Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Four years ago

I unearthed an email I wrote four years ago, the day after Bush won his second term. From a navel-gazing perspective, this is fascinating. I'm not sure if I'm more proud of what I got right or embarrassed by what I missed.
Wed Nov 03 11:58:12 2004
Subject: Don't move to Canada (yet)

Okay, so clearly last night sucked. The bad guys won, and won fairly easily. But here are a few thoughts as to why perhaps all hope is not lost (on a side note, I find myself writing this type of email way too often lately).

First off, let's remember who the Democrats put up as a nominee. Kerry was a Senator with a 20 year record of votes for the Repubs to harp on, and thus this year conformed to the rule that Senators almost never win the Presidency. Second, it's not like Kerry was the second coming of Bill Clinton. The guy windsurfs off Nantucket for fun. Who can identify with that? Right or wrong, many people still vote based on who they'd want to have a beer with, and Bush wins that hands down. Kerry is not charismatic at all, and people who lose the charisma battle lose elections (Bob Dole, George Bush I, Al Gore, etc. etc.). To sum up, the fact that Kerry did as well as he did bodes well. He was competitive in states like Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, New Mexico, and Ohio, while still holding on to traditional Democratic states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Think of it this way: if a Bill-Clinton-like candidate was running, he would have won easily. There were plenty of reasons to vote against Bush, but not nearly enough reasons for a swing voter to vote for Kerry.

On the broader scale, yes, the Democrats have been on the losing end for some time now. But haven't the Democrats been dropping the ball a lot during that time? It's like a baseball game when you make 5 errors but still almost win; you gotta feel good about the fact that if you clean up your play a bit, you'll come out on top. Go back to Gore in 2000. He made a ton of errors, both in states that he should have won but lost, and in terms of the campaign itself. Some of that blame can fall on Clinton, as he did go on TV and lie directly to the face of the American public. Should he have had to go on TV to discuss blow job charges, probably not, but that's not the issue. People generally don't like being lied to, and thus Clinton made it difficult on Gore.

Furthermore, the party itself made errors. It should have been much more introspective after 2000, really clarifying what it stood for. But it didn't. The Democrats operated under the assumption that 2000 was stolen from them, and thus nothing was broken that needed fixing. This is why the party ran to a fringe candidate like Howard Dean early in the primaries; the we're-angry-about-2000 crowd was in charge, not the people who would bother to think about a coherent message to send to the American people. Remember, for quite some time now, the Republicans have been very clear about where they stand; Guns, God, and Gays have been consistent positions. What does the Democratic party stand for? Hard to say. The Repubs got a huge turnout from their base on the gay marriage issue. What issue(s) do the Democrats have to motivate their people? The Democrats will finally do the long-overdue introspection. The good news is that they've got solid leaders (Bill Clinton) and new faces to guide them in both the national (Barack Obama) and more local (Eliot Spitzer) arenas.

As things stand now, the Democrats really need to hunker down and limit the damage that occurs on the domestic front in the next 4 years, and they can really only do that in the Senate. It is kinda good that Daschle is gone, because he was always on shaky ground with his constituents in South Dakota, which meant he was at times handcuffed in standing up to Bush. The Dems should have someone with a strong base serve as Minority Leader. Just throwing a name out there, but maybe Chuck Schumer. Anyway, the Repubs still are well short of a super-majority of 60 in the Senate, and almost all of the Democrats still in the Senate are strong Democrats, and they may get help from people like Olympia Snowe in Maine and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island.

Additionally, at least now a Democrat doesn't have to clean up the mess in Iraq. Bush broke it, and now he's bought it for another 4 years. Can you imagine how quickly Kerry would be trashed by Repubs and by the press for even tiny setbacks in Iraq were he the president? Am I happy about the fact that we have someone as simple-minded as Bush dealing with things like North Korea and Iran? No, it scares the hell out of me. But if you allow me to step out of the terrified numbness that a second Bush term provokes in me emotionally, my intellect tells me that the Bush doctrine won't work, and will be repudiated at the polls come 2008. Ah, 2008…

Anyway, that's my thinking/rationalizing. See, now who says that being a Red Sox fan doesn't train you for the real world?


So, some pluses... knew what the Bush doctrine was years before Sarah Palin... identified several electoral swing states that all went Dem in '08... named Obama as a potential national leader for the Dems...

The minuses, well, you can figure them out...