Monday, December 15, 2003

(politics) regarding the recent endorsement

Dialog with a sometimes reader from Privet Drive, UK:

Still bothered about your endorsement of Clark. Why do you think his military record confers electability when the last 2 presidents we've had dodged the draft?

Good question. It's probably telling that as I typed in my endorsement I considered even then endorsing Gephardt instead. Or Edwards. Or Kerry. I think all these candidates are more electable than Dean, and, excepting extreme hypotheticals (what if the Democrats nominated a serial killing neo-Nazi? What if they nominated Billy Joel and he promised to sing at his inaugeration?), the ONLY thing I presently care about is defeating George W. Bush, so the ONLY question is electability. That's it. Clark's central advantage among the four people I just mentioned might be that he's the person who will least inspire anti-Democrat votes. Who do you think is the most electable candidate running?

While Clark is not likely to inspire anti-Democrat votes, he's also not likely to inspire Democrat votes (as he's not a Democrat) and turnout really does matter for Democrats. I think Kerry has the most solid base among the Democratic rank-and-file, especially if he can position himself to the right of Dean (which is questionable considering Dean's tenure as a pro-business governor). This may be a stupid question, but is there something other than the war that makes you think Dean is unelectable?

Actually, I don't think it's the war per se that makes Dean unelectable at all, or else I'd have more misgivings about Clark. It's more him being from Vermont, from him attracting precisely the kind of person as a rabid supporter that swing voters regard with suspicion, and from him being more verbally careless. He just seems so much easier for Republicans to beat to a bloody Dukakisy pulp.

I don't buy the idea that Dean is going to turn out some kind of enormous number of brand new voters who other candidates would not be able to get to turn out. Maybe among young people, but I can't believe that anyone can turn out that many young people. It's also hard for me to buy the idea that people who voted in the last election are not going to show up at the polls in the next election if it's competitive.

A more perverse argument is that Dean is attracting supporters who won't turn out if their chosen candidate isn't the nominee (and even encouraging this sentiment among his supporters), which has some resonance with me because it lives down to my expectations about some on the left.

I'm not a huge Dean-lover or anything, but I think you're projecting Nader hatred onto Dean prematurely.

The idea is so plausible I'll boldface it.

Just because he's got the peaceniks on his side now doesn't mean he can't convincingly go all middle-of-the-road I'm-a-hawk-on-homeland-security after the primary if he won the nomination. People forget shit - like that the reason Dean got attention in the first place was opposing the war. He's also a deficit hawk and can make all kinds of centrist friends by promising to balance the budget.

Okay, you want a prediction about what will have my fuming this fall: Dean will get the nomination, run toward the center, and then we will have to read all these stupid stories about Dean supporters who have become disenchanted with him and pout to reporters about how they are no longer even planning to go to the polls at all. Write it down.

First-time voters can swing elections - Jesse Ventura being a famous case, as well as JFK if my memory serves.

You can't bring up Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Jesse "The Body" Ventura is precisely my point. I think about Jesse "The Body" Ventura all the time. What his example suggests to me is that, despite the visions the left has about the nonvoting masses who are just on the verge of turning out, the kind of candidate who could really recruit most dramatically from that pool might be exactly the last person the left would want elected. It's so easy to romanticize about how people who don't vote would vote.

Why you think Gephardt is electable is a total mystery to me. He's boring and has lost a bunch of times before, and can't even keep his union base in line for him.

Yes, you're right. Sigh. I can generate reasons why each of the candidates is unelectable, which is the depressing thing.

Anyhoo, hope all is well and that you've survived your hangover from the we-got-Saddam kegger you hosted.

I have to admit, I didn't realize that capturing Saddam would be this big a deal. A big deal, sure, but not, as in: Now suddenly the war was certainly justified. Now suddenly people who opposed the war have been proved wrong and should be apologizing. That amazes me. I had no idea that was going to be the reaction. I still don't understand it.

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