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February 18, 2004

Nailing it. Eric Alterman on the end of the Dean campaign:
Howard Dean is like the old reel-to-reel tape in ‘Mission Impossible.’ He gave the rest of the candidates their instructions and then self-destructed. In doing so, he may have helped save the party and the country. Thanks Howard.
If we actually succeed in evicting GWB, a lot of the credit will belong to Howard Dean. I hope the other movers and shakers of the Democratic Party remember this. [01:42 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Nailing it.:

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 01:59 PM:

I dunno if they will, but plenty of others will. And we also should honor him for ruling out running as an independent; we don't need anotheR oNe of those.

Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 02:15 PM:

Here's to Howard! The real test now, however, is transferring his support to whichever John ends up as the candidate. Maybe Dean should start running those campaigns?

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 02:59 PM:

The DNC should definitely use Dean and Dean's organization, somehow.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 03:21 PM:

"There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siegeworks against it. Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man."

I think Dean's work will last only if he works very hard to make it last.

PZ Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 03:46 PM:

I have the general impression that the beltway dems would like nothing better than to eradicate Dean from all memory, and since we seem poised to nominate yet another ball-less, boring insider, I doubt that they will remember him.

There is a mob of us out here who were motivated by Dean, though, and the Democratic leadership should be warned that we might get really pissed off if they don't shape up. And we're ANGRY. And CRAZY. Kerry better not be a wimp, or he'll be just a single-term president.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 03:56 PM:

Dean's campaign was most notable for its tactical use of the internet to raise a ton of money. It's a much more effective way than direct mail as you can have several different kinds of appeals out there instead of the one or two that you're limited to in direct mail. Candidate weblogs can make politics much more personal for the supporters of the candidates, although the danger of trolls and outright liars is a danger there too. Moderation in weblogs is indeed a virtue.

I don't think Dean is anything close to being a Bob LaFollette, however. As a NY Times writer recently put it, he's closer to Jerry Brown. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and Dean has had more of an impact in Presidential politics than Brown did. But I don't think Dean's really made a significant difference in American politics at this point.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 04:39 PM:

He also got the Republicans to use their heavy artillery against him early on, which makes it much more difficult for them to get away with it later on (it is to be hoped).

I remember very clearly how the papers were covering the White House a year ago. I think we owe Dr. Dean a lot.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 05:46 PM:

a plea: the coming meme appears to be balls. Theyre popping up (excuse the image) all over these days. Someone has them, someone should get some, someone needs to show them by doing...

Please please can it stop?

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 05:57 PM:

Thank you for saying "Please please can it stop?" rather than "Cut it out!"

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 06:09 PM:

I suggest the following alternatives: 'gumption' or 'moxie', which have a certain archaic charm; 'guts' if you're being blunt, or 'intestinal fortitude' if you're doing pedantic self-parody; 'strength of character' if you want to be literal and specific.

'Moral fiber' is good too, but the GOP has made that one all about dicks and where they go, so I'd avoid it. That's also why I didn't suggest 'character' by itself above.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 08:04 PM:

I dislike the word "meme" myself. What does it communicate that cannot be better communicated by other words and phrases?

Harrumph.

Jazz ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 08:05 PM:

Xopher: I second the call for Moxie, rather than "balls," simply because anyone who has and does drink the stuff knows exactly what a contest of intestinal fortitude it is to do so.

As to the lesson Dean taught, I predict that it will be forgotten, then taught again, and reforgotten. Because, like all good lessons, it's uncomfortable.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 08:56 PM:

How very like a bunch of liberals to immediately devolve into a discussion of what terms are and aren't offensive. I love you all, but please, please can it stop?

Regarding the question of whether Dean is LaFollette or Jerry Brown, Dean can do better than Jerry Brown simply by figuring out a way to keep his organization together and put it to good use. It's not going to be easy, but it would be worthwhile. And it's way early to be deciding that he can't manage it.

Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 10:02 PM:

MoveOn.org, in a way, is part of the Dean legacy. While not affiliated with Dean, it's a strong netroots organization that seems to have a significant overlap with Deanistas - at least according to my non-random sample of Deanie friends and acquaintances.

