Everybody's Got One
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Saturday, September 11, 2004

In Defense of John Kerry  

It's become commonplace to say that John Kerry is the worst presidential candidate to come down the pike in many a cycle. And he is. He's currently batting below the Dukakis line, with seven weeks left in the season. [A snarky quote from Roger Simon: I knew Michael Dukakis. And you, sir, are no Michael Dukakis! Ouch.] His campaign is currently in disarray (or, if you prefer, undergoing yet another reorganization) with conflicting advice from different groups of advisors, official and unofficial. He's criticized from all sides for being inconsistent, a flip-flopper, a straddler, a man with no firm positions on many issues. And, again, he is.

But he can't take a firm position on most issues. It would be too costly politically. Dick Morris:
Kerry's biggest problem ... is that his voters disagree with one another on almost every major foreign-policy and terrorism issue. So, no matter what Kerry says, he will alienate a goodly portion of his voters.

This handicap is likely to loom larger and larger as the election moves into its debating phase. But, for now, the Republicans are doing a good job of throwing curveballs that force Kerry to choose between his voting blocks — antagonizing some and invigorating others, bleeding support the whole way. ...

From the excellent polling and brilliant analysis of Scott Rasmussen, who takes daily tracking polls, comes evidence of Democratic division ...
I've posted before that Democrats for the past thirty years have been a non-majority party divided between Progressive and Liberal wings who fight over control of the party and don't agree on much except that government programs can and should solve most problems and that Republicans are evil and/or stupid. No candidate could possibly satisfy both wings and energize both bases; Kerry is simply doing the best he can with the party he has to work with. In fact, he is optimally suited to do so.

Kerry was anointed after Iowa not because anyone supported him strongly but because he was considered electable. He's not, lacking a major Republican scandal or a third-party challenge from the right, but he is acceptable to both wings, and a party that still hasn't grasped it no longer occupies the mainstream can readily confuse the two. The very qualities that are weaknesses for Kerry in the general election made him the perfect nominee: a cautious, practiced straddler from the echo-chamber of a deep blue state was the only candidate capable of keeping the party from fracturing into its constituent parts. To repeat myself, nominating Kerry -- a man whose defining experiences of Vietnam and the anti-war movement are precisely those of the boomer left -- has kept the party intact for another four years. (Assuming he loses. If he wins in November, it could actually accelerate the process.)

The Democrats still haven't dealt with losing their majority status. After losing the House in 1994, they went into denial mode. In 2000, with Florida as an excuse, the progression into anger occurred. Someday, perhaps, the bargaining stage can begin.

But first, I suspect, the Peter Pan party will call on Wendy to save them in '08.

posted by Kelly | 1:58 PM link
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