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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Monday, March 24, 2003


where war and campaign finance intersect

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, March 24, 2003 permalink View blog reactions

Ryan Lizza, writing in TNR, has several cogent observations about the timing of war and how it impacts the campaign cycle:

Political operatives slice the presidential campaign into quarters, largely because fund-raising reports are due at the Federal Election Commission every three months. As if on cue, the war with Iraq is coming at the end of one quarter, as if the curtain is closing on the first act of the Democratic contest. After an intermission, during which the war itself is conducted, the curtain will rise again and the second, postwar phase will begin. The Democratic contenders are busily positioning themselves for that next phase.

This is a very good article, in that it discusses in detail how Dean and Lieberman are positioned at opposite ends of teh spectrum when it comes to war, and has some strategic analysis. Dean consistently gets the benefit of the doubt he deserves, when compared to the other candidates:

After Bush's ultimatum speech Monday, overnight polls showed that Democratic opposition to removing Saddam had fallen into the low forties. Needless to say, it is likely to drop further if the war goes well. Lieberman is trying to soak up a little of this rally-round-the-flag glow, which dovetails with his campaign's belief that there are enough moderate and independent voters in the early primary states for him to win the nomination. "For all the talk that the primary electorate is generally more liberal, moderates can do well," says a senior campaign adviser.

For Dean, the onset of war could have the opposite effect. "I'm well aware of what this morning's polls show," he told me the day after Bush's first speech. "So now I'm in a minority of sixty-six to thirty-three, and that's just the way it goes. I didn't take this position for political reasons, and I'm not going to drop it for political reasons." In canvassing opinions about the political implications of the war this week, aides to all four of Dean's major rivals made the same argument: that all the energy fueling Dean's surge in the first quarter came from the war. As long as the war is successful--a hugely important caveat--its conclusion will drain the momentum from Dean's candidacy. "Dean was nowhere before the war," says a top adviser to one candidate. "Once that hook is gone, he'll stop gaining as much ground." An official from another campaign concurs: "He essentially goes back to being the quirky health care candidate."

Not surprisingly, Dean insists he does indeed have a second act. "There is a lot more to this than the war," he says. In his view, the war may have been the hook that got people to first pay attention to him, but it was, well, him that got them to stick around. "The Iraq stuff was not the biggest issue," he says of the cheers he received in California. "That gives me the entree to get people to listen to me. What gets people cranked up is the straight-ahead style and the `let the chips fall where they may.' It's the McCain thing." Dean has a habit, which some find annoying and others refreshing, of talking about himself and his campaign in this detached manner. He doesn't just speak off-the-cuff; he reminds you that he's the guy who speaks off-the-cuff and explains that his off-the-cuffness is the reason people like him. "It's not just the issues," he says. "It's the way I talk about them. The war is the divide between me and the other four folks. ... But it's not the war; it's the straightforwardness."

There's one more warning for Dean in the article - that when the issue of war is over, he will still be vulnerable to attack - from the left:

But, once the war is over, Dean may face other challenges. With his Iraq hook gone, at least one rival campaign will try to pull the plug on another source of Dean's energy--the claim that he represents the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Expect an attack on Dean from the left on Social Security, the death penalty, guns, abortion, and federalism.

Of course, teh same answer applies to all of these charges - Dean speaks from rational analysis , not politics. Right now war has polarized the public, but after it is over, we have to have faith that the American public (and Democratic voters in particular) are able to appreciate "straightforwardness" and recognize its value, as compared to the same old refrain of craven politicking.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.