Web fundraising (think Dean) made a difference in the KY-6 special election.

The DNC is starting to notice that many of the Dean campaign's innovation can work for its candidates, both in terms of money and in terms of building a more personal connection to the candidate.

I don't think that Dean's lessons will be forgotten, although Dean himself might be. But I doubt he'll quietly fade away - some organization will snatch him up. He's too good a hothead to not be hooked up to something meaningful.

sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 12:02 AM:

I have the general impression that the beltway dems would like nothing better than to eradicate Dean from all memory

Sadly, this is my impression also. Dean and his campaign scared the crap out of broadcast media and the inner-beltway cabal by raising the dread spectre of real (that is, sincere) populism. That's why he got the backlash he got.

David W says: I don't think Dean's really made a significant difference in American politics at this point

I strongly disagree. Can you imagine teh intarweb playing a smaller role in subsequent campaigns, be they local, state or federal? I can't, and I think that's both an enormous change and a Good Thing.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 12:25 AM:

"Kerry better not be a wimp, or he'll be just a single-term president."

He's sponsored scarcely any signficant legislation, according to my quick scan of Project Vote Smart and to the Time magazine reports. He seems to be more the kind of senator who makes a career out of representing his constituents and leading investigations. And he proposed a dividend tax cut independently of the Bushies, which does not make me love him.

Not a great statesman for our times, I think.

hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 12:29 AM:

I have the general impression that the beltway dems would like nothing better than to eradicate Dean from all memory

That's so not true. I was at the TN Dem event where Gore delivered his firey "Bush Lied!" speech, and his fellow ex-Senator Jim Sasser started his list of the Dem candidates with Dean and how he helped the party regain its voice.

Maybe the Beltway Dems feel that way, but the ones out here in the hinterlands are grateful to Dean, even if they didn't think he'd make a good presidential candidate. And if Democrats out here don't get elected, the Beltway Dems don't have a job.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 02:06 AM:

gulp. apologize.

I like that the Dean campaign is following what sounds as if it could be a really good model for an insurgent campaign, using their organization to work as an interest group within the party.

Id be surprised if we dont hear more from them before the election is over.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 03:04 AM:

I think Dean scared the Dem leadership half to death as he was not under their control and not about to be. I'm bitter and angry about the way the whole thing played out and I'd really like to see someone undertake an effective campaign to educate the news media to their real responsibilities in this country. Yes, yes, I know, quit whining. I just can't help being disappointed that there was a possibility for real change here and we've backed away from it. Turning instead to the same tired political hacks we've had for 20 years. Sigh.

MKK

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 03:15 AM:

Mary Kay, whatever happens, "the same tired political hacks" are going to have to learn something new. There is change in the wind, regardless of how deeply the ostriches have their heads in the sand. (I'm sorry, I'm tired, that popped out, it's too silly not to keep.) Myself, I'm still afraid of two words: President Cheney.

jim bodie ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 05:11 AM:

I think the combination of the Mass. Supreme court decision in favor of gay marriage, and Dean's record of civil unions in Vermont scared mainstream democratic voters into abandoning him, since he could be savagely attacked by the defense of marriage groups. There seems to be a complete taboo about even mentioning this factor. If instead, voters abandoned him because of negative advertising, then doesn't that proves Ann Coulter is right when she says Democrats have no spine & are completely media driven?

julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 06:15 AM:

I kind of thought it was his fundraising advantage that spooked them. The Democrats because it showed palpable support for a strategy theyd repeatedly rejected as a loser, the Republicans because theyre the party of nothing and noone without their fundraising advantage, and the press because this isnt how the story is supposed to go.

I also think (and hope) that the sleaze explosion from the press over Dean makes them very, very gunshy of enabling the same sort of trash in the general election.

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 08:03 AM:

He's not Bob LaFollette yet, but he could be. And I hope he does. The country needs him to be.

You know, more than half of the people in the country would support liberal positions if they could. They agree with them. But the Repubs, especially the whacko fringe, have the media. Maybe this internet thing is the way to reach out to our natural base, and a way to get information out to counter the big lies. If Dean and his organization can just do that much, they've done the country a great service.

How about he runs for Senate, and starts a Dem organization that matches the ones DeLay and Co. run for the Rebubs?

