Damned If You Do…

O. Ricardo Pimentel has a piece in The Arizona Republic that shows why Dean will bring the Democrats down in 2004 – even if he doesn’t get the nomination. In essence, Pimental reiterates a threat made by Dean that the Deanites won’t follow a conventional candidate. If the angry left doesn’t win, the angry left will stay home on Election Day.

Pimentel’s column is full of angry left boilerplate, but the threat is clear. If a moderate, especially a moderate who has attacked Dean like Gephardt or Kerry were to get the nomination, many of Dean’s rabid base will lose interest in this election. Despite all the talk of "beating Bush at any cost" the Dean campaign is both an ideological crusade and a cult of personality. If Dean doesn’t win the nomination, it’s an open question as to whether is supporters will be more than half-hearted supporters of the winning Democrat. While Dean has pledged his support for the nominee, one does wonder of Pimentel is right and the angry left will just stay home.

Then again, if the Democrats are counting on the angry left vote to get them through the general election, they have another thing coming. The last true liberal to be elected to the Presidency was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Dean is no Roosevelt and this is no Great Depression. The field of political battle is scattered with the remains of rejected liberal candidates: McGovern, Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, just to name a few. If Dean wins, he will have to moderate himself far more than he has ever done, and he will have instantly lost the South. If Dean doesn’t win, his supporters may go elsewhere. In either case, the partisan polarization that Dean has brought to the Democrats may very well be their Achilles Heel.

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