Run, Howard, Run?

After sizing up the Democratic candidates, I’ve come to the conclusion that, no matter which of the Democratic candidates wins the nomination, the result will be the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004.

Why? Well, we can start with the Democratic frontrunner du jour, Howard Dean. Liberals seem convinced they’ve found The One, but Dean will actually be the easiest of the top-tier candidates to defeat. That’s why Karl Rove wants him, and it’s also why the other campaigns, while surprised by his financial surge, are hardly suffering defections.

Dean is neither a McGovern nor a Dukakis. Rather, he is a cross between them both, having the ability to both fire up liberal partisans and trumpet his moderate gubernatorial record. He also carries their weaknesses: soft on defense, anti-tax cut (read: pro-taxes) and socially liberal.

(If Dean is both McGovern and Dukakis, then Bush is surely a combination of their opponents: Bush 41 and Richard Nixon. He is a son of privilege, out of touch with suffering working-class and low-income Americans, and he is secretive and deceitful, marred by a willingness to mislead the country for his party’s partisan ideological ends.)

The Bush campaign will borrow from the playbook of both campaigns. Dean, whose foreign policy vision is easily described as “I’m against everything Bush does,” will be tarred as an implicit pacifist, unwilling to use force when most Americans think it is necessary. Unlike fellow loser Graham, Dean’s opposition to the war has not been characterized by forceful rhetoric on finishing the war on terror, but rather, an unsettling hostility and indifference toward American military power. As Democrats should have learned from 1968, Middle America would rather have a president who is strong and wrong than someone they see as a panderer to reactionary, Blame-America-First liberals.

Get ready for campaign ads explaining how Dean boasted of spending months skiing in Colorado after receiving a medical deferment from service in Vietnam. The ads will also repeat a Dean quote from Meet the Press: “I do not have foreign policy experience.” So much for that Bush vulnerability. Voters will never trust Dean on national security, despite his claims that he’s qualified on the issue because he defended Vermont from terrorism.

Dean’s weaknesses don’t end with foreign policy. He wants to repeal all the Bush tax cuts, including those to middle- and lower-income families, effectively offering the kind of pro-tax increase platform that voters resoundingly rejected in 1984. He voiced support for raising the Social Security retirement age, but now says he’s against it. He’s also changed his position (read: waffled) on the death penalty, and has become a virtual spokesperson for gay civil unions (read: gay marriage).

And all this, before we even begin to examine his record in Vermont. That is, those gubernatorial records that Dean hasn’t already sealed.

Those who think Dean’s passion will carry him through need to look again. Unlike John McCain, Dean won’t be able to get fawning coverage from the press during the general election campaign. The least presidential of all the major candidates, his angry stump speeches, brusque manner with the press and big mouth will work against him, allowing the punditry to dismiss him as a gadfly (“Howard Dean is at it again…”).

Of all the major candidates, the case against Dean is the easiest one to make, because he is so easily encapsulated by a few key issues. He is the perfect anti-war, pro-gay marriage liberal, just the sort of Saddamite who makes Bush look like a moderate.

Though he likes to appeal to “southern white folk with confederate flags on the back of their trucks,” these people will take one look at Bush’s first negative ads and immediately sign up for auto-debit donations to the RNC.

Indeed, like Bush-Dukakis in 1988, the campaign will not focus on Bush’s shortcomings, but rather, how goddamn far-out-liberal that “moderate” Democrat guy is. Come November 2, 2004, Bush will win in a landslide, consolidating the South with little effort and pushing the Democrats back to blue beachheads in the Northeast and California.

Those who believe Dean will become the next president are as delusional in peace as they were during war. A vote for Howard Dean is a ticket to four more years in the political wilderness for the Democratic Party.

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17 Responses to Run, Howard, Run?

  1. Aaron W. Benson says:

    They learned a lesson, but unfortunately it was the wrong one. They think the answer to lurch left and shout louder, when they really need to articulate a clear strategy for protecting the country and setting it on the right fiscal path.

  2. Adam T says:

    Since I suppose you’re a Bush supporter this line is pretty rich: “He (Dean) is a son of privilege, out of touch with suffering working-class and low-income Americans”

    Maybe so, but at least unlike the President Mr. Dean had actually put in an honest days work in his life, and he didn’t get rich ripping off the taxpayers of his state.

  3. Aaron W. Benson says:

    No, Adam, I’m not a Bush supporter. Maybe you should have done some more reading before making that assumption?

    And if that’s the best dissenting opinion you can muster, then Dean will surely go down.

  4. ajc says:

    I think you’re dismissing Dean to easily.

    He isn’t for “gay marriage”, he supports civil unions. Which is very different. It will be up to his campaign to try and show America the difference. And, yes, that’s a hard task.

    The “foreign policy” experience thing is over-rated, too. Many voters rejected Gore who had much more experience in world affairs than Governor Bush. Yes, it’s post 9-11, but Bush is still a rookie in foreign policy and he sucks at it.

    Yes, Bush’s campaign-money machine will be hard to beat. Privileged Republicans with money usually are. But sometimes people just get fed up and they do get loud, and sometimes it beats conventional wisdom.

    There is roughly a year and three months until election day and a lot can happen. But I know this: I am a white male moderate Democrat from Georgia. I’ve never given to or volunteered for a Presidential campaign. That is, until this past weekend when I gave to Dean and volunteer to help out in any way.

    None of the candidates are unelectable. There are 4 senators, 2 congressman, and 1 governor. I will vote for any of them over Bush. But history tells us that the moderate governor (Dean) has the best chance. When was the last time a sitting member of Congress was elected President?

  5. ajc says:

    Not to mention that Dean and the Democratic candidates will appeal to women more so than Bush in ’04.

  6. ajc says:

    And minorities. Minorities more so than women.

