Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Final Chapter of 04

With some separation now between Election Day and today I thought I might discuss not just why, but the idea of what’s next.

Based on what has already been said I think it is pretty clear that as much as certain groups, especially within the progressive wing of the Democrat Party, would like to point to one set of issues and announce the identification of the bogeyman that will yield staggeringly little. The “moral values” meme though seems to allow Democrats, especially progressives, to point at something and remain blameless themselves. Most interestingly, it absolves them of their nomination and incredibly disorganized way they went about conducting their primaries this year. However, I’m not totally convinced that even with John Kerry as the nominee they couldn’t have won this election. A big problem, put simply, was that this election was totally and completely about Howard Dean. Even after losing his grip on the nomination, it appeared that Governor Dean was showing the way to electoral victory; oppose the war and rally the young. Democrats would have done well to remember just how far Dr. Dean got with that strategy, especially when one keeps in mind that the famous yelp didn’t occur until after he lost Iowa.

While I suspect that the idea of “last man standing” was the general guideline for picking Edwards as V-P, I think a bit more strategy might have yielded a better result for the Democrats. Some conventional wisdom before the announcement was that Dick Gephardt would make the best candidate. Since the election, decidedly little attention has been paid to that. In fact, remarkably little attention has been paid to the idea that a popular Congressman from a swing state that went red could have helped the ticket. A swing of Missouri and potentially Iowa into the blue column would have gone a long way to landing Kerry in the White House. If those two states were rending blue in the closing weeks of the campaign would New Mexico have been swayed as well? Of course, we’ll never know. What we do know, is that John Edwards did absolutely noting, electorally, to help the Democrats win.

Finally, with respect to Edwards. My immediate reaction at the time and continued belief today is that even without factoring in Gephardt, Richardson, or others, he was a very bad choice for Kerry. His message was more populist in tone than Kerry’s and his outward appearance and demeanor are much better than Kerry’s. Any move to the middle Kerry makes, especially the adoption of Edward’s “Hope is on the Way” line makes the choice of Kerry questionable. Subordinating the message of the winner of the primary to the message of a guy that didn’t is a horrible way to run a campaign. Of all the issues that have not been polled on, and there are admittedly only a few, that is one I would really like to see.

So, that leaves us with the question, what next? I think this is next, in a big way. If George Bush thought the real fight ended after Kerry conceded, I think he is going to be surprised to see that the most powerful group of people in Washington are 15 or so Senators who have enough power to kill anything that comes down the pike. For this reason alone, I think Arlen Specter gets his Chairmanship. Bush cannot afford to go head to head with this group so soon unless he is certain he can destroy their alliance; somehow I doubt they can be beaten that easily.


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