Why are so many Democrats feeling uneasy about the 2008 elections? Every indication is they're going to win big. Republicans in Congress are sure doing their part to keep Democratic hopes high. Hardly a day passes without the GOP leadership blocking some initiative people desperately want - such as ending the hated Iraq war or refusing to allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices.
You might think they're tanking this election - that they don't want to win. And you could be right.
Why else would Rudolph W. Giuliani, the liberal, pro-choice former mayor of a city they despise, be their leading candidate for president? Sure, Republicans love his campaign slogan ("Vote Democrat and Die!") - but TV's Fred Thompson is already rehearsing that line, and with his years on Law & Order will be more convincing.
Frankly, the GOP faithful doesn't much like what has happened to the party under President Bush. Republicans recall how Barry Goldwater's landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson devastated the conservative movement for a generation. So if 2008 is shaping up like that kind of debacle, why not let that slug Giuliani absorb the beating to show what happens when the party abandons its family values?
Quietly, a group of conservative Republicans who have begun meeting believe that a loss in 2008 might be the best thing that could happen to their movement. They certainly aren't happy with any of the front-runners for the nomination. To accept any of them would mean a huge compromise - and moreover, these Republicans believe, that compromise candidate would still probably lose the election.
Their thinking: Let the Democrats win in 2008. Let them inherit the huge debt, the war and all the problems of eight years of George W. Bush. Let the conservatives, they reason, take this opportunity to rebuild and, by 2012, come roaring back to the White House.
This strategy requires a lot of "ifs" and wishful thinking, but it may be just what the Republicans ultimately settle on as a strategy.
Meanwhile, what's bugging Democrats is the inconvenient truth that the next president will inherit a federal government resembling the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker says the "biggest threat facing the U.S. is not terrorism but fiscal irresponsibility." Deficit spending by President Bush and the Republican Congress increased the national debt by $3 trillion in six years, to an unprecedented $8.8 trillion.
The Bush crowd has made our government so costly, globally hated and incompetent that the country may take many years to recover.
Iraq is the only major war America has waged without raising taxes to fund it. Instead, President Bush cut taxes for the rich and told everyone else to "go shopping."
Getting out of Iraq will not solve all the economic problems the Bush administration won't be around to see. The American public must be prepared for some very hard times. What's ahead for the "winning" Democratic ticket isn't just straw hats, spangled bunting and "Happy Days Are Here Again." Which is why mainstream Republicans are chortling as Democrats prepare to regain the White House.
If Mr. Goldwater's defeat set conservatives back two decades, think about the Democrats in 2008 and their two talented front-runners, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. Can you imagine a worse time for the first female president or the first black president - succeeding a man who entered the Oval Office with surpluses as far as the eye could see and leaves it treading water?
To Rush Limbaugh, the Bush legacy never looked so good.
Victor Kamber is a political consultant and author. His blog can be read at www.victorkamber.com.