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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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Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Bush is unelectable

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, November 12, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Kevin Drum is buying into the resurgence of the Dean/unelectable meme - itself just a fig leaf for the Anybody But Dean meme. The resurgence can be attributed to party-establishment desperation given Dean's profound support at the grassroots level (as today's impending SEIU-AFSCME endorsement attests to).

The latest salvo was fired by John Judis in an email to TPM, who waved his hands in angst about Bush's advantages should the economy improve. Atrios has an simple rebuttal, pointing out that Judis' argument can be applied to any Democratic contender - hell, if the economy becomes strong and Iraq becomes a stable democracy overnight, a Bush re-election would suddenly be a lot more palatable (note to lynch mob: Yglesias said exactly the same thing).

Still, the objective was achieved, in that the words "Dean" and "unelectable" once again get to hang out together in the public eye. And Kevin - who I consider a benchmark for the moderate liberal voter out there to which we still need to make our case - makes how own case for why Clark would be better:

I have to say it: I think Dean is unelectable. Without going into tedious detail, just try to imagine that it's April and the $200 million attack machine has geared up. And think about what the ads are going to look like, especially to moderates who aren't true believers in the Dean phenomenon already. (Go ahead: use your imagination. And try to be brutally realistic.) To me, they look devastating. I know it's not fair, but this election isn't going to have anything to do with fairness.

And if you want one single thing to chew on, it's this: national security is going to be the main theme of the election. I don't care if we like it or not, the Republicans are the ones with the money and the bully pulpit and they're going to hammer on it. And while I know that a lot of liberals think that anti-war sentiment is going to wash over the country in a great wave, it's just not realistic to think that's going to happen. Really, it's not.

I happen to think Wes Clark is a better potential president than Howard Dean anyway, but electability is a key factor too. It's vitally important to get rid of George Bush and his insanely incompetent crew of ideologues before they do any more damage, and I don't think Dean can do it. Clark can.

Since Kevin already supports Clark, it's unsurprising that his imagination is less vivid when it comes to potential "devastating" attack ads that Bush's $170m can air against the General. There are a number of assumptions in Kevin's post that I think are arguable.

First, the main issue is not whether Democrats need to prove themselves positive on national security. The real point is that Bush is profoundly negative on national security. Al Gore's weekend speech on national security via MoveOn invoked explicit examples of how Bush has failed, sacrificing meaningful measures for political theater. Gore makes the (amply-documented) points that the Bush Administration is obstructing the investigation into 9-11, that there was ample information available to the government that could have prevented 9-11, and that the argument that our civil liberties need to be further sacrificed is false.

Note that Gore speaks with real authority on this, since the Clinton administration (contrary to conservative assertions) had a very strong record in counter-terrorism (that is one of Matthew's best pieces at TAP, btw - highly recommended).

It's not just domestic security that Bush has demonstrated incompetence and a predeliction for political expediency. Even noted conservative hawks such as Bill Kristol, writing in the Weekly Standard, have nervously speculated that Bush will "cut and run" from Iraq. Noted pro-war bloggers such as Glenn Reynolds and Tacitus have expressed the same concerns, as has Kevin himself. All the serious Democratic candidates have commited to staying the course.

And let's not forget the miserable record of the GOP's support for our troops. The Administration considers the blood of our patriots disposable. The only salute that Bush has given the troops has been the middle-finger variety.

I'm afraid that by focusing on Dean's electability, Clark supporters play right into Rove's hands. ANY Democratic candidate need only run an ad with the words "Mission Accomplished" and a picture of Bush in Flight Suit (and the action figure) to achieve complete parity on the issue. ANY Democratic candidate need only point to how the GOP has relentlessly sacrificed their interests in favor of tax cuts for the rich (who arent dying, but rather profiting, in Iraq). ANY Democratic candidate could point out that Bush makes a call for sacrifice to the general public, but lets corporations such as Enron evade their responsibilities (the lost revenue in corporate taxes could easily fund the Iraq reconstruction).

The case against Bush on matters of national security is easily made. But by arguing instead about Dean's electability,the "Bush and the GOP are strong on defense" meme is implicit.

I'm certain that this post won't stop the controversy or the attempts to smear Dean, of course. A more drastic step is required. I'm afraid my next post will have to be a Devil's Advocate argument about why Clark is unelectable on national security.


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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.