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December 09, 2003

Significance of Gore Endorsement

...Is that it's significant.

This is a radical change from the past when the endorsement of the previous cycle's Democratic nominee was considered irrelevant to poisonous.

Gore (probably unwisely) distanced himself from Clinton. And in 1992, no one cared who Dukakis favored. In 1988, Mondale's endorsement was hardly sought out. Carter was barely allowed near the 1984 Convention. And who in 1976 got the McGovern endorsement was not seen as a major issue. And so on back to Humphrey in 1968 who ended up distancing himself from LBJ.

Yet this year Dean enthusiastically is trumpeting the Gore endorsement, and some commentators see this as settling the race. Whether that's an extreme assessment (I thought it was over earlier, while other see it an open race), but just the fact that Democrats embrace their own past standard bearer shows a radical sense of consolidation of party unity.

And any of the candidates would now take Bill Clinton's nod in a second.

What is clear is that Dems feel little to apologize for the values promoted in 2000 against Bush. That gives a real heft to the party's gravitas and sense of identity that bodes well for 2004.

So whatever Gore's endorsement means for the primary, it's meaning for the general election is clear. When the dust settles, Bush will be facing a party more united than any time since 1964-- when the legacy of JFK was valorized in LBJ's run for the Presidency.

Update: Ezra at Pandagon has a reply-- I think he takes the existence of "factions" within the Democratic Party too seriously. Most of the major candidates are parties of one, with their allies likely to desert for the winning side quickly once the nomination is decided. There are no serious ideological divisions among the major candidates or even simple ideological oppositions-- Gephardt's health care plan is actually more radical than Dean's, for example, yet he's attracting more conservative Democratic support. So without such real issue divides, I just don't really expect any lasting bad feeling beyond the primaries.

Posted by Nathan at December 9, 2003 08:16 PM