Daily Archives: January 18, 2004

Thoughts Before Iowa

When I first began this blog, I expected that–especially coming up on an important election year–I would be posting as much about politics as about current events. After all, as a lifetime political junkie who always had lots to say about the players and races, it seemed like a natural. But as regular readers will have noticed, particularly those who know me from the BBS’ where I used to post, there has been surprisingly little political fulmination emanating from this URL.

To be honest, even I am surprised by this development. Speculating on the reasons, there may be several in two main areas:

1) There has been so much happening this year, what with the invasion of Iraq, the piecemeal destruction of regulations meant to protect the environment, the open sale of the govt to corporate interests, the gutting of the Constitution in the name of “security”, the deliberate dismantling of the economy in order to favor the already-rich, the obvious lies, manipulations and misdirection spun around virtually every policy, and the growing evidence that the Publicans are planning nothing less than a bloodless coup built around Junior Bush and despite the lack of support of the population, that there just hasn’t been time to deal with political stories.

1a) There is no Republican contest and the Democratic challengers–with only 2 exceptions that I can see–have been remarkably silly, childish, and even borderline-moronic for the majority of the their stumping, attacking each other over ludicrous issues no one cares about, copying the same-old same-old, tired policies, remaining seemingly oblivious to the wider concerns of the electorate, and parading their unwillingness to confront Bush directly on any number of issues where he’s vulnerable for fear the Publicans would label them wild-eyed lefties.

Where they should have embraced their differences, they ran from them, often–like Lieberman–apparently trying to be more like Junior than Junior himself. Even Howard Dean, who so brilliantly exploited the national anger over Bush’s pre-emptive war, has been unable to similarly exploit the unexpressed anger around many other issues–the PATRIOT Act’s unpatriotic repudiation of Constitutional protections, a corporate sell-out that hurts everyone who isn’t a multi-millionaire, the continuous fleeing of jobs to low-wage countries even though the corporations involved are making massive profits before they move or out-source a single job, etc etc etc.

To be blunt, the Democratic race so far hasn’t been pretty. In fact, it’s been ugly, depressing, and apparently futile. Maybe it was so sad that I just didn’t want to visit the depths by dint of having to talk about them.

1b) Everybody else was doing it. The rest of the blogosphere has been so consumed with righting this canard about Dean or correcting that misinterpretatation of a statement by Clark or dissecting the latest poll numbers after every debate that I couldn’t see much value in adding to the noise.

1c) The Democratic field–with the same 2 exceptions–has proved remarkably resistant to any discussion of tactics or stategies or approaches that deviate from the standard playbook, making such discussions largely meaningless: hot air from political junkies pissing into the wind. Some months ago, for instance, Digby began a discussion of George Lakoff’s ideas about how Democrats need to frame the election instead of letting the Pubs do it. It was a potentially important discussion which I would normally have been eager to weigh in on. But I didn’t, and in hindsight I didn’t because it was patently obvious by then that none of the candidates had any intention of doing any such thing. They weren’t interested in framing the debate as they were too busy trying to find slightly new ways of saying the same old things and manufacturing bogus reasons to flash the Ginzus on each other. The blogosphere could rant all it wanted to–the candidates weren’t listening and the framing question was never going to make its way into the political discourse in time for this election.

2) At this point in time it seemed to me far more important to make more people aware of the depredations, incompetence, and malicious mendacity of the the Bush Admin. The Democratic candidates have so far been preaching to the choir: the people who are paying attention are the people who will vote against Bush no matter who the Democratic candidate turns out to be. I wanted to concentrate my little effort on widening that choir, maybe get a few more people to join it who otherwise wouldn’t have. The more people who are aware of what the Bushies have really been doing, I theorized, the more who will run from him in horror. I don’t know if I’ve succeeded–probably not–but such was the rationale.

None of this is meant to suggest that I was ignoring what was going on. I haven’t been. And now that the Iowa caucusses are practically on us, I’ve decided to break my silence and weigh in a bit, for whatever it may be worth.

