Saturday, August 06, 2005

The case against Dean...

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The emerging consensus that the most vital electoral variable has metamorphosed from the "swing voter" to "getting out the base," is, in my opinion, wrong. The last election was close. Kerry received 48% of the popular vote and was mere percentage points away from pivotal swings in Ohio and Florida. This isn't meant in anyway to detract from what was a historic and deserved victory for George W. Bush.

John Kerry lost the election for a myriad of reasons. He lost the election because he didn't emotionally resonate with voters. In three consecutive debates on the vast majority of policy issues Kerry displayed a better range of knowledge, better insight, and more intelligent solutions. He concisely identified the faults of the administration's governance as articulately as Bill Clinton did in 1992. The majority of Americans agreed with me if you look at the polling data from those debates. Before the first Kerry was running between 8-12 points behind Bush. By the end he was neck and neck going into the final stretch of the election.

But, Democrats have to face up to the fact that the currency in political success has shifted. And it has shifted because of the sincere and direct man that George Bush is... And, Kerry's lack of sincerity, and emotional depth ultimately deprived him of what was required to tip the balance in States like Ohio, Iowa, and Florida. He didn't paint a vision that resonated emotionally with people's hearts. And ultimately it's emotion, and not rational observations, that compels us to vote at the polling booth.

He also lost because of his explicit political maneuvering on a myriad of issues. I supported Kerry wholeheartedly from the get go, but his dramatic shifts of emphasis during the primary campaign: vigorously anti-war when chasing Dean, and aggressively pro-war when Dean misspoke about Saddam Hussein was emblematic of everything that followed. His decision to make Cheney's gay daughter "fair game" was the pinnacle of his misplaced focus and IMO, his ultimate downfall.

I have to admit I've never had a lot of time for Howard Dean. The Democratic Party was yearning for political credibility in the wake of George Bush's meteoric popularity after September 11th and the Iraq war, and Howard Dean had none. Now, the Democratic Party is again yearning for a voice to define the evolving political discourse. This is the Democratic Party’s defining moment, especially if Giuliani decides not to run (likely) and John McCain chooses to seek the Republican nomination (which he will lose, and in doing so the Republican party will vacate whatever claims they had to the center ground).

And in the midst of this window of opportunity, what face are the Democrats offering to the American people?

Howard Dean, a man who says Republican's are racist... Republican's are dumb... The man who thinks the way in which Democrats reclaim their values is to resort to denigrating their opponents in the same obnoxious way that some Republican's have denigrated Liberalism. What is Howard Dean fighting? Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter. Will 2008 be a battlefield between such sharply contrasting extremes? No... The election of 2008 will be a battle for the hearts and minds of the American people and, yes, whether Democrats like it or not... for some of those who voted for George Bush in 2004, and 2000, or didn't vote at all.

Are we going to define the party in the eyes of those people by a man who thinks they're racist and dumb? Are we going to define the party in the eyes of those people by a man who only knows how to appeal to a room of Democratic activists and alienate everybody else? Or worse, are we going to define the Democratic Party by our House Leader:

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It's time for us to look seriously about not just what the Democratic party needs to be but also what the party should be in the legacy of Bill Clinton. There are men and women of principle who can define us as something so much more relevant to people's lives, beyond condemning Bush as liar/war criminal/Nazi. And by those I am not referring to pseudo Conservatives like Lieberman and Zell Miller. I mean moderate, relevant, principled voices like:

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...and in my opinion the man who should be leading the Democratic Party in the Senate instead of canvassing for a potential Presidential run:

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In marketing terms, the party needs to be completely re-branded ahead of 2008, and I hope from somewhere within the party lies the awareness and determination to accomplish this. Where is the Democratic Leadership Council when we need it? The very best of what the Democratic Party has to offer resides in its inclusivity, spirit, and practical solutions to the problems the nation and world is facing. This is not best served by Howard Dean.

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Royce Ogle said...

What a great article! At last, a thinking liberal! I mean no sarcasm, your views are very rare. One of the reasons I usually detest liberals is that they don't do much thinking. The old line "Bush stole 2 elections" sort of bunk only shows the shallow intellect of those who make such hollow statements.

Kerry? He had a very good shot at winning but made two fatal mistakes.
1. He absolutely refused to take a position and stick to it. Thus, he was branded a "flip-flopper". One characteristic of Bush that appeals to me and many others, is that even if he takes an unpopular position,(and in my view a wrong position) he can be depended on to stay with that position come hell or high water.
2. Kerry tooted his own horn! John McCain will never be president for the same reason. Most people are not attracted to people who brag on themselves all the time. When Kerry started to lace into every speech and statement, "I served in Vet Nam..." his poll numbers started to tank.

