Friday, February 06, 2004

Constructive Criticism

I blogged too soon. I should've waited until I finished reading the next Update piece. For ease of venting, I'm going to thread my comments, in blue, below (I know, I know, in the other post the excerpts were blue and my writing was black, but I'm learning - so you have to be forgiving) Also - what I say below may make me seem more anti-Kerry and Edwards than I am. That is to say, I will, without a doubt, fully support and work to aid the Democratic Presidential Nominee. But I have high standards. And for my vote, I choose Dean. I do think, however, that the DLC item below doesn't help win my support for Kerry or Edwards - so they are the target here, more than the specific candidate:

From the Jan. 28 Update:
"Another Vote for Hope Over Anger"

For the second week in a row, rank-and-file Democrats have spoken loud and clear: The Democratic Party is moderate, middle-class, and motivated by hope, not anger.

Technically, the Dean signs say "Hope Not Fear," which is a tremendously positive message since, if my fellow Dems recall, we got kicked squarely in the behind by Bush's big boot of Fear. If Dean, and his supporters, are angry, it's because they've figured out that anger is much more efficient use of energy than fear. Carefully channeled anger with purpose, direction, and pure motive - not yelling at the TV anger, or punching someone in the face anger. I'm angry about the state of my country. I'm angry about its world reputation. Why aren't you?

Sen. John Kerry firmly established himself as the big comeback story of the nominating process. He won a second straight victory by following the path urged on Democrats by the original Comeback Kid, President Bill Clinton: showing the country not just what Democrats are against, but what they are for. Kerry's solid middle-class message and mastery of the issues once again lifted him to a big margin over Gov. Howard Dean in a state Dean was supposed to "own" and badly needed to win.

Kind of petty and taunting, isn't it?

For the past year, we have said time and again that Democrats need to offer answers, not just anger. As in Iowa, voters in New Hampshire proved that they're not interested in simply making a statement; they want a candidate who can beat George W. Bush and who offers answers to their most pressing problems. Candidates like Kerry who supported middle-class tax cuts picked up 70 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, crushing candidates like Dean who reflexively opposed them.

This goes back to my point in the earlier post. Dean may be less controlled by his campaign staff, but is any presidential hopeful really "reflexive" in anything he does? None of them so much as put on a tie without carefully review by a consultant somewhere. I digress. Here's the deal, fellow Democrats: my parents work very hard - 2 jobs each - to keep everyone fed, housed, tuition-ed, and insured. Do I want them to keep as much of their paychecks as possible - you bet your ass I do. Do I want to keep as much of my paycheck as possible? - hope you have an ample ass - cause you can lay it down on that as well. But that's not the point. Stop appealing to selfish needs. If we want to care for everyone, we've got to give a little along the way. Dean never starts a speech by saying "middle class tax cuts suck." He usually starts by listing the programs important to us: healthcare, education, mom, apple pie, etc. The he says- guess what? Those things COST MONEY. It has to come from somewhere. And I want it to come mostly from the upper classes as well - but why should they be more willing to part with their hard earned cash? (It is possible that some wealthy people worked hard to achieve their American Dreams, just possible). Bottom line - government is big and has the ability to do so much good. But nothing's free. Dean gets credit from me for being open about it. All the others list the programs and promise tax cuts. Mathematically unsound. If I could find a way to do both - I would. I'm sure Dean would too. I think even a Republican would. Someday, I hope we can. But for now, can we allow for the possibility that Dean's realism could protect our seats in Congress better than an oops-guess-we-can't-pay-for-this/oops-guess-we-can't-cut-that-much-of-your-taxes moment from Kerry or Edwards a year after election. Read my lips: take a chance on truth.

As in Iowa, the Blair Democrats who supported the use of force in Iraq solidly defeated Democratic candidates who tried to stoke anger against it.

What do we do with this line??? Fellow Democrats - hell, fellow Americans - humans, bipeds, whatever - They ran over us with this war because they kept us scared. If we stopped flying, the terrorists won. If we were afraid, the terrorists won. But with a kaleidoscopic system telling us when to be how afraid and constant insistence that there were bad, dark-skinned men plotting YOUR DEATH at this very moment, how could we be unafraid? Were you happy afraid? Are you happy afraid. I'm mad as hell, and no, thanks for finishing the line on your own, I'm NOT going to take it anymore. Dean didn't stoke my anger - he gave it a voice. He reminded me that my anger is as valid as your carefully enticed fear. Do not criticize him for making the stand negligibly few of our Democratic electeds made. Dislike his manner, dislike his personality - but don't accuse him of creating the problem. That was Bush. Keep your eye on the ball.

