Tuesday, December 30, 2003

How to vote: In light of all the hoopla going on about the candidates in the Democratic Party and why one is "dangerous", the other "radical" and the next one guilty of "flip flops", I got to thinking: how do we choose our candidates? What gives someone like Dean the momentum and someone like Lieberman, sand in the face? Most voters probably don't do exhaustive reading of position papers. And, even if they did, issue statements can't be enough, because many share the same thinking (i.e. both Dean and Kuchy want universal health care; hell, W and Dean both like guns) and let's face it, try to get through more than three of these statements and you'll be more confused than when you started.

Further, most people know, I hope, that the candidates can't possibly expect to push through nearly all of their stated intentions. Let's say you elect Dean. Do you really think he stands a snowball's chance in getting universal health care AND a repeal of all W's tax cuts through Congress in four years (hell, give him six!)? And that's just two issues.

So, it seems most logical that it comes down to contrast. Most of us vote in order to express approval or displeasure over the incumbent. They seek a general change in direction from the current one. But contrast alone isn't enough. If that were the case, then Sharpton would win the nod, hands down. The People then must also have some sort of barometer that gauges not only the contrast, but the legitimacy of the candidate. I think Perot did as well as he did because he was fresh, but he didn't win because no one could seriously envision this guy negotiating deals with foreign heads of state ("Now see here, you job-stealing China-man, this chart is clear proof of your steel dumping.")

This test, if accepted, then discounts much of the media and bloggers who take such extreme delight in pointing out the minute inconsistencies and slip-ups of candidates. They really don't matter. Who cares if Dean is simulataneously condemning Bush for his secrecy while at the same time covering up his own records as Governor? We all know politicians are inconsistent and with something to hide (and clearly, if Dean had done something criminal, it's unlikely the evidence is sitting in a box somewhere just waiting for the sun to shine on it). So Kerry doesn't have a clear view on why he opposed the Iraq War (to the extent he did) - all Democrats care about is that he opposes it now. If you want consistency in politics, may I suggest Libya?

For all the words spent on why Candidate A is a compulsive flip-flopper, and why Candidate B has such a great message, if only people would listen, it simply doesn't matter. Your contrasting platform (hell, your website might as well just say: "Whatever Bush Says, I Say the Opposite, Okay?") gets you onto the playing field, but how you talk, walk and squawk gets you to the end zone. Dean is in the lead because he is seen as the most effective spoiler. Kerry puts people to sleep (I mean, this guys actually sucks the energy out of a room); Clark is amorphous, and Lieby, well, he's just too short. Assuming Dean doesn't implode, the only thing that matters is whether enough people are sick of W, or whether they don't view Dean as substantial enough to lead our country, despite his contrast.

We all know that the candidate to oppose Bush will want to repeal taxes, will promote the implementation of the Kyoto Treaty, will speak about the right to choose, and will condemn the war in Iraq (one one ground or another). It's not about the Democratic platform. It's about the man to deliver it.

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