December 29, 2003

Dean Worries

I don't see Dean winning the general election, and that has me worried. Sure, the election is far, far away. The primaries have not yet spoken to give the Democrats a candidate. Whichever person it turns out to be - that person has not yet been freed from the primary process to turn his attention solely towards Bush. So why am I worried?

I'm worried because there is great enthusiasm regarding Dean on the one hand from people I agree with. And on the other hand there is some fairly clear rejection of Dean from other clear-headed middle-of-the-road people. They don't seem to trust him.

Since this is my blog, you might ask "But James - what do you think of Dean?" On the issues, he appears to me to have sensible positions. I have no in-depth analysis to give here, just what I've picked up. On his personality, I've found it to strike me as honest but quirky.

I have to say that I don't feel like I'm getting a lot of guile with Dean, and I appreciate that after Bush and even Clinton. I feel I could support Dean in the general election. Especially against the incumbent.

Where my worries begin is at the sensible people ( mostly middle-of-the-road folks ) who have objections to him. It's not just Steve, either. It's other people I respect (who don't have blogs). These are people I'm using as a bellwether for whether Dean has a good chance next November. And, at the moment, I'm worried.

I hope folks don't take this the wrong way, but some of the objections to Dean I've heard puzzle me. In Steve's post, he points out the bike path issue. (I don't mean to pick on that, but it is representative of the complaints I'm seeing. I wish I could recall the other examples. Monday fuzziness!). Bil has a good response in the comments.

The arguments, taken together tell me that people are having some sort of gut reaction to Dean. Some have told me they don't trust him, and I can't see where that is coming from. Bush struck many people as the likable good-old-boy. Dean doesn't remind people of their frat brother. His appeal to many liberals is coming from somewhere else. Perhaps his intellectual quality. And I'm not sure that instills confidence in today's anti-intellectual climate.

My instincts tell me that this is something that his campaign can work on once he is running against Bush. Once he looks less like a loner, chooses a veep candidate and people start thinking "he doesn't have to explain every quirk... he just has to be a better choice than Bush."

I don't identify myself with the Democratic party, though there is a lot of overlap. So I don't feel like getting deep into this until they have chosen their candidate. However, once they have chosen, I am going to try to review every objection to Dean I come across and see if I can't pin it on something. And every objection which sticks will be measured against Bush, to see not whether he could win, but whether he should.

Posted by James at December 29, 2003 1:46 PM
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For the first time in my life I'm willing to entertain the possibility of voting for a Democrat. (Which gives you an idea of how disgusted I am with the Bush administration.) But Howard Dean will not be that man.

Increasingly, I'm getting a sense that he's out of his depth and as the country made the mistake of electing such a man in 2000, I don't want history to repeat itself.

I don't think Howard Dean can beat George Bush. I'm willing to do my part to defeat Bush by voting Dem but I wish the Dems would do their part and nominate an electable, stable candidate.

Posted by: Steve at December 29, 2003 2:26 PM

I think you are a good indicator. The Democrats need to think abotu people like you, either in choosing a candidate, or in selling Dean.

If they can't convince you, I think we're looking at 4 more years of Bush.

That's my assessment, and I feel fairly confident about it.

BTW - are there any Democrats you'd vote for against Bush among the current crop?

Posted by: James at December 29, 2003 2:31 PM

I think part of Deans electability problem is that he is appealing to the hard core liberals out there. Well guess what. those people are going to vote democrat no matter what (even if it means Al Sharpton or Dennis Kucinich (I'm positive I spelled that wrong but I don't feel like looking for the correct spelling)).

The problem with that is that it's the middle of the road people who decide elections today and I agree with you that Dean does not appeal to that group. The problem with the polls is that they use likely voters. Those are not the same people in the primaries as in the general election.

I kind of like Dean but I get the feeling he's just telling people what they want to hear. He also has to keep his stories straight or he's in danger of soundinglike Gollum. (Saddam's capture makes the world a safer place, no it doesn't, yes it does, i didn't say that, yes you did.

Bush is praying Dean wins the nomination. The democrats are doing his job for him right now by attacking Dean and questioning everything about him. If he IS going to be the nominee the democratic leadership is going to have a hard time selling him when they have been tearing him apart for the last month.

