James Vesely has an interesting piece in the Seattle Times on why 2004 is looking more and more like 1996. While I’d argue that the left is more partisan today than the right was in 1996 (although I’m certain many would disagree) the overall themes of these two elections are eerily similar. The GOP of 1996 had a visceral dislike of Clinton and could never understand why the American people kept electing him. They tried to pin Clinton as a radical when his record (moved by a GOP Congress to be sure) was relatively moderate. They ran a Senate war hero who was a downright bore, and lost the election because their message had no resonance outside their own partisans.
The Democrats are doing exactly the same in 2004. It’s almost laughable to paint Bush as some kind of arch-conservative when real arch-conservatives are balking at his moderation. The Democrat’s run is fueled on visceral hatred for the President and a sense that America is somehow on a wrong and dangerous track and only the Democrats can save the country. Even John Edwards speaks about "two Americas" as though those people who make over $200,000 a year (or often less than that) suddenly lose all understanding about what America is. Campaigns of fear and partisanship tend not to do well in this coutry, especially when countered by an opponent offering a positive vision for the future.
Many Democrats are saying that they’re trying to emulate the successes of the conservative movement in the last few years – instead they’re doing an admirable job of emulating one of its greatest failures.