I’ve been a bit despondent as of late.
Why, you ask? Because the past few months have confirmed what I’ve long believed about the Democratic candidates running for president: They each have glaring flaws that make George W. Bush’s reelection frighteningly likely in 2004.
The script, I think, has largely been written. John Kerry is perhaps the worst candidate — a stiff, aloof, overpositioning, overcoached, insulated aristocrat who will have plain folk everywhere opting again for the guy who speaks their own language. More insecure than even Al Gore, Kerry is the hold-your-nose candidate who may win the nomination but will inspire precious few working-class voters in the general election.
Richard Gephardt, like Dole, is a tired old has-been who would scrap his way to the nomination only to leave the party coasting warily toward an Election Day train wreck.
Joe Lieberman would send droves of liberals running to Ralph Nader. Game over. (And Lieberman, with his just-happy-to-be-here persona, would probably go down smiling.)
Edwards is the only candidate to marry a cogent indictment of Bush with thoughtful proposals on crucial issues. Yet he is still a virtual unknown and, being to the right of Joe Lieberman, and having little experience and few accomplishments, he has zero chance of winning the nomination.
And as for Howard Dean, well, where do I start? For reasons I’ve described already (and will continue to point out), Dean cedes the South, women, military types, journalists and pretty much any other group outside of the party’s core base.
I’ll admit that perhaps I’m being a little too pessimistic. After all, the Bush administration is so deceptive and extreme, the economy so stagnant, the casualties in Iraq so wrenching, that each of the major candidates has a chance at retaking the White House.
But let’s not kid ourselves: With the current crop, Campaign 2004 is largely a faith-based initiative, more likely to result in four more years in the wilderness than a 1994-like tide that puts the Democrats back in the driver’s seat.
Yet hope remains for proud moderates like myself — Tony Blair Democrats who wish to be inspired by a positive and uplifting vision rather than raw partisan fervor.
For many of us, the hope is that Wesley Clark will join the race for president. We have spent tens to hundreds of hours, from furtive mousing at work to coordinating Meetups in the field, to build the necessary campaign groundwork should the general decide to run.
In fact, such has been the investment that the slightest insinuendo, casts a pall over one’s afternoon. As the imminence of his decision increases, so to does our excitement as we search for some sign that the general is ready to answer the call.
And beneath it all, I think, there is also a bit of fear that Clark may not run — fear arising from the knowledge that, with the current field, the future is looking rather bleak, indeed.