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 09:28 AM:

I strongly disagree. Can you imagine teh intarweb playing a smaller role in subsequent campaigns, be they local, state or federal? I can't, and I think that's both an enormous change and a Good Thing.

The internet will play a big role, absolutely. I don't know if Dean will. I remember how Gene McCarthy in 1968 had a huge impact on the presidential race that year (bigger than Dean's was this year), and how his supporters subsequently helped to make significant reforms in the Democratic Party. Will Dean supporters do the same as Clean Gene's did and work from within the party to change things or not? That's the question in my mind.

Come to think of it, what sort of changes to the Democratic Party do Dean supporters have to suggest? I'd be interested to hear them.

Elric ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 09:30 AM:

This is one Dean supporter who will vote for almost anyone over the Shrub, though I'll admit that I'd have to think hard about the question if it were a choice between him and Michael Jackson....

But I will be voting in November.

David W. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 09:34 AM:

How about he runs for Senate, and starts a Dem organization that matches the ones DeLay and Co. run for the Rebubs?

I think Senators Pat Leahy and Jim Jeffords are popular enough with Vermonters that Dean wouldn't choose to run against them. Nor would he run against Vermont's sole member of the House, Bernie Sanders. If Jeffords lost in the primary though, Dean might then choose to run.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 09:37 AM:

You know, I'm probably well to the left of most of you, but I honestly think a great deal of the above commentary is overwrought. As Nick Confessore tidily demonstrated, the fearsome "Democratic Party establishment" barely exists, which is in fact part of the Democrats' problem.

The idea that it was Dean's fundraising method that "spooked" this alleged establishment is somewhat belied by the fact that all the other Democrats are adopting it as quickly as they can. All to the good, too--to one extent or another, it's liable to change the nature of the "money primary", and move the party back toward being a organ of the working middle class. How much it does this--well, that depends on how effective the Method turns out to be in the long run. Politicians go where the support is. If throngs of regular Americans start throwing money around on the internet, you can bet politicians won't ignore it. Dean wasn't so much some great liberal populist visionary as he was the first major Democrat to notice these possibilities.

Anyway, as to whether Kerry or Edwards or anyone else is "a great statesman for our times," oh please kill me now. I'm not looking for a Great Statesman For Our Times, or to overthrow the "same old political hacks," or any other windy utopian vision. I want the return of normal American politics, instead of the current situation, in which the fundamentals of the American system are under sustained attack from a group of super-empowered radicals who are resolved not to play the game, but to own the game.

Just to take one example, the Bush Administration appears to be determined to roll back the kinds of civil-service protections that date back to the Administration of Chester Alan Arthur. Nathan Newman has a good post on this here. The consequence of this will be to turn immense amounts of the Federal government into a straightforward political patronage machine, in which middle managers are completely at the mercy of their political overseers and have absolutely no incentive to provide fact-based checks on political imperatives. We've seen how well this worked in the intelligence gathering leading up to the second Iraq war. How would you like this to be the thread on which hangs your domestic defense against terrorist attack? Guess what: too late. The legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security specifically rolled back these sorts of whistleblower and other protections, and it was in retaliation for opposing those clauses that triple-amputee Vietnam veteran Senator Max Cleland was successfully targeted by the Bush machine in 2002.

So forgive me if I don't care a whole heck of a lot about who is and isn't one of the "same old political hacks." I was a McGovern worker and I watched the last cycle of this, in which idealistic crusaders for a New Jerusalem inside the Democratic Party did significant damage to the party's ability to actually fight. Yes, a perfectly re-engineered and glowingly (small-d) democratic Democratic Party would be a wonderful thing, and I'm sure in the happy fluffy bunny land of Goo-Goo Reformville it would be the ideal opponent to the Republican Party, which would of course never lie, cheat, steal, or generally try to pry up everything that's not nailed down. Back here on Earth-1, however, we're in a fight for our lives, and you know something, some of those "same old political hacks" do know a thing or two.