Posted by: Bob at December 29, 2003 4:36 PM

I have never voted Democrat in my life, but I have never voted Republican either. I am a progressive, and I'd much rather see a candidate like Dennis Kucinich (yes, you spelled it correctly) win the nomination, but only due to my selfish reason that he'd be the best thing for the majority of this country. But I do keep thinking about how stubborn people are about change. And how people constantly are told what to believe and told how to think and told how to live. People are so used to it, that they're apathetic. In the long run, what's another 4 more years of Bush going to do? Well, more people will die, the poor will become poorer, the middle class will become poorer, the rich will become richer, the environment will be dirtier, we will have even fewer rights, corporations will have more of a stranglehold on our society, and every politician out there will learn that it doesn't really matter if you lie to the American public, because they don't really care anyway. Well, I must admit, I do care. I see the evil that Bush is doing and I want it to stop. You are right, liberals will vote Democrat either way, but there are a lot more of us than there are conservatives. What Bush has done is motivated the disaffected liberals to vote against him and also upset enough conservatives to vote against him. Any of the 9 candidates running would be vastly superior to Bush (with the exception of Lieberman), I'm just waiting to see which one will beat him in 2004. I'm also waiting to see the debates between whichever Democratic candidate gets the nomination and the soon to be jobless Bush. It's up to us as a community to do our part, we have to educate and inform our friends, families and neighbors. We have to be nore vocal about politics so that people won't be so apathetic. Everytime I hear someone say "I don't vote, it doesn't matter anyway", I just want to bop them in the nose.

Peace.... Brian

Posted by: Brian Hull at December 29, 2003 5:38 PM

Hey guys, I posted some thoughts in response to these comments on my site (click my name).

Steve, which Dems would you vote for? I'd like to know too!

James, Steve really isn't the kind of person that the Dem's should be targeting (any more than they target everyone as a potential Dem voter). He's too smart, too politically invested (ie a major minority in America). If wooing the Steves of the country meant alienating the Brian Hulls, well that's a net loss for the Dems. Of course, I hope in the end Steve can come to a conclusion that a vote for Dean (or the Dem).

Posted by: Bil at December 29, 2003 11:13 PM

Wow, I totally screwed up that last sentence there. Sorry.

Posted by: Bil at December 30, 2003 1:22 AM

James, Bil, I honestly don't know. Now then, if Pat Moynihan were running, I'd vote for him. Of course his present position -- dead -- tends to exclude that possibility.

I think the Dems are doing themselves a disservice by

1) Practically anointing Dean (Just as the GOP did with Bush in 2000) and

2) Allowing a group of hopeless 'also-rans' to crowd out the message of the viable Dean opposition.

Bil, I disagree with you in that I think the Dems should be targeting people like me. I'm a political orphan, woo me. Reagan dipped deep into Democrat ranks in 80 and 84. Clinton courted moderate Republicans, etc. Hell, even Nixon supped on disenchanted Democrats.

I'm willing to consider a Dem nominee but I'll probably stick with Plan A: a write in vote for Nomar ; )

Posted by: Steve at December 30, 2003 11:54 AM

Nomar for President! Actually, if all goes well a Tom Brady campaign might work better. We'll see in a few weeks...

Anyway, I think there is one major problem in the logic of talking about "The Democrats". There is no such entity - at least not in the way you talk about them. You make it sound as if a dozen guys in a room are sitting around deciding who the nominee is and have settled on Dean.

I can't blame you for that, though. It's obviously how politics used to work - and I'm sure if the DLC could go back to those days they would in an instant... and we'd have Lieberman or Edwards as the nominee.

But the fact is that Dean has surged ahead because he appealed to a bunch of people who actually got involved in a campaign for the first time in their lives. I don't particularly like Dean, in fact I'm part of the Kucinich campaign... but the fact is that when you attack "the Democrats" for choosing Dean (which is not a good assumption to make since the first Primary hasn't even happened yet) you are not attacking the party, you are attacking regular people.

The other thing you have to remember is that the majority of the country doesn't vote. If the Democrats can mobilize a big chunk of the nonvoters by actually distinguishing themselves from the Republicans, it will more than make up for the few soccer moms they lose by not becoming "Republican Lite".

On top of all that, the reason Bush is President right now is because the Democrats played the "slide to the right" game, and lost enough of their base to cost them the election. Then in the 2002 election they failed to take over Congress for the same reason. This "centrist" crap is simply not a good strategy. It is a failed strategy.

We need a candidate who is anti-NAFTA and can win back the support of working-class Dems who the party abandoned. We need to take Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan - and we can't do that without the strong support of the UAW and the USWA. If the Democrats stand up for jobs instead of trickle-down economics (where most of the trickles seem to be going to Mexico, China, India and Russia) they will give folks a reason to come back. If they don't, then the only things to distinguish them from the Republicans will be abortion and gay rights - and the blue-collar midwest will be lost.

Posted by: David Grenier at December 30, 2003 12:47 PM

Great points David, especially about the weird idea that "the Democrats" are a kingmaking cabal of backroom dealers (that era is dead!) You're absolutely right in that ceding ground every election to the Republicans is a failed strategy, and detrimental to our country. As Dean says, when it becomes a debate not about whether or not to cut social programs but rather "how much" to cut, the Democrats will continue to lose (and progressive values are thrown out the window).

Now Steve, I don't know what you are asking for. You want the Democratic primary voters to appeal to you? I'm just not sure how that works. The centrist candidate you seem to be asking for would be Lieberman, who is a subscriber to the Bush foreign policy that has turned you off while also being a tax raiser, which I know you deplore. I think the Dem nominee will reach out to you in time, but that time is not during the liberal primary season.

Posted by: Bil at December 30, 2003 1:31 PM

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