Kerry's decisive margin over Dean shows the enormous appeal of a comprehensive, rational critique [note: later we'll see a dismissal of his Iowa whoop as reason for the drop in ratings - I think that what's unsaid here is calculated to make your mind jump straight to Dean's January Geography Lesson] of George W. Bush combined with a comprehensive, positive agenda for what Democrats would do after replacing him, based on clear progressive principles.

As in Iowa, turnout was very high, which is good news for Democrats generally. Indeed, about half of the primary voters were self-identified independents, attracted by a campaign that was generally positive in its final phase.

As in Iowa, an electorate that was by national standards unusually opposed to the decision to go to war in Iraq actually focused on a lot of other issues in choosing a candidate. According to the final exit polls published by a major media consortium, only 19 percent of primary voters said the war was their top issue, as opposed to health care (28 percent), Economy/Jobs (22 percent), and other issues (25 percent). About half of primary voters declined to describe themselves as "angry" toward the Bush administration.

Not to nitpick, but what did the other half say?

As in Iowa, Kerry put together a winning coalition that transcended ideology, party affiliation, age, income, education level, attitudes towards the war, and nearly every other variable. He did significantly better than his overall state average among moderates (winning 43 percent), and nearly as well among independents (37 percent) as among Democrats (41 percent). Though his only major union endorsement was from the intrepid firefighters, Kerry did equally well among union and non-union households.

And as in Iowa, it appears the key to Kerry's success was his willingness, day after day and night after night, to stand before some of the country's most discriminating voters and answer their questions on a host of international and domestic issues.

Finally, as in Iowa, Gov. Howard Dean did not wear well on the electorate in one of his best states. The Dean campaign had New Hampshire organized to the hilt, and benefited from a big money advantage over Kerry and his other opponents. According to the American Research Group tracking polls, one month before the primary, Dean led Kerry by a 45-20 margin in New Hampshire. Other polls showed an even bigger margin. As in Iowa, Dean lost nearly half his support, and as in Iowa, the slide cannot be attributed primarily to media coverage of his post-Iowa "rant." [see, told you so] His support was dropping, and his "unfavorable" ratings were rising, all over the country, and specifically in New Hampshire, well before that.

Put simply, Gov. Dean's support seems to have shrunk to the same hard core of upscale, antiwar, white liberals who were first attracted to him when his 2003 surge began many months ago.

Now, let's examine this for a moment, shall we? A Hard core of upscale, antiwar, white liberals. Aren't Kerry and Edwards upscale, antiwar, white liberals? Isn't much of the D leadership? That's not an indictment. Well, my words aren't - but what is the DLC saying here? It's kinda, a little, maybe, offensive based on race and income? Pot, let me introduce you to kettle. Oh, kettle's antiwar though, he's much more useful that way - last thing we need is waring kitchen equipment. As a non-(or not-yet - still waiting on that American Dream)upscale, antiwar, Latina, who's been favoring Dean since January 2003, where does that leave me? This is as divisive a statement as I've ever seen coming out of a respectable Dem-org. I used to consider myself a DLC fan. But this kinda talk makes me reevaluate my loyalties.

The rest of the Democratic electorate looks upon him dimly: On primary day in New Hampshire, he had the worst favorability ratio -- 56 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable -- of the five major candidates.

All the hype and buzz about the "transformational" nature of the Dean candidacy has been buried by actual voting results. He failed to attract new voters and turned off moderates and McCainiac independents.

The nominating contest now moves into a host of states that are far more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire both demographically and ideologically. These states will provide the first real opportunity for African-Americans and Hispanics to participate. And their voters are, on average, less liberal, less dominated by strong antiwar sentiments, and less inclined to believe that Bush's poor record is matched by an evil character.

And that's good news for us how?

In a party that's looking for hope and answers, it's not clear Dean has anywhere to go unless he abandons his past tactics completely. Sen. John Edwards emerged from New Hampshire, as from Iowa, with a finely honed message and positive campaign that even voters for other candidates like. Now he must win South Carolina on Feb. 3. Likewise, Gen. Wes Clark and Sen. Joe Lieberman both have one more chance, in more favorable terrain, to show that Kerry is not the only candidate capable of mounting a stunning comeback.

As we have said all along, a good contest about ideas is good for Democrats. This remains an open race, and it's too early to predict the nominee. But one winner is already clear: The Democratic Party heads for November far, far stronger by voting for hope over anger.

Wake up, Dems. Anger isn't your enemy. When I was in New Hamphire, each stump speech, regardless of the candidate, tossed around more dead presidents than an exploding bank vault. One of the most beloved? FDR of course. If you're going to cite to his programs and ideology - why skip the easy lessons first - the truths we've seen proved again and again. What is the only thing we have to fear, Democrats?

No, Dems, anger isn't our enemy. It's fear.

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