In fall 2003, twelve months before the last presidential election, the presidential campaign field was wide open. I remember because I hosted a fundraiser for Congressman Dennis Kucinich and felt very committed to his campaign. Why not? Anything could have happened at that point. Through the spring of 2004 Kucinich, Carol Mosely Braun, Wesley Clark, Dean Howard and others worked earnestly towards the Democratic nomination, knowing they had a shot, however small. Anything seemed possible.
The next election is 23 months away, yet the race for the Democratic nomination seems predetermined even before the candidates have declared their candidacy. I'm very impressed to learn that Kucinich is running again. His platform remains committed to universal healthcare, pulling our troops out of Iraq (he was one of few congressmen who voted against the war) and getting the U.S. weaned off oil. I've seen him speak in person and I remain convinced that Dennis Kucinich is the man I most want in the White House.
But does he have a chance of even being taken seriously as long as Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are taking up the spotlight? I think Clinton and Obama are more than worthy presidential candidates and if my Democratic primary choices come down to Clinton, Obama or Kucinich (that's just my personal conflict), that will be a wonderful dilemma. But aren't we jumping the gun by considering Clinton and Obama, and only Clinton and Obama, for the presidency at this point?
Maybe it's not really that Clinton and Obama are such incredible candidates that we can't wait to start campaigning. Maybe we're just so fed up with George W. Bush that we can't wait to consider someone else -- anyone else -- as our president. And attention is focused on the Democratic primary because the Democrats are seen as the ruling party at this point.
I heard someone say of Obama's standing that right now there's nowhere to go but down. Is it possible that a "candidate" who peaks this early can't last over the long haul? Has a presidential candidate ever shone this brightly 23 months before the election? And Clinton's appeal might not only be eclipsed by Obama, but by anyone who isn't a chick. Also, if in the past 20 years the White House has had a Bush, a Clinton and a Bush, do we really want to go back to another Clinton? Isn't it time to mix it up a bit more than that?
I think the curse of Dubya is tainting even our process of choosing the next Democratic nominee. We're too eager to annoint the next successor, so eager that we're ready to send up their campaign like fireworks. Or am I just being a doomsayer?