days, but he really did make himself into a superstar, starting with the hard slog through the promotional appearances for GE in the late '50s. What Reagan did was to invent, inhabit, and sell a loveable persona. Which is precisely what Schwarzenegger did.

So, if one is to look to Hollywood for potential candidates, that is the sort of character one wants. Someone with either an established loveable persona, or someone with the capacity to develop one with the single-minded rapacity superstardom demands. In other words, someone who can "open a film."

The Confidence Man hereby nominates ... Jim Carrey. Really. No, really. Think about that one.

(And, yes, we know Carrey's Canadian; but we have Confidence that the Schwarzenegger Amendment will be ratified by 2012.)

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