First, let’s quit pussy-footing around and dispense with the tier that has no chance whatever in the real world. Moseley-Braun has already quit, that leaves Sharpton and Kucinich. They’re history. Forget about them. They don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, as my mother used to say.

Lieberman is Bush-Lite. He won’t make it past NH.

That leaves Kerry, Clark, Dean, Gephardt, and Edwards.

***Gephardt is too old-school MOR to survive in this new era of blistering polarization and core voters fed up with Democratic wimps. He’s plugging the same proposals he championed in 3 other Presidential races; we’ve heard them and rejected them. We’ll do the same again. Even if he survives NH, he’ll die in the South. In any case, it’s crystal clear that in a Bush/Gephardt match-up, Gephardt has neither the personality nor the balls to flush Junior, and with the Democratic faithful determined to field at least a potential winner (“somebody who can beat Bush” is the only criteria they really have), Gephardt’s tilting at windmills.

***Dean has been unable to exploit any issue besides the war, Unless he finds a way to do that in the next month, he’s gone. NH doesn’t like him much, whatever the polls say. Given Kerry’s massive advertising campaign and rising popularity in his home territory, and Dean’s falling numbers (at a minimum his support seems to have leveled off), he’ll be lucky to place 4th–a position that would destroy his viability because it will inevitably be taken as a major defeat by the putative front-runner and cripple him in the South.

***Kerry is gaining strength but his negatives remain way too high. He’s too Gore-like: wooden personality, a boring speaker with a monumental lack of charisma and a penchant for playing it safe that can only hurt him in the long run. He could win, but if he does he’ll lose to Bush for the same reasons Gephardt would: face-to-face, he ain’t got what it takes. Like Gore, he’d figure it out too late to do him any good.

That leaves, suprisingly perhaps, Edwards and Clark as the only legitimate opposition, and they are the 2 exceptions I mentioned above.

***I’ve liked Edwards from the beginning. He gave a speech back last spring that was passionate, honest, tolerant yet appropriately outraged; it was the speech of a true statesman, and I wish he had stayed on that track He’s the only candidate who understands the stranglehold corporations have on both our economy and our govt and has proposed legitimate strategies for dealing with them, the only candidate who’s refused to make negative attacks on other candidates, and the only candidate with enough charisma to blow Junior off the stage, assuming Rove lets him debate. He’s also a very successful trial lawyer, which means he’s comfortable in a high-pressure arena and knows how to cross-examine and counter opposition attacks effectively and with style.

Even if Rove only allows only 2 or 3 debates, Edwards could chew Junior up and spit him out on national tv without breaking a sweat. No other candidate, not even Clark, would be so devasting in a debate forum. In addition, he has so little history that it will be hard for the Pubs to paint him into a corner as a “traitor” or a “leftie loony”. They’ll try anyway, but I doubt it will take.

***Clark’s learning curve–which I expressed some reservations of–has proved to be a lot quicker than I gave him credit for. He has successfully weathered a series of withering attacks with aplomb and an attractive sense of humor, and he’s improving at a startling rate. With 10 months to go before the election, I think it’s safe to say he could turn himself into an extremely effective candidate. Recent polls suggest that Junior’s only remaining strength with the electorate is in the area of national security with his overall rating back at the same old stand–a shaky 50% he hasn’t been able to improve without help from the outside (the momentary bump when Saddam was captured, for instance–a bump whose effect has already dissipated)–and that critical area is Clark’s great strength as well. Clark is the only candidate who could successfully challenge Bush on his foreign “policy”; even Edwards would have a very difficult time given his lack of experience in that area.

As you may have gathered by now, I’m announcing my support for Edwards and Clark, in that order. They are the only two candidates with, imo, a prayer of beating Bush in the general. I realize that Edwards is, to say the least, a long-shot at this point in time, but dammit he’s one of the best men for the job, and that’s that.

John Edwards’ website

John Edwards’ campaign site

Wesley Clark’s website