Tuesday, July 29, 2003

More Dean: Chris Caldwell makes an unconventional observation on Dean's chances:
But there is no concrete political reason why Dean should be less electable than any of his rivals. People forget that "electability" used to be a synonym for "large advertising budget." Dean has the latter; therefore he has the former.
There's a good point being made here, although part of the complexity of the nominating dance is to not put yourself in a position where the money needs to be spent telling the American center that you didn't mean all of the loony things you said in the primaries. To use a metaphor that might tickle Dean, he's going around the small cities in a rush to Baghdad -- and all of the same problems will follow.

Caldwell continues:

As for the general election, Republicans seem unaware of how riled up Democratic activists remain, even three years after the 2000 elections. A substantial segment of the party's base has been radicalized to the point where it does not recognize the legitimacy of the Bush presidency. This is a very different thing than mere dislike of a president. It means that Democrats are prepared to fight this election as if they were struggling to overthrow a tyrant. One fears that 2004 could wind up--in its rhetoric and its electoral ethics--as the dirtiest general election campaign in living memory. It is not a condemnation of Dean to say that his rise provides another piece of evidence that this fear is well founded.
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like what we heard in 2002, when the Dems were going to, in the words of Terry McAuliffe, knock off the Bush boys "one by one." The Democratic base, we were told, was fired up about Florida, motivated to GOTV. It was going to be, they said, the Democrats' version of 1994. None of that happened, of course, and it was because moderate America doesn't trust the leftist rhetoric, the stolen-election carping, the "rolling back the clock" metaphors on everything from civil rights to women's rights to entitlements. The common-sense crowd, as distinct from the red-meat crowd, thinks that Bush is a decent man who has done a pretty good job, and they'll need real reasons to vote against him. Anger isn't going to do it.

More: Den Beste says it plainly, too, in the context of the overall anti-war movement -- to whom Howie Dean is the keeper of the flame:

America's political center has been asking how we can remove the danger we face. One of the strongest leftist messages which has been coming through has been this: we shouldn't be trying to remove the danger, because we deserve what's happening to us. Rather than trying to avoid our just deserts, we should try to atone for our sins.

That is not a message which America's center finds acceptable, and oddly enough it hasn't been politically persuasive.

Obviously, Dean isn't quite as explicit as the rest of the anti-war crowd in his condemnation of the Iraq campaign; but Dean's run for the nomination clearly got its initial momentum from his anti-war stance. Put another way, if Dean's Iraq position had been the equivalent of Kerry's or Gephardt's, he would still be a former governor of a small, rather inconsequential Northeastern state, and not the surprising dark horse he has become. I don't believe that Dean shares the blame-America philosophy of the strident anti-war left. But he hasn't worked particularly hard to put distance between himself and them, to denounce some of their more demonstrably false or obnoxious ideas. He'll need to do so at some point, and the fact that he hasn't done so yet seems to indicate that he's happy to ride the "Bush is worse than Saddam" crowd as far as they will take him.

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