The Democrats’ "Ticket To Nowhere"

Joe Lieberman made a sharp attack (well, sharp for Joe Lieberman) on Howard Dean at the National Press Club yesterday.Lieberman had this to say about the course of the Democratic Party:

"If George Bush and his bankrupt ideology are the problem, believe me, old Democratic policies like higher taxes and weakness on defense are not the solution," Lieberman said. "We need to reclaim the vital center of American politics for the Democrats."

Sen. Lieberman is right. Of course, the Dean campaign has their usual response:

While Lieberman goes after the center to take votes from Bush, Dean says Democrats must take a stand against Bush’s policies to win.

"Unlike some Democrats in Washington, Governor Dean believes that the way to beat George Bush is to stand up to him and to give people a reason to vote," said Dean spokeswoman Tricia Enright.

The fundamental conceit of the Dean campaign is that everyone hates Bush as much as they do. This simply isn’t the case. Generously, 20% of the electorate have the kind of viceral hatred of Bush that Dean appeals to. Perhaps another 10% of the electorate could be pursuaded that Bush is some horrible dictator.

But that isn’t enough to win. In fact, those people are not going to vote for Bush regardless, so there’s no loss to the Bush campaign. The only way the Democrats can win is to take swing votes from the Republicans. It’s still a 50%-50% country for the most part, and each swing vote is critical to electoral success.

All Dean is offering is a vague promise at universal health insurance (which will quickly get trounced as HillaryCare did in 1994), and opposition to the war (which will instantly lose a significant swath of the voters). Unless you already hate Bush, Howard Dean isn’t offering much of substance. Furthermore, if you have even remotely positive feelings towards Bush, the constant stream of invective makes Dean look like an obsessive critic rather than looking like President. The leader of the free world can’t blame Bush for everythng that goes wrong any more than the Bush Administration can blame Clinton for everything. (As much as many Republicans try – give it a rest, people!)

In the end, Lieberman and Sen. Even Bayh and a number of Democrats can read the writing on the wall: Dean’s a loser for the Democrats. Which makes me say "go Howard!"

3 thoughts on “The Democrats’ "Ticket To Nowhere"

  1. I have already expressed my hope that Dean doesn’t get the nomination (even though he would still have a better chance of winning than Mr. Centrist Lieberman)and I don’t think Dean’s surge to the nomination will eventuate. If he is, the Dems are down but not out in November given Bush’s well-deserved plunge that shows no signs of reversing.

    Your swaggering predictions of 1972 and 1984 revisited are coming way too early to be taken seriously, and you’re turning a primary season rite-of-passage of partisanship into an assessment of how the entire campaign will play out. The hard-core villification of the opposition as they pander to their base to win primaries is a pretty clever approach by the Republicans, just as it was when Clinton smeared Bob Dole’s name through the mud during the 1996 GOP primaries. In both cases, the party that currently controls the executive branch can establish a negative impression of the other candidate before the public gets to know what they stand for. In many cases, a bad first impression can’t be overcome. But at the same time, American voters public have very short memories. If you continue to paint Dean or any other Democratic candidate as a left-wing pinko boogeyman, and he changes course and moves hard-center after the primaries end, the plan could backfire on you.

  2. You’re right to a point. It’s traditional for primaries to be more focused around a party’s base.

    In the case of Dean, he may have been more moderate before, but his campaign is staked around two ideas: Bush is bad, and the war was wrong. In order to go towards the center he’d have to tone down the anti-Bush rhetoric (which is not in Gov. Dean’s nature) and he’d have to drop his vociferous opposition to the war in Iraq.

    Doing so would cause his base to abandon him, which means that Dean is virtually tied to that far-left ideology. It puts Dean in a Catch-22 that gives him little chance in a general election.

  3. If Iraq continues to play out as it has for the last six weeks, Dean will come out smelling like a rose by opposing the war. Of course, it’s very likely that something resembling stability will occur in Iraq in a year, but the billion dollar a week price tag is gonna be more than most Americans will find acceptable given the intentionally and irrationally lowball estimates about projected costs (I thought only Gray Davis did that…guess it’s time for a PResidential recall vote) related to the war. It’s very unlikely that Iraq will be a winning issue for Bush 15 months from now, even if he’s holding Saddam’s head on the end of his sword.

    At another level, I must give Bush, Inc. credit for their clever ploy of baiting the Dems with the gay marriage issue. Bush is coming out against gay marriage, which is the majority view in America, and the donks can be expected to take the bait and profess Bush’s “intolerance and bigotry” on an issue where most people are more than happy to be intolerant bigots. I hate to give Bush, Inc. any campaign tips, but I can be sure that anything I come up with, Karl Rove thought of months ago anyway. Alas, one can bet that Bush is already planning to bring the gun issue and the abortion issue into the national focus one way or another before next November. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rehnquist or O’Connor’s retirement is conveniently timed for next summer, leaving Bush with the opportunity to nominate a pro-life justice…and then use Congressional Democrats’ boisterous opposition to turn off pro-life Middle Americans who may otherwise vote with their pocketbook (hence Democratic).

    With all the budgetary and foreign policy damage the Republicans are passing on to future generations, their only long-term strategy for self-preservation is to accentuate social issues that will keep enough Middle American peasants in their camp. I know dozens of one-issue voters who cast their ballots for elephants purely on that single issue, otherwise rejecting the party’s platform of anti-populist scorn. The GOP must continue to appeal to the lowest denominator of voters with these narrow agendas of discrimination against gays, fear-mongering about firearms and opposition to abortion, especially since this demographic of lower-to-middle-class working people are no longer merely indirect casualties of GOP domestic policy, but publicly branded “freeloading parasites” unworthy of receiving tax cuts because they’re already “on the dole.”

    The Republican party has went about as far as they can go running on a platform of demonizing poor people and serving budget-busting tax giveaways for a small percentage of voters. They’ve already achieved tremendous success playing the single-issue social conservatism card, which is exactly why Bush is seizing this opportunity to play it again.

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