Being a Tiger football fan before the Oklahoma game is a lot like being a Democrat during the run-up to the Nov. 2 election. We’re cautiously hopeful but deeply apprehensive.
The hope relies heavily on emotion and anecdote (defensive end Aldon Smith will be back for the Tigers; a well-connected friend tells me the Democrats are just cranking up a get-out-the-vote drive in the big cities).
When emotion gives way to intellect, the apprehension takes over. History trumps hope in sports and politics. Coach Gary Pinkel is 0-6 against the Sooners, who may be the best team in the country so far this season. The party in power during a recession is 0-Always versus the opposition, regardless of which party holds which position.
I don’t know much more about politics than I do about football, but I do remember Harry Truman’s warning that if candidates give voters only the choice between a Republican and one who talks like a Republican, they’re likely to choose the real Republican.
So when I hear Democratic candidates in Missouri and elsewhere running away from a Democratic president who’s more popular than they are and distancing themselves from the major achievements of the Democratic majority in Congress, I can’t help thinking that maybe they deserve what they’re probably going to get at the polls.
With less than two weeks left before the election, my nomination for Worst Campaign by a Missouri Democrat goes to Robin Carnahan. Blessed with an honored political heritage and a vulnerable opponent, Ms. Carnahan has so far taken the low road and stuck to it. Her attacks on Congressman Roy Blunt have been mainly well founded, but I defy you to tell me much that she’s for, as opposed to who she’s against.
Her supporters, I’m told, are counting on turning out an 80 percent Democratic vote in Kansas City and St. Louis. To have a chance, that’s what she’ll need. She’ll have a better shot, it seems to me, if she spends some time and some advertising dollars telling us what we get if we elect her. For Democrats, not-Blunt is good; but even for us, it’s not really sufficient.
Maybe the best of the local races, though it hasn’t attracted a lot of press attention, is Chris Kelly’s effort to hold his state House of Representative seat – reclaimed in a historically costly race two years ago – against a worthy challenger, Columbia City Council member Laura Nauser.
Their positions couldn’t be clearer: an unashamed liberal versus an unabashed conservative. Chris has the edge in ideas and money; she rides the anti-incumbent tide. Theirs is what a campaign should be, a contest of philosophies and policies.
To me, the strangest local campaign this year is being waged by Ed Robb, a retired economics professor who is running for presiding commissioner by criticizing the abilities and questioning the workloads of the county officials he’ll have to work with if he wins. Of course, he’s a Republican, and they’re all Democrats, but partisanship hasn’t – up til now – played much of a role in the conduct of Boone County government.
His Democratic opponent, Scott Christianson, looks like a statesman by comparison.
You’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned the race for the U.S. House of Representatives in our district. That’s because there isn’t one. The combination of Blaine Luetkemeyer’s deep pockets and the electorate’s sour mood scared off the Democrats, except for a lonely write-in candidate. With redistricting due and predictions that Missouri will lose a House seat, Rep. Luetkemeyer seems destined to be the last Ninth District congressman ever.
At least, we know the Tigers will take the field Saturday night. How they and the Democrats will fare, I’m not fool enough to predict. For now, hope holds off history.
George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.