I can still remember when I was a child, sometime in the 1970s, my mother, a lifelong liberal and sometime socialist, saying with confidence that if Ronald Reagan was ever elected president, we would move out of the country.
He was, of course, and we didn't. The point is not that she was not prepared to back up her words, but that at the time that she spoke them, the election of Reagan, a former actor and right-wing extremist, seemed, to her at least, to be at most a remote possibility.
It is unsettling to say the least that in retrospect, and compared to the current gang of Republican presidential hopefuls, Reagan seems almost a benign centrist. The spectacle of Democrats invoking President Reagan earlier this summer during the debt ceiling debate shows just how much more extreme the GOP "mainstream" has become.
So it's even more unsettling that after months of apparent apathy, the Republican masses, those who will be voting next year in the primaries, are now growing comfortable with, and even enthusiastic about, their slate of candidates. This contrasts with the latest opinion poll results for President Obama, in which his ratings are at an all-time low, with even his leadership ratings, formerly a strong area for the President, dropping below fifty percent.
These numbers can and will change over time, of course, and a lot can happen in the next year running up to the election. But in my opinion, the left wing of the Democratic Party should at least seriously think about the possibility of fielding a challenger to Barack Obama in the primaries. Obama has failed to adequately set himself apart from the Republicans in Congress, compromising and capitulating at almost every step. It is not surprising that his leadership numbers have dropped. If he emerges from next year's primary season appearing crippled, and the Republicans have nominated a strong candidate, such as extremest right-winger Rick Perry... the Democrats are going to wish that they had considered a candidate who could establish an equally strong, forceful contrast.