Dean Leading Dems To Defeat

Mort Kondracke has a piece that argues that Howard Dean is leading the Democrats to electoral defeat.

Dean has roared from obscurity to first-tier status by expressing – and fueling – the near-hatred that Democratic activists feel for President Bush and all his works, especially the Iraq war.

The danger is that the party will put itself in the same position it occupied in 1972, 1984 and 1988 – far to the left of mainstream American opinion – and it will lose the election in a landslide. Dean doesn’t lead the nine-candidate Democratic field in any national polls – yet. But he raised more money than any of his rivals in the last quarter. Polls show he’s competitive in Iowa, tied for the lead in New Hampshire and now the favorite of California Democrats.

Moreover, Kondracke argues that Dean’s success is having a spillover effect with the other candidates. Even relative hawks like Gephardt and Graham are being force to become more and more vitriolic in their attacks agains President Bush. This is pushing the whole field of candidates to the left, which only makes it more difficult for the Democrats to appeal to moderate swing voters. As Kondracke notes:

In 1972, even though the Vietnam War was unpopular, Sen. George McGovern’s (D-S.D.) advocacy of immediate withdrawal resulted in his receiving less than 38 percent of the popular vote. In 1984, Democratic candidates competed with each other to satisfy the nuclear freeze movement that they would have given the Soviet Union a nuclear advantage in Europe. The party’s nominee, Walter Mondale, also advocated tax increases and carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Again, many Democrats are advocating that the President &quiot;lied" about Iraq, but can’t realistically argue that we should never have gone in without alienating voters. They argue that the war on terror is a failure, but can’t articulate an alternative that would prevent terrorism. They argue that the economy is going down the tubes, but would raise taxes and increase spending, a combination which is virtually guaranteed to destroy the economy. The Democratic field has tons of criticism, but only ounces of policy.

So far, only one of his rivals – Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) – has had the gumption to raise alarms about the danger that Dean represents. Unfortunately, there’s a dangerous precedent for Lieberman, too – that of hawk- Democrat Henry "Scoop" Jackson, who was an also-ran for the 1972 and 1976 nominations.

Like Sen. Jackson, Lieberman is a man who has common sense and would continue to fight terrorism both at home and abroad. However, Kondracke is right, he stands little chance with the radicalized Democratic electorate. Dean has taken the Democrats off to the left in a time when the left represents an increasingly marginalized sector of the electorate. In the end, the arguments of the Democrats are generating far more heat than light.

4 thoughts on “Dean Leading Dems To Defeat

  1. It’s clear that the conservatives are starting to sweat over Bush’s popularity slide and renewed realization of how fickle American voters are. That’s the only real difference between now and 1991. Bush-41 simply refused to accept that he was falling out of favor with voters and wouldn’t acknowledge the opposition until he was six feet deep in the hole he dug for himself.

    Twelve years later, the first sign of turbulence marks an all-out campaign by the right to discredit the opposition before there’s any semblance of insight on who the nominee is likely to be. It could be an effective gimmick, but at least one thing is gonna have to go right for Bush among the sea of mismanagement or voters could easily be persuaded into the Democrats web. Even an otherwise unelectable ideologue like Dean could potentially ascend to the White House in the face of an incessantly dysfunctional administration, just as the extremist Ronald Reagan was able to pull of in 1980 against Jimmy Carter under similar circumstances.

    I doubt the Democratic party will allow Dean to be their nominee anymore than the GOP was willing to allow John McCain to be its nominee for the 2000 election. As uninspiring as the rest of the Democratic field is, I could still see a Kerry or an Edwards (but not Lieberman) being able to topple Bush if his house of cards continues to crumble, as it most assuredly will.

  2. I also think that the right wing is trying to make Dean look more liberal than he really is. As one of his advisors said, “Howard became a liberal in the last six months.” He has a record of being a social liberal and an economic conservative- early in the race, before he started to make waves, commentators were pegging him as a “libertarian”.

    I think I’m on to his strategy- play to the left to build an activist base and neutralize any green spoilers who would show up, and then dash hard to the center this coming winter and next spring, harping on economic issues and medicare in a Clintonesque gambit to secure more votes. As it stands, I don’t think Dean would go down like McGovern or Mondale- he’d easily win the northeast, the west coast, and the midwest progressive states. Unfortunately for him, these aren’t enough to take the white house. On the other hand, if the economy continues to falter, and Bush continues to lollygag on doing anything about Medicare, Dean (or another potential democratic nominee) could make hay with the issue in the crucial rust belt states, as well as Florida (which Gore only barely lost due to the Nader factor, which is being neutralized by Dean).

    In other words, don’t get cocky. Your confidence could be your undoing.

  3. I agree that’s Dean’s general strategy. Unfortunately, it’s not going work.

    If Dean tries that, he’s going to have several strikes against it. First, he’s going to have to dash to the center, which is going to alienate his leftist core. Second, he’s already going to have a reputation of a liberal. Third, when he does so, it’s going to look wishy-washy.

    Also, Dean has two major problems that are going to sink him in the general election, should he make it that far. First, he’s weak on national security. His anti-war stance is going to alienate 50% of the electorate right off the top. Second, he does not debate well. He comes off as very arrogant, he snaps at anyone who questions him, and he would be the GOP’s dream candidate for a presidential debate.

    I’m not convinced that Dean will go down like McGovern, but I seriously doubt he can win the general election. Dean plays into the rabidly partisan wing of the Democratic Party, and that is not the wing that wins elections.

  4. You’d have to be a pretty fucking terrible speaker to sink below Bush. Not to mention that considering the presidential debates are at best theatrical farces his debating skills seem the least of his potential problems.

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