George McGovern and Walter Mondale are shoveling the coal, Michael Dukakis is at the controls, and Bernie Sanders sits atop the campaign car waving to a growing cluster of adoring, loyal, starry-eyed followers who sincerely believe he has an ice cube's chance in a boiler of becoming president of the United States.
The Democratic Party's time-honored presidential train wreck express is working its way up to full impact speed, and the crash should be spectacular.
In a year when the primary process is systematically winnowing out the GOP's best, its brightest, its most thoughtful and realistic and reasonable, the field is narrowing down to the frightening and repellent and, in a sane world, beatable.
By "sane world" I mean the one to which liberal voters seldom if ever manage to find their idealistic, meandering way in an election year.
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In a recent column touching on this issue, I got it all wrong. (That is to say, wrong about exactly how Democrats would seize defeat, not that they would ultimately manage to do so. My faith in their capacity for losing is steadfast.)
Nothing surprising about my getting it wrong: I am perhaps the world's worst political prognosticator. About the only prediction I've ever been absolutely sure about came 32 years ago, when I was pretty certain Mondale wasn't going to topple Ronald Reagan, the incumbent president with something like a 132 percent approval rating. Real tough call.
The scenario I envisioned a couple of weeks ago was that Hillary Clinton, though an obviously flawed and tainted political commodity, was the inevitable nominee, and that Sanders people -- in classic liberal all-or-nothing, make-the-perfect-the-enemy-of-the-good fashion -- might desert the Donkey ranks to mount a third-party or independent challenge. In other words, the 2000 Ralph Nader vote-splitting scenario.
That was an annoying prospect, if for no other reason than the one set-in-stone political fact that always seems irrelevant to vast numbers of voters: One of the two major-party nominees is going to be president of the United States. Rationalize around that reality however you choose, then tell me how much you'd like to bet on any other outcome. Whoever first called politics the Art of the Possible must have had these folks in mind.
(One of my best and oldest friends staunchly refuses to vote for a major party candidate in any election, and casts "statement" votes for independent or minor-party candidates. While I support his unalienable American right to do so, I have suggested to him that writing his vote on a sheet of paper, lighting it on fire and flushing it down a toilet would save him a trip to the polls and accomplish exactly the same civic function.)
What I didn't imagine was that the Democratic left wing would shun the indirect path to electoral annihilation and instead push Sanders toward front-runner status.
Among this constituency are more than a few people I consider not just close friends, but folks with whom, about 95 percent of the time, I share an ideological kinship. But their gleeful embrace of Bernie Sanders has me channeling Cher in "Moonstruck," when she whacks Nicolas Cage upside the head and yells, "Snap out of it!"
At a time when Republicans are going to call anybody to the left of Francisco Franco a "socialist" anyway, there is absolutely no "conservative" (a word from which politics long ago leached all coherent meaning) who can't and won't win against somebody who actually defines himself as a socialist. Not Donald Trump, not Ted Cruz, not Benito Mussolini, not the chain-rattling ghost of Richard Nixon.
If Sanders is the nominee, Ben Carson could wake up and beat him.
Got that? In a November general election in the United States of America of 2016, New England socialist Bernie Sanders cannot win. Cannot. Will not. Ever.
So this, it now appears, and not a voter split, is how Democrats can once again lose an election they should have been able to win sitting in rocking chairs on a porch.
Never mind that Republicans -- whose collective behavior throughout the Obama presidency is something history will rightly record as comparable to, if not more shameful (and with less excuse) than that of civil rights-era Southern Democrats -- are on a course to lose the next two generations.
That's of little immediate concern to them when Democrats are once again poised to serve the GOP and its constituents the power, the glory and the money on the proverbial silver platter.
Dusty Nix, 706-571-8528; firstname.lastname@example.org.