Why shouldn't the 2008 Democratic Party nominee be Barack Obama (the senator from Illinois whose flirtation with a presidential run is detailed in this Washington Post story)?
The Republicans are tired and unpopular, and yet it appears that the Democratic Party is in no shape to take advantage of the opportunity. They're twisted up by the war, twisted up by the left-wing bloggers, twisted up by the cocooning effect of major media (of which the Obama story I've linked to is a perfect example, ironically.) The state of our two-party system is atrocious. Both parties need some time in the wilderness.
Nevertheless, there will be a Democratic Party nominee in 2008. As the Post story says,
The speculation is as much a commentary on the state of the party as it is on Obama. The Democrats' most prominent likely contenders — such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and John F. Kerry (Mass.) — are figures who have been in the public eye for many years and wear scars from earlier controversies.
No, Obama hasn't been much of a senator in his year-plus in office. He's not in the majority, and he's a rookie, so you can't set your expectations too high. No, Obama hasn't got any distinctive positions on any issues, and is afflicted with the Democratic Party's self-cancelling orthodoxy. But he's dynamic, and very smart; charming and charismatic; young and energetic. And depending on who the Republicans nominate, a candidate who'll run on the Democratic orthodoxy might not seem so bad.
There is no question that Barack Obama is fully qualified to be our president. And, as the Post story details, there is little doubt he could raise the money he would need. He's a star, the first star the party's had since Bill Clinton.
It was said just a few months ago that Hillary Clinton could take the party's left-wing base for granted, and could run as a moderate on national security and social issues, where the left-wing ideology scares away voters. That conventional wisdom is already washed-up. If Hillary runs, she will run as the moderate. Kerry and others will take the left wing vote. Hillary will be treated like Joe Lieberman.
Obama can do what Hillary cannot: Keep the left enthralled, while tacking to the center-right on national security. Obama could be Peter Beinart's dream, a new Truman.
I predict the 2006 election won't go nearly as well for the Democrats as they've been hoping. If I'm right, there will be a lot of gloom and rancor in the run-up to 2008. But Obama entering the race would change everything. Politics might seem fun again for a lot of us. He can put an easy grin on Democratic partisanship. He's not a hater or a divider.
If he runs, we'll find out more about him. Maybe Obama will melt under the kleiglights. But in politics, timing is everything, and I think the timing is exquisite for Barack Obama in 2008. Don't wait, don't let anyone trick you into paying dues you don't need to pay. Go for it, Senator Obama.