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:

EVAN BAYH
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BARAK OBAMA
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HAROLD FORD JNR
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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:

JOE BIDEN
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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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