Yet there is another world in Democratic politics, a practical, mostly middle-aged and middle-class world that is immune to fervor and electricity. It is made up of people with long memories who are skeptical of fads and like their candidates tough, detail-oriented and — to use a word Obama regularly mocks — seasoned.
At this point one might expect that such a generalization would be followed by tedious, but detailed and accurate, analysis of polling data from numerous sources. Your expectations would be wrong.
These are the Hillary people, and they gathered in Manassas last weekend in significant numbers at the Grace E. Metz Middle School, cozy schools being a preferred venue for a Clinton campaign aware that mammoth rallies are normally beyond its reach.
She does not lack for loyalists. Paulie Abeles of Derwood, Md., held aloft a hand-printed sign that did not mince words: "Talk Is Cheap. Mistakes Are Expensive."
Abeles explained that people who are being "swept along by the eloquence of Barack Obama's speeches" forget that at one time, George W. Bush was seen as "charming" and "inspirational." And electability was on her mind. If President Bush raised the terror alert level four days before the election ("I happen to be very cynical," she averred), the Democrats would want their most experienced candidate confronting McCain.
Well, that's one person. Got any more?
As she speaks, Doug Hattaway, one of her aides, notes that her practical litany is precisely what appeals to working-class and middle-class voters who respond to "tangible issues." They also rebel against the idea that they are not part of the cool, privileged masses for Obama. One of the signs at the Manassas rally defiantly touted "Well Educated High Earners for Hillary." This is a party divided not by ideology but by sensibility. Things have gotten very personal.
Let me get this straight. Dionne goes to a rally for Hilary Clinton. A rally is a place where active, motivated supporters of a candidate go. At that rally, he quotes one supporter and one of Clinton's aides as evidence of her appeal–and a tasteless sign as a sign of the divisiveness of the Democratic campaign as a whole.
I don't know what this kind of column is doing on the op-ed page. It seems like reporting, albeit very bad reporting. Dionne talks to exactly two people, consults no polling data, and goes to one place. On the strength of this, he draws the conclusion that the party is separated by "sensibility" (which he doesn't define by the way), not by ideology. That may be the case, but Dionne doesn't even come close to offering the kind of evidence that would establish that. But it should be stressed that all of Dionne's wasted or half hearted effort is directed at establishing some kind of meta-political point–that is, a point about the politics of politics. And so he looks for explanations of people's attitudes when they can just as easily offer justifications–here's one Dionne hasn't considered: People vote for Clinton because they think she will be a better President.