Saturday, April 03, 2004

Dear Democrats,
I am more than likely going to vote for Ralph Nader. It’s possible I might vote for whomever the Greens nominate. I’d rather concede the next soccer World Cup to Mexico and next four World Series to the Yankees than vote for George W. Bush. And I’m sure as heck not going to waste my vote on some establishment puppet like John Kerry, who supported the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. But what’s far worse is that now he claims to have been mislead by the president. Even if you assume this is not crass political opportunism, it doesn’t say much for the judgement of a man whose supporters insist is so much smarter than the dolt in the White House.

I’m not going to waste my vote on Kerry. So the reason I’m asking this question is not to be convinced of his candidacy but out of sheer curiosity.

Why in heaven’s name did the Democrats think John Kerry was the best man to beat George W. Bush?

All of the other major Democratic candidates would’ve done better against Bush. You want a war veteran but one who actually has a political spine? Wesley Clark. You want young, charismatic and southern? John Edwards. You want someone who gets people mobilized? Howard Dean. Heck, even if you want (pseudo) Democrat in Washington who can compete with Bush in the messianic self-righteousness category, you had Joe Lieberman.

Incumbent presidents don’t lose very often. When they do, it’s usually because things aren’t going so great AND the challenger has a message that resonated. “Bush screwed the economy and I can fix it” (Clinton ’92). “Government’s not the solution. Government’s the problem.” (Reagan ’80). The last time before that an incumbent lost was in 1932 (something about a Great Depression).

Incumbent presidents don’t lose very often for one simple reason: people generally prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t. That’s why only challengers with a compelling message can beat incumbents. “The guy in the White House is awful” is almost never enough by itself to win.

An immutable rule of politics is that someone with a bad idea will usually go farther than someone with no ideas. This isn’t necessarily good, but it’s the reality. That’s exactly why Republicans (bad ideas) have had more electoral success than Democrats in the last several years, since the Dems ceded their ideas. As anyone actually in Iraq right now probably knows, politics, like society, abhors a vacuum.

So what exactly is the message John Kerry is trying to get across? Besides “Bush sucks,” what is the theme of Kerry’s campaign?

He has none. Because he supported Iraq, his criticisms on that are muted (especially since he says he was tricked which, if actually true, indicates questionable judgement). Thus even on the Iraq invasion, that most important issue of the campaign to many, Kerry’s reduced to: “I would’ve been nicer to the Europeans.”

That’s why he’s focusing on ancillary issues like outsourcing and gas prices. Fiddling around the edges, really. Well, if he truly supports free trade, then outsourcing is part of the deal. And if gas prices go down in a few months, that’s no longer something he can whine about. Saying “Bad OPEC. Bad!” is not a plan.

If Kerry really wanted to take a substantive position, he could say, “OPEC is wrong to conspire to manipulate prices but we also need to do a better job developing alternative energy sources.” Yes, this is long-term, but at some point, someone needs to get us thinking and acting for long-term, rather than solely short term.

The president mentioned hydrogen fuel cells in his 2002 State of the Union speech to appease lefties in advance of his Iraq invasion comments, but has anyone heard him say a word about H-cells since? Has anything moved forward on this? I’d like to know

Kerry could leadership on this energy question, but he’d rather demagogue the issue on the aspect that Bush has little control over (what OPEC does) rather than the aspect Bush could do something about (more aggressively funding R&D).

So why Democrats nominate this guy? I have no idea. My best guess is that their mass hysteria about hating Bush made them so delusional that they ended up choosing the major candidate who’s the least likely to actually beat Bush. I suppose they deserve it, but does the rest of the country?

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