Thursday, January 29, 2004

I got your electability right here...

Bush Campaign Shifts Gears for Kerry, but not by much. Frankly, Kerry is 'vulnerable' to many of the same criticisms as Dean. Certainly the GOP will attempt to paint Kerry as an avatar of a clapped-out liberal tradition and the aristocratic North Eastern liberal who talks class warfare from the comfort of his Rolls Royce.

He will face criticism on his voting record both in its particulars, especially on his votes vs. his current positions on key Bush programs and the war, and, in general, as being more liberal than Edward Kennedy's, that ancient shibboleth of Conservatives. Kerry is as much a left-winger as they could ever hope to label Dean; only in Dean's case, it's demonstrably not true, in Kerry's case, it is.

They are also winding up the smear machine to cast Kerry as an angry man and negative nabbob. In addition, I imagine they will target Kerry's war record by going after his 'hypocrisy' in joining a protest and then only acting as if he were throwing his medals away. It's unfair, but that's what they will do. Also, it is a well-circulated rumor that Kerry enjoys the ladies and has had a number of affairs. Chances are that some ghost of Christmas parties past will come floating down from stage right to create a Gennifer Flowers moment to distract everyone from the real issues.

There is no horse in this race who doesn't have any tack for the GOP to grab, except possibly Edwards. The GOP is still concerned because he is a fresh face who has little track record to criticize, would play strong in the south, among women and blacks, and has an appealing message which captures Dean's concerns about the growing gap between the working class and the owning class; the "Two Americas" meme. The White House is concerned that it's an effective message, with few rhetorical hooks with which they can steer its semiotics.

Frankly, I like strategically nominating Edwards even less than I like the fact that Kerry's wave is all about superficial aspects of Kerry's bio and appearance that tend to make him appear "Presidential," and thus, "electable". I don't think that Democrats need to vote strategically. I think Bush is very beatable by any of the candidates, with the possible exceptions of Kuchinich and Sharpton.

What disturbs me so much about Edwards' appeal is the he would essentially be a Stealth Candidate. Someone who has the bare minimum credentials, but no record on which to judge his possible performance, and thus nothing to object to. If we begin selecting our elected officials the same way we too often must select our judicial appointments and confirmed officials, I fear for the future of our democracy. When the day comes that man and women of experience can no longer run for office because of a few warts on their records, public service will become the sole province of tyros and rascals.

Dean is the best man to be our President. He has the most executive experience, has learned the discipline to deliver what he promises, and has been entirely responsible for the energy of the Democratic party and the high turnouts that have so far characterized these primary contests. He has driven the agenda and shaped the message and the attitude of the entire field of candidates. My worst fear is that even if he doesn't take the nomination, that he will drop back out of the public view, and without his anodyne yet stimulating presence, the passion of the party will ebb as Dean supporters despair, and, turning inwards, nurse their wounds.

In response to milder prodding, and the rhetorical assault of the GOP designed to moderate our message, the nominee's message will indeed smooth out, have the sharp elbows knocked off it, have the confrontational tone mitigated to the point where Democrats once again feel lost, unrepresented, uninspired, and they begin to lose interest again.

If anyone can knock the fun out of a campaign it's Kerry. He's a killjoy; he can't help it. I'm glad he's showing signs of life, but I wonder if he can keep it up without ploding stolidly along, starring at Dean's back and muttering, "Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean..." to himself.

So, let's make this rumination just so much wool-gathering and deliver a win for Dean on the 3rd. I don't care for the alternative all that much.


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