(THE PLAIN PEOPLE OF BLOGDOM: "Yeah, well, how did we get into this situation, if the old hacks are so effective?" PNH: "Well, that's why I was for Dean. But, like Avedon Carol, I'm starting to be a bit incredulous at the number of people who seem to have forgotten that Dean's basic value proposition was that he could win. Hello: I still want to win. You know, the country? The one being stolen at light speed? The one we need to get back?")

Ronit ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 09:50 AM:

Amen, Brother Patrick.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 10:25 AM:

Jim Bodie: Why yes, it would.

Julia: Yes, he had money and he wasn't 'theirs'.

Patrick: Grrr. Too long and I have a plane to catch but I'm thinking excluded middle. As you know, I'll support whomever the party nominates and work for him and vote for him but I don't have to be happy and I'm not. And I still don't think Kerry is all that electable outside the Democratic party, which is going to be important. If I'm wrong I shall be very very very happy to say so.

MKK

rea ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 11:12 AM:

"I like 'backbone.'"

Do you really think we ought to be validating ethnic slurs directed at invertebrates?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 11:24 AM:

Struggle against the false consciousness of phylum-ism!

As far as "electability" goes, I tend to agree with Atrios that all the leading Democratic candidates are or were "electable" in a general-election matchup against the Texas Souffle. The notion that George W. Bush has some kind of supernatural inevitability behind him, and the way we wring our hands about this, is part of our problem. As Atrios points out, people are put off by losers--and by people who talk like losers.

That said, it has to be noted that when Dean was leading, he wasn't polling better with moderate Republicans or swing voters than Kerry is now. Somewhat worse, if I recall correctly. If appeal to centrist voters is our primary criteria, we all ought to get behind Edwards. I personally suspect it's a wash--in today's polarized politics, there aren't actually all that many real undecideds (despite what people tell pollsters) and getting out the base is going to be the name of the game.

What bothers me about a lot of the post-Dean griping is that a lot of it seems to reduce actual voters to the status of unconscious pawns, which is a funny way for liberals to talk. As Teresa said about the Kerry surge in Iowa and New Hampshire, "One suspects the voters had something to do with it."

I'm not asking anybody to be happy about anything. Politics in a democracy isn't about making yourself happy, it's about coming up with the result that the largest number of people can live with. The idea that political activism is a route to personal fulfillment is one that has left a lot of wreckage in its path.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 02:07 PM:

"I want the return of normal American politics". We're quavering on the edge of tyranny, and so I agree. (And I've said similar things, in your 'blogs comment section, too.) And yet the times are very hard, and I would like to see a chief executive who I believed will bear well under such stresses and who has ideas that will respond to the times, or at least be able to choose cabinet members who have such ideas.

And, really, what does Kerry have going for him beyond a distinctive face and an effective speaking style? He seems to be a more ethical man than W. Bush, to be sure, but it seems to me he has been chosen by the voters for the same reasons that W. Bush was. Are our choices of chief executive, from now on, to be made as if we were casting the part? I fear for our democracy.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 02:28 PM:

Randolph Fritz writes:

"What does Kerry have going for him beyond a distinctive face and an effective speaking style? He seems to be a more ethical man than W. Bush, to be sure, but it seems to me he has been chosen by the voters for the same reasons that W. Bush was."

Behold the true voice of the Ineffectual American Liberal. See, what matters isn't what actually gets done. What matters the moral condition of "the voters", and whether they're making their choices for the right reasons.

As to what Kerry (or any leading Democratic candidate) "has going for him," someone around here posted an excellent answer to that not too long ago: "The attorney general, vice president, and secretary of defense. All things considered, I'll take it."

(Goodness, "view all by" is useful already.)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 03:12 PM:

I'm an ABBA voter, myself. Anyone But Bush Again. I may call myself an ABBAlitionist, in fact.

I can't remember who pointed out that "anyone who can't beat Bush is automatically no better than Bush, in practical terms." (I may have said it here first but I think I was quoting somebody.) And almost anyone who can IS better than Bush.

Randolph, go ahead and "fear for our democracy" if your hands need wringing that much, but it sounds to me as if you're worrying about scarring when we're trying to start life-saving surgery. Or worrying that morphine is addictive when the patient is in shock. Or something.

