Primaries in Democraticville and Republicantown

Posted on June 1, 2007

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E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post has a commentary today about how, if you look at the debates and the polls of what matters to Democrats and Republicans, we’re living in two different countries.

Think of the implications: The Democratic mind is focused on serious domestic problems, the Republican mind on terrorism and national security. How will the two parties reach any consensus on issues that one side cares about so much more than the other?

The problems between the Democratic and the Republican candidates goes farther than this, though. The Democratic debates have been about education, health care, and the economy, and the Republican debates about terrorism and national security, because that’s what the primary voters want to hear. You know, primaries – those usually closed votes that enable dinky states like New Hampshire and Iowa to have influence far in excess of their actual importance and that will probably decide the Democratic and Republican candidates this next election cycle on Feb. 5, 2008, seven months before the conventions and less than 3 weeks after the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. Dionne’s commentary talked mostly about the proportions of Democrats vs. Republicans that consider particular issues to be “most” important. But what about Democrats who consider health care as “most important” but terrorism as a close second? Or Republicans who put abortion as top on their list, but global heating and environmentalism as second? Or independents who worry a lot about immigration, health care, and national security due to their interrelatedness? No data, at least not in Mr. Dionne’s commentary.

The party debates illuminate for all who care to look just how screwed up our primary system is. The Democrats and Republicans both are playing to their respective “bases” because they have to. But we need someone who can look beyond health care, beyond national power, beyond the economy, beyond terrorism. Someone who understands not just the nuances of the world, but that there are nuances (someone smart, maybe even an egghead, as Eugene Robinson of the WashPost suggests). And right now, neither party’s debates are showing this kind of command over the issues that really confront our country.

Pity.

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