January 28, 2004
The Mandatory Punditry Act of 2003 states that I must offer my opinion on the New Hampshire Primary within 48 hours of its conclusion, so I may as well get it over with. First, congratulation to John Kerry for another win that I never expected him to get. Whether it was buyer's remorse or some kind of electability karma, he shot past Dean and won convincingly.
I have no idea how the horse race will play out from here. Atrios, Kos, and The Poor Man, to name three, have some thoughts that are worth checking out. What I want to do is try to figure out if Kerry-the-favorite is a development that I like or not.
I've never quite been able to get enthusiastic about Kerry as a candidate. Don't get me wrong, I'll do my share to help him if he carries the flag for the Democrats, but I've had reservations about him since day one. As I said after Iowa, Kerry has all of Dean's cultural negatives (save for his veteran-ness, which I'll return to shortly) without being the kind of candidate that gets people (me, anyway) excited. Further, up until his shocker in Iowa, he didn't exactly run the kind of campaign that gave me confidence in his ability to withstand the usual Wurlitzer attacks. Already, I can hear the nattering nabobs salivating at the prospect of beating us all senseless with ruminations on Kerry's hair and Jewish roots, and it's making me want to make an illegal left turn in front of a light rail car.
On the other hand, Kerry seems to have mostly recovered and gotten stronger from his early stumbles, and has hit a groove. Being a veteran may well get him more support from independents and red staters than his "rich New England elite" status would suggest, though it's surely not a Get Out Of Attacks On One's Patriotism Free card. And there is that poll which shows Kerry slightly ahead of Bush nationally. All in all, not too shabby.
Though I doubt it will make any difference, I'm still not sure if I want to push the button for Kerry on March 9. If all things were equal, he'd be my fourth-favorite candidate (with a three-way tie for first among Dean, Clark, and Edwards). But all things don't appear equal right now, and I need to figure out how much weight that gives him. I like that the spirited primary race is giving the Dems some much-needed media exposure, but I don't like it so much that I want to see the nomination be decided at the convention. I'll vote for my own Miss Congeniality if it helps to avoid that.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 28, 2004 to The making of the President
OT: lunch was a blast - and we didnt even start talking about politics. I'm up for a weekly repeat if you are, and I hope Ted and the others can rejoin us too :)
I'm curious for your opinion on my own post-NH anakysis over at Dean Nation. Mind taking a look?
Forget Kerry - it's domestic policy, stupid
First, I enjoyed lunch as well. Don't know if I can make it weekly, but I'd be up for it at least somewhat regularly. Keep me posted.
As for Dean, I have two thoughts. Before the actual votes, Dean had never failed to outperform expectations, but now he's done it twice. I don't know what the cause was - two harsh possibilities are that the folks in IA and NH were just plain wrong about their "hard counts" and that the "bringing in new voters" plan just plain didn't work - but he and his staff need to figure out why. Other people have observed that Dean's numbers had plateaued before Kerry's surge. Why did that happen? It doesn't matter how fervent your committed supporters are if there are no new supporters coming aboard.
Two, Dean is indeed still a player and can indeed still win. He knows now what the primary voters seem to want, and he knows where he's perceived to be lacking. He also knows that what's novel and endearing in a longshot is scary and offputting in a frontrunner. If he can adjust, and I mean in a substantive way, without losing what makes him stand out, he'll be the one to beat.
As a Mass. resident, I can tell you that Kerry has a way of starting slow and taking time to find his footing, learn the terrain in the present. It's possible to find some virtue in that- it gives him a certain kind of humility, and he ends up running campaigns that are relevant in the present rather than being reruns of his past campaigns (e.g. Gore 2000's resemblence to Gore 1986). His campaigns start slow but gain an awful lot of momentum.
The other distinction to Dean's campaign is that also of the New England Patriots to the Indianapolis Colts: it's hard team work and collective glory, not glorious individualdom. And the pretty boy at the helm walks away with the MVP trophy.
If you're used to it, it's not an Affront To The American Way. It's the way real wars are won. And the Culture War has been a second coming of the Civil War. The this war the present Presidential campaign has been very much the Campaign for Atlanta- Dubya is such a John Bell Hood, now flushed out of firm hold the Presidency (Atlanta), and Kerry is the closest thing to William Sherman- not all that appealing, but persistently and decisively victorious. Dean is the McClellan figure, admired but in decline.
That will-to-power occultism of the Dean movement- did any of their propagandists ever read Nietzsche, let alone understand any of it?- is a lot of fun. The power rushes are great. But it's very much an amphetamine addiction- they're getting the shakes, crashes, paranoia, cravings, light sensitivity, reality denial, I Have A Scream speeches, and seeming psychotic episodes now- judging from Democratic Underground- with the few going cold turkey since Iowa starting to sound reasonable again.
I was a little unhappy to see so many Texas political folks jumping on the Dean bandwagon late in the fall. Democrats here in the Northeast do view religious fervor as a kind of insanity, as incompatible with a responsible politics. But the need for a feeling of power and validation is real too, of course. But I think you'll start seeing things in an upturn in Texas too in the next weeks and months, even as Dean straggles to getting knocked out on Super Tuesday.
Even the presumed Kerry supporter above seems to admit that it's hard to LIKE the guy.
That's what all Dems seem to admit about John Kerry.
So how is it that John Kerry is going to win the nomination based on electability, and nobody in his party even seems to like him?
That is bizarre. Why does anyone think THAT is going to translate into electability?
Help me, an outsider, understand. :)
Well, I don't think any Dem would deny that he's got creds. Military veteran, solid voting record, long distinguished service, etc etc etc. He's a serious candidate, and it's not hard to see him stack up well against Bush if he runs a good campaign. Had Dean not run or not gained traction, he'd likely have been the frontrunner all the way through, given the crappy performance by Lieberman and the late bloom of Edwards.
I've seen some comparisons of him to Bob Dole (usually made by Dean supporters, so take it for what it's worth). He's just not very exciting. Actually, as I think about it, the Dole comparison is pretty reasonable, though of course I'm rooting for a different outcome. I can see the upside, I just hope I'm wrong about the downside.
Does that help? :-)
OK, I admit to (for once) agreeing in part with Mickey Kaus. My own personal preference goes Dean, Clark, Edwards, the contents of any major city phone book, Kerry. Of course, like you, if he wins the nomination, I'll be taking weekend trips to every swing state I can to hit the streets.
Why do I dislike him so much? It seems to me that he combines the Republican attack memes of the last three candidates (Dukakis' Mass. Liberal, Clinton's naked lust for power, and Gore's truth squad issues) without being a leader on any issue I can think of offhand. Be honest. When's the last time you thought about an issue and said, "Y'know, John Kerry has done some interesting work on that." There's simply no upside to counteract his downsides.
(As an historical aside, the last sitting Senator to be elected President was JFK. Before that? Got me. I can't even think of one. Part of this, I think, is that, due to the complexity of many votes, Senators have contradictory records on almost any issue under the sun, and can be made to seem weak and wishy washy.)
I'm most disappointed by Clark. I thought he'd be a great candidate. I was wrong. I still like the guy, but I don't think he's a very good candidate. At least not this time.
Whoops! That's what I get for trusting a single reference. 15 Presidents have previously served as Senator, but only JFK and Harding were sitting Senators when elected.
You left out Botox, Kuff. :-)