    Of course all this wild speculation leaves us all in a position to be humiliated by an unexpected turn of events . . . but it’s fun.

  7. Aaron W. Benson says:

    He isn’t for “gay marriage”, he supports civil unions. Which is very different. It will be up to his campaign to try and show America the difference. And, yes, that’s a hard task.

    Try correcting Republican-leaning Southern voters on that difference, and then come tell me whether they’re any closer to voting for Dean.

    Most everything else you said (appealing to women and minorities, etc.) applies to ANY Democrat on the ticket, not just Dean. And the bottom line is that those advantages are best weilded by other candidates, not Howard Dean.

    Nice of you to ignore all the specific concerns about him. Wishful thinking doesn’t get us into the White House.

  8. Adam T says:

    On the “gay marriage” issue. First, I’m not sure that southerners are the homophobic backwater types that they’ve been presented as, often by southerners.

    Every southerner I’ve ever met has been decent and outward looking in their world view.

    The key thing about Dean, and the reason I support him, is he is a fighter. Unlike the wimp Gore, if Bush attempts to use code words in the south attacking civil unions or gay marriages or whatever, Dean will call him on it.

    Fine, it will cost Dean the south (supposedly), but a campaign based on homophobia would cost Bush New England (except for New Hampshire), New York, New Jersey, Caifornia, Washington and Oregon. I haven’t done the math, but my guess is that’s as many electoral votes as the south.

  9. Aaron W. Benson says:

    lol…Those are all states Gore won in 2000! Didn’t help him, did it?

    If you think fighting the good fight over homosexuality will win Dean the presidency, you are dreaming.

    And again, nice of you to ignore all Dean’s other drawbacks. Like I said, it won’t be that easy when the Republicans start attacking him.

  10. Adam T says:

    Aaron, Bush won all the southern states in 2000 and still only won the presidency in a disputed fashion.

    The political argument against civil unions is that it costs it’s supporter the south. I pointed out that if Bush campaigns against civil unions in the south it will cost him states that are roughly equal to the electoral votes of the south.

    Also, as I said earlier, I’m not conviced that the south is the homophobic backwater its been made out to be.

    The thing about the issue, is that there are millions of Americans who, while uncertain about civil unions, would also find it distressing to see a presidential candidate overtly seeking the votes of homophobes.

    Of course Dean has many drawbacks as a candidate, so do all the candidates, they are human beings. Part of the purpose of a campaign is to grow and address and where possible overcome those weaknesses.

    On the issue of Bush’s attack dogs. As I wrote in an earlier post: “The happy evidence is that the public is increasingly waking up to
    how dishonest this administration is (do you trust George W. yes 47% no

    The less crediblity the admin has, the more difficult it will be for
    President Magoo and his sleazy attack dogs to make their charges stick.”

  11. Court says:

    You’d think the Dems would have learned something after getting spanked in ’02. *shrug* Good news for me at any rate ;)

  12. ajc says:

    I’m a southerner and I don’t really mind who gets married to whom. And in my town, Athens, GA, there are a lot of progressives who are going to support Dean whether he’s “electable” or not. The point is to support the candidate you identify with and like. Of course, I’ll vote for any Dem against Bush…even Lieberman.

    Dean isn’t a reall “liberal” no matter how many times the right says it. And, if “liberals” are defined as described by Republicans, then most people in the USA are “liberals”.

    And you’re not giving him a chance based on who he might have as a VP during the ’04 election. Wouldn’t Edwards or Graham balance out the ticket to help them in the South? Having Graham’s Florida connection certainly would.

    And if you compare Bush’s past with Dean’s past, Dean will win every time.

    And, by the way, there are a few “Republican for Dean” sites out there. Guess how many “Democrats for Bush” sites there are?

    Anyway, you can dismiss him now if you want. I’m not dismissing anyone right now. I like Kerry, Edwards, and Dean. But Dean is the only one who has me motivated. And he’s the only one that I’ve given money to. And my wife and my mother-in-law and my father-in-law. And that’s a big deal.

  13. Justin says:

    I have posted a lengthy rebuttal to Aaron’s pessimistic essay about Howard Dean’s electability to my blog at .

    “Aaron, I’m happy to say that by my reckoning, your defeatist attitude is for the most part unwarranted. Let me try to convince you of some reasons for optimism on the Democrats’ chances next year, and in particular those of Howard Dean….”

    (Click my name to read the whole essay.)

  14. Aaron W. Benson says:

    AJC: If you think support for civil unions/gay marriages don’t matter, you need to read this.

    Secondly, as for Dean “not really” being a liberal, well, neither was Dukakis.

    The bottom line is that the advantages we have over Bush are better taken advantage of by somebody other than Dean. He carries too much baggage, and with the exception of being an incessant shouter, doesn’t offer much more.

  15. Adam T says:

    re: Dean “carries too much baggage”. The latest poll I saw showed that only 31% of Democrats are aware of him. I’d imagine the numbers would be far less among independents and Republican. How can a person that probably 3/4 of Americans have never even heard of “carry too much baggage”?

  16. Aaron W. Benson says:

    Adam T: I’m referring to the amount of number of obstacles his candidacy will face based on the issues I described in the post, not the number of people who know who he is.

  17. vermonter says:

    Take it from a normal working class vermonter that may lose his job at IBM due to Dean’s fiscal policies. NY’s Gov Pataki negotiated a better deal with IBM and attracted a 5B (that’s billion) investment to NY that should have been in Vt. Now over 2000 people have lost their jobs and must move to NY. He also has managed to make the University of Vermont Tuition (state school) the HIGHEST of all state schools in the country. Yes, folks…do your research…it’s true. Dean is not the man to lead the free world. Im not sure who it is, but I have 100% confidence that Dean is NOT the man for the job

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