Dean? He is an idiot. Enough said.

Biden? People just don't like him. He always comes across as an arrogant know it all. When I see him I think of a shady used car salesman with an education.

Anyway, again, cheers! Very good work.

Graham said...

Thanks Royce. Yeah, ultimately Kerry's political manouverings undermined the integrity of his message, I agree.

I don't know about Biden, but I would agree of the four men I mention he is the most partisan, and least palatable to the political mainstream. He does have this earnestness that I like and I always find it interesting listening to what he has to say.

McCain I think has very good profile throughout the U.S. In recent polls I saw, in hypothetical match ups Hillary and Bush ran toe to toe, while Hillary lost to McCain by about 15 points. McCain appeals to a lot of independently minded Americans, because he is that way inclined himself. If he runs and loses, unless he commits some explicit errors, it will create an opportunity for Democrats to appeal to those that think highly of McCain.

Yes, Dean is out there. The Democrats just lost an election, we need to reach out beyond our consituency to those who didn't vote for us, and it's his idea of good politics to deride them as racist and stupid. Is politics now not about substance? But about who articulates their principles loudest and with the most conviction, or should I say, attacks their opponent loudest and with the most conviction. We need to give the electorate a little more credit. Dean is an exercise in healing our brusied egos from excessive punishment from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, et all. It's self indulgent and transparent.

Thanks for posting on my blog, Royce :)!

Resistor Prime said...

I agree. I'm a life-long Republican and I think the Democrats are suffering from the same illness my party has had for years: attack politics.

Sadly, my party, in recent times, tends to attack the opposition on personality issues rather than real issues (This is very disturbing for me.) Sadder still, the democrats have resorted to the same tactics.

Tim Glinatsis said...

Primo article.

Now, excuse me as I add you to my blogroll...

Brad said...

I would love to see your evidence of Dean calling Republicans "dumb" or "racists". He said that the administration currently in power has, combined, never worked an honest day in their lives. If the shoe fits, and all that.

Dean is an exciting person. He's giving the Democratic Party something it badly needs. A spine. And that's why the conservative smear campaign began.

It's funny that Royce agrees wildly with how Dean (supposedly) called Republicans dumb and then says the same thing about liberals. Republicans have truly mastered the double standard. I'd say considering what the Bush administration has done to America, that 49 percent is looking pretty smart right about now.

Jumpin' on the Bandwagon said...

Excellent post. I do have to agree with Brad. I see a lot of conservatives calling liberals 'dumb' or 'idiotic'. I don't see this in the liberal camp nearly so much. I also notice that the conservatives are constantly screaming that the liberals are destroying the country...yet they fail to mention that they control all houses/parts of the government, so how can this be true?

Dean is not an asset to the Democrats in his current position. While he does a great job at getting under the GOPs' skin, he alienates most moderate democrats....myself included.

Graham said...

Hey Guys,

Thanks for writing on my blog and expressing your views. Much appreciated. Am in a bit of a hurry so can't search out the exact quotes I was referring to from earlier in the year. But, in five minutes I found a few which demostrate my point.

"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."

...The contest between Democrats and Republicans is "a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

"Republicans are brain dead."

"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?... Only if they had hotel staff in here."

I don't disagree that Republican's have made just as outlandish statements about Democrats, and over time have done far worse. And, I know this is frustrating as hell. But, the point I'm making is that the battle in 2008 will not be between our partisan despicion of each other. As much as we might want it to be... as much as Democrats might need to be in the wake of so much unfairness that has been directed at them from the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity.

The battle of 2008 will be a battle to win the hearts and minds of the American electorate, and yes, whether you like it or not, to win over some of those people who voted for George Bush in 2000, and 2004. As Democrats we better wake up to this practical reality, and more importantly, realise it is our duty as Democrats to be relevant to the lives of mainstream Americans. Isn't this Clinton's legacy?

Like I said, "Dean is an exercise in healing our brusied egos from excessive punishment from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, et all. It's self indulgent and transparent."

We have to move past this, and do it quickly if we're to seize the initiative.

Anonymous said...

HF Jr. wants to run for prez. I'd vote for him.

-E said...

Yes, yes, all great. And while you and I might understand that, as well as the other readers of your blog- how do you make those who have the ability to make those changes take heed? They don't want to hear that, it messes with their own personal agendas (that aren't getting done anyway).

Oh, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Graham said...

