Hesiod has his plan to defeat Bush in 2004 mapped out. He argues that Bush is betting on the low expectations of the electorate in order to win. While Hesiod gets some things right, his strategy is a 100% guranteed loser for the Democrats. Here’s why:
First of all, expectations for Bush among the ignorant electorate couldn’t be much higher. Therefore, Bush has to keep producing hit after hit. This is only a problem, however, if Bush has a dynamic, articulate and well-financed opponent. Someone who can actually make Bush’s failings look pathetic instead of charming.
First of all, if you call the electorate "ignorant" right off the bat, you’re screwed. Politicians who approach their constitutents as being a bunch of ignorant savages don’t win. They talk down to the electorate, they act in an arrogant manner, and generally come off as boorish and condescending. A few politicians can do this and survive, but rarely for long, and never in a close election like 2004 will be.
If people expect Bush to personally vanquish the Democratic nominee…and that nominee is dynamic and competent, it will get ugly. People will realize what a mistake they’d be making to re-elect Dubyah. Especially if the Democrats label Bush as a liar [which implies cunning, and deviousness] as opposed to a bumbler. Bush may actually play up his dumb image to avoid that rap.
This is where Hesiod goes completely and utterly wrong. Label Bush as a liar and the backlash will ensure that the Democratic candidate becomes the next Walter Mondale. If the Democrats go on the attack, they’ll lose badly. But first, let’s see where Hesiod wants the point of attack to be:
…the Democrats HAVE to at least stay within striking distance in the money race, and MUST attack Bush mercilessly on the war. And I mean go for his gonads. AWOL, Veterans Benefit Cuts, WMD’s in Iraq, you name it. They have to throw everything they can at him to undercut his "Commander-in-Chief" credentials. If they don’t, they have no chance, expectations or no expectations.
This is the worst advice anyone could give a Democratic challenger to Bush in 2004. On the other hand, it’s exactly what they’ll do. If the Democrats attack Bush on the war, it’s over for them. All the Bush campaign has to do is start showing the images of the mass graves, the skeletal remains of Iraqi children still clutching their toys, and the horror of the Hussein regime. By doing so, it forces the question: are the Democrats saying that the war was wrong? If the answer is yes, then all the GOP has to do is point out that those graves would still be filled. If no, then the justifications for war are largely academic. Furthermore, if WMDs are found, or evidence that Iraq had a rapid-reaction capability to create WMDs once sanctions were lifted, the Democrats have screwed themselves. Not only were they attacking Bush mercilously for naught, but now they look like a bunch of ruthlessly partisan morons. The pre-emption argument still stands if Iraq did not have the weapons themselves, but did have the ability to produce them on demand.
Moreover, the military stands strongly behind Bush. The landing on the Lincoln caused apoplexy among liberals, but the military loved it. The Democrats can harp on the idea that it was all staged, but 1) everyone knows it was a staged photo op and 2) attacking it looks petty and excessively partisan. The more the Democrats harp on those issues, the more they get bogged down in minutiae and unable to stay on message. Such a strategy would grant the GOP the high ground on nearly every issue, taking any chance for the Democrats to gain traction.
The problem with the Democratic Party is the same problem that the Republicans had in 1996. The GOP has the message. They have a plan for national security, prescription drug benefits, health care reform, taxes, and every other issue. They’ve taken traditional Democratic issues like health care and education and coopted them effectively. The Democrats have one issue: George W. Bush is a bad man. People would be stupid to re-elect him. In essence their strategy is to accuse the more than 60% of the American public who support the President of either being stupid or duped by some evil Republican spin machine. That’s a strategy that can only be considered short-sighted, but also petty and politically suicidal. While the Democrats attack Bush, all Bush has to do is let them spout off while taking the upper hand on every key issue.
Then again, as a relatively staunch Republican, I take great enjoyment in watching the Democrats load the rifle pointed directly at their feet. The Democrats are possessed with a sense of partisanship and acrimony towards Bush that borders on the obsessive. By turning the election into nothing more than a personal referendum on the President they will quickly find that while rank-and-file liberals intensely hate the President, those who don’t have no reason to vote for the Democrats.