Anyway, Kerry may not be the greatest man ever to walk the Earth, and he certainly won't be completely satisfying to my leftie heart. But it's like what Churchill (I think) said about democracy: it's a bad system; its only virtue is that it's better than all the others.

And as for "casting the part," as I said to someone this morning in quite another context, you buy a food product the second through nth times because of how it tastes and (maybe) how nutritious it is; even the first time you buy it, you might read the ingredients, but what makes you pick up the box in the first place is how the box looks.

Yes, we want the best man possible for the job. But the best man becomes the worst if he can't get elected, because he effectively becomes Bush. We need the best man who we can successfully sell to the American people. And that's more important than whether he sponsored important legislation.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 03:32 PM:

Certainly seems to me that we do have a divide - call it red state blue state or double peaked preferences with no central tendencies. Folks acknowledge that the traditional left right axes (a French tradition? how can we possibly refer to 4th estate?) are very much imperfect e.g. making gun control a priority for leftists. I'd like to see a return to what I myself think of as traditional American politics - which means what it was during my personal golden age of science fiction if you will. Given preferences as a surface not a line is there a slice that might be single peaked?

Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 03:41 PM:

PNH wrote:

I'm not asking anybody to be happy about anything. Politics in a democracy isn't about making yourself happy, it's about coming up with the result that the largest number of people can live with. The idea that political activism is a route to personal fulfillment is one that has left a lot of wreckage in its path.

Damned good observation. People do get into politics (at least some of us did) for extremely personal reasons. I know I got into the antiVietnam crusade and the space advocacy work for some personal reasons. But if you stick at that level, you'll be quite ineffective and even will be betraying your cause. You need to listen to others and learn to work with others for political efforts to succeed in a democratic society. I suspect one of the reasons space advocates have done so poorly is that too many of them (certainly not all) don't really listen to anyone but themselves. Yes, there are exceptions. And I've tried to develop my listening skills.

A lot of the same thing can be said about too many liberals and conservatives. Political correctness seems more about shutting down debate and discussion than anything else. And right wing prowar ranting does nothing but turn me off.

pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 04:07 PM:

He's sponsored scarcely any signficant legislation, according to my quick scan of Project Vote Smart and to the Time magazine reports. He seems to be more the kind of senator who makes a career out of representing his constituents and leading investigations.

You know, I'm feeling more hopeful about Kerry after reading this than before. There's no end to the number of congresspeople who will sponsor legislation, important or not, but of ones who will represent their constituents? If representing constituents has gotten to be a habit of his, it might carry over into his presidency.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 04:35 PM:

PNH: "The idea that political activism is a route to personal fulfillment is one that has left a lot of wreckage in its path."

And possibly, you know, inspired a few leaders, started a couple of movements, and agitated for genuine beneficial change in this country. But we'll ignore that in favor of yet again bashing radicalism wholesale.

Of course, there is the fact that it weren't for the Green party, together with the Sierra Club, the ELF, and those troublesome abortion-rights activists, GWB's policies actually would have been sane, moderate, and enlightened. It's clearly their fault that they weren't. And alienating all these "radicals"? Blaming them for the state of the country? That there is a fantastic way of convincing them to vote your way.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 06:56 PM:

Oy. I despair of making the point. Patrick, I agree with you. Yes, yes, I agree that a Kerry presidency would probably be a massive improvement over W. Bush. But I say probably, because the man has almost no track record, and he steadfastly refuses to publicly take positions--he has avoided filling out Project Vote Smart's NPAT, for instance. Fact of the matter is Kerry is successfully concealing information about what kind of president he would be, just as W. Bush did. I say that's cause for concern.

More later.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 07:14 PM:

Either I'm even more politically naive than I think I am, or I'm seriously misunderstanding the argument here. Or both, actually.

Isn't this the point of primaries? Disliking Kerry isn't tantamount to Liberal Ineffectualness. It's saying, the Democratic Party can do better. Which seems like a quite reasonable thing to say, really. Time enough to talk about expediency and the "lesser of two evils" when it's election time. During the primaries, can't we be allowed just the teensiest smidgen of choice?