I disagree. Sure, whatever points I make on my blog make very little difference in the grand scheme of things. What would be better apathy and resignation. Somehow, in small ways, we can express ourselves and hope that it makes a difference.

In regards to the agenda of those in power, I think you're being unfairly misanthropic. I think on a fundamental level it is in all of our interests within the Democratic party to passionately re-assert ourselves into the political mainstream. That doesn't neccesarily mean a centrist agenda, but it does mean that our first point of call should be addressing people's problems, and not attacking or denigrating the opposition. There will be competing agendas within the party, and the primary season will resolve those things one way or the other, and it will be people like you and me in Iowa, NH, and so on that make those resolutions. If it matters to me then, as strongly as it does now, there will be every opportunity for me to get involved and play my part, just as thousands did at the last election.

Thanks for writng on my blog, too btw :)!

Regarding Harold Ford, anon, I wasn't just referring to the presidency. I was talking about the public face of the Democratic Party, and with HF Junior, particularly referencing the race he lost to Pelosi for the House Leadership. Unfortunately, I think he lacks the seniority for the a presidential run and might also be a little too politically smooth for the public as a whole... but, he's definately a rising star that can and does positively appeal to everyone.

OTTMANN said...

Good post, and You're headed in the right direction. Howard Dean is far too mean, which was seen and was cast aside for John Kerry, who was a much too rich and arrogant flipper.

I also agree that the petty name calling by liberals has to go. Their vitriol isn't helping democrats one bit, and that will take a long time to change.

Dems have lost what they had for 60 years, and it's a new century that they are having a hard time dealing with. They seem totally at a loss these days because the liberal networks and papers can no longer carry them due to their deceptions (lies) being exposed by new media, as it becomes clear they cannot win on the issues otherwise, because democrats stand for everything old while at the same time calling it "progressive." Their internal identity problems are rather severe and can't be fixed by the current crop.

You're correct that the party needs a full makeover with a new breed of leaders. The current bunch from Byrd, Kennedy, Schumer, Clinton, Feinstein, Kerry, Boxer, Waxman etc., are far too polarizing to make any headway with the average voter who has clearly moved right, and views them as the party of hatred, obstruction and antagonism that wants to divide the people and control them with huge government regulations and high taxes for wasteful social programs. Their past caught up to them and they must face the music.

I've stated all that before, in fact for years, and I'm actually glad someone has finally started listening because it is clear this nation is headed to a one party system which would not be a good thing if it happened.

I think democrats need to get honest with the people instead of always trying to con them for votes with empty promises of a governmental nanny state, that may have worked way back during manual labor days, but won't work anymore in this new era of high technology.

It's come down to this, either adapt or die by lies for democrats.

indj said...

very interesting post, and equally interesting blog. well done. incidentally, i'm with you on biden '08.

- jay

Brad said...

Good response, and good evidence, graham. I had heard a couple of those but not all.

The race issue is completely true, though. Sorry, but the only thing for more foolish than a black Republican is a gay black Republican. The conservative party stands for neither.

And Ottmann, the argument that Democrats need to change into conservatives to fit the times is absolutely ridiculous. All parties sharing the same views results in the elimination of the same party leading to autocracy and mostly likely a totalitarian state. If that's what you want, bully for you, but insisting that's what America wants is just plain idiotic.

This country was founded on liberal ideas. Democracy is entirely about liberalism. Saying America should veer from liberalism is tantamount to saying America should abandon the core values that made America what it is.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

Wish I had time to look into it all more, I am far away from making even a guess as to what would be best for the party on this one. I only hope that the Democrats do get their spine back as they lost it last time around and that, in my opinon, was part of their downfall. They became soft and in some cases unwilling to stand for what they truly believed giving many the impression they stood for nothing.

ariadneK, Ph.D. said...

I like Dean a hell of a lot more than I liked Kerry. :-)

Sally said...

It is very interesting what you wrote about Dean being a way to help the Democrats bruised egos...I think they chose Dean to be the lightening rod for Republicans to focus on while strategy is being formed.

Graham said...

Unfortunately, that lightening rod might become the basis upon which people identify what the Democratic party stands for heading towards 2008.

As for the Democratic spine, I definately felt that way in 2002 after the mid-terms but to be fair to Kerry I think he went a long way in asserting the parties credibility in the eyes of the voter. Like I said, he received 48% of the vote and only narrowly lost swing states Ohio and Florida. He was a whisker away. But, principled intentions to improve people's lives do go along way, and in my opinion Dean spends much more time aggressively denigrating Republicans, and worse, Republican voters, who, at least in part, Democrats will have to woo if they are to triumph at the next election.

Thanks for the comments, btw :)!