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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 08, 2004



posted by Aziz P. at Monday, March 08, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Kevin Drum recently did a nice summary of the reasons why the compressed primary campaign was a good thing. And having a nominee early also makes cool scenarios like Ezra Klein's "shadow government" possible. However, there is one rather counter-intuitive downside - overconfidence.

Here's the dynamic at play. We have a nominee. He starts attacking Bush. The ABB crowd get's hyped up, because we have a guy saying the things we have been saying for three years. These things are the reason why Dean captured our imagination early on and that same rhetoric drives Kerry's success.

And the media responds! The Bush campaign ads are ferociously attacked, scandals and investigations abound on PlameGate and the 9-11 stonewalling. Kerry outpolls Bush in Florida, Juan Williams interviews Administration officials on NPR and gets fact-checked by the left for letting them get away with blatant lies. It's all looking great!

William Saletan has a new piece in Slate that strikes me as the most egregiously confident example so far. Here's how he closes:

President Bush. Strength and confidence. Steady leadership in times of change. He knows exactly where he wants to lead this country. And he won't let facts, circumstances, or the Constitution get in his way.

Well, ok if you are preaching to the choir this is hardly news. But reading the article from the perspective of someone who is not ideologically ABB as I am, it's haard to see a real convincing argument here. Reaosnable people exist who disagree - and lots of them are voting for Nader.

We need Dean to play a role here, by acting as a bridge to the middle. We need someone who can reach out to both sides with more credibility than Kerry can. Confidence is a good thing but it can blind you to the strategic choices necessary to win. Relying entirely on an excite-the-base strategy is necessary but not sufficient if we are going to aim not just for toggling the binary balance of partisan power, but transcending it to build a true American majority.

William Saletan was pretty confident back in 2000, as well.


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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.