Fer cryin' out loud, yes, enough already, just about anybody in the Democratic field this year would and will be a better president than Bush. I'll be voting for whoever gets the nomination. No bleeping debate. But they aren't all created equal! And though the debate may rapidly becoming irrelevant, it's quite possible that Edwards or Dean would have been a better Better Than Bush.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 09:05 PM:

Varia, the primaries are when the Democratic Party picks its marketing strategy, as it were. At any rate, its package design.

I may like a box that has lots of bright colors, with the predominant motif being wavy red and blue stripes 1/32" wide. But voting for that in the package-design meeting would be stupid, because it won't sell (unless it's a candy or kid cereal; but we're talking painkillers here).

I like Howard Dean. I even like the fact that he wasn't afraid to yell "Yeah!" to his supporters. And he (or Edwards) might well make a better President than Kerry (and even I would make a better one than Bush). But if Dean makes a lousy candidate, what kind of President he would be is irrelevant. We can't have it; it might as well be the moon.

The Democratic Party isn't particularly liberal at the moment, not as I understand the term. But it's definitely the left side of the mainstream in American politics. Dean was (among other things) too liberal for many Democratic primary voters. That does not bode well for his chances in the general election, where the electorate is distinctly more conservative.

The thing that's painful about Howard Dean is that he had so many praiseworthy disadvantages, much like my geas against lying, which is not a bad thing, but which makes me less effective at getting what I want: it's a practical disadvantage because it limits my options. That doesn't mean it's not a good thing - but you wouldn't hire me as your lawyer, not if you were smart.

Now, we all have to guess at who's the best candidate. But voting for someone in the primary just because you like him is really abdicating that responsibility. The right thing to do, IMO, is to choose the optimal combination of ideas, integrity, and electability. This election cycle, the consequences of losing (i.e. another four years of the Bush monster) are so grim that for me, and for many of us, electability dwarfs all other concerns.

I'm personally dreaming of a Kerry-Clark ticket. A Kerry-Edwards ticket wouldn't be bad either.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 09:08 PM:

Varia wrote:

"PNH: 'The idea that political activism is a route to personal fulfillment is one that has left a lot of wreckage in its path.'

"And possibly, you know, inspired a few leaders, started a couple of movements, and agitated for genuine beneficial change in this country. But we'll ignore that in favor of yet again bashing radicalism wholesale."

Elsewhere:

"Disliking Kerry isn't tantamount to Liberal Ineffectualness."

I think you're skim-reading in both cases. I didn't refer to Randolph's remarks as a prime example of liberal ineffectuality because he dislikes Kerry. What I was remarking on was Randolph's overriding concern with whether voters were making their choices for reasons Randolph approves of. From the way Randolph argued the point, one distinctly gets the idea that the actual choices matter less than whether they were made with what Randolph would consider a properly virtuous level of intellectual rigor.

As to the idea that I'm all about "bashing radicalism wholesale," er um. I'm a free-speech absolutist, a legalize-everything opponent of the War on Some Drugs, and far more willing to impose on the sanctity of private property (particularly corporate property) than 95% of the people who call themselves American liberals. What I'm not interested in is the "radicalism" of people who can't be bothered to choose between Gore-style Democratic centrism and the thoroughgoing looting of the common weal represented by George W. Bush and his gang, because their material circumstances won't be too badly affected in the immediately foreseeable future either way. That kind of "radicalism" I'm happy to bash -- retail.

There's been a delusion abroad in politically conscious, "left," "progressive" circles for over 150 years. That delusion is the notion that in order for things to get better, we often have to let them get worse. This belief is as convenient to the personal needs of certain lefty progressives as a belief in private wealth being ordained by God is convenient to the personal needs of the extremely rich. It licenses an immense number of omissions, withdrawals, hard choices avoided, failures to engage. It gives us permission to decline to interact with our annoyingly provincial neighbors. It valorizes our disinclination to struggle for tiny incremental gains. It tells us we're heroes when really we're just stuck up.

I'm a radical. I believe in making little bits of progress wherever and whenever they can be made. I think that's how you get to the "root" of problems: by getting into the world and working at them. Yes, by God, sometimes the material circumstances of a conflict call for spectacular, even theatrical challenges to the status quo. Dorothy Day knew that; Martin Luther King knew that; and they knew how and when to do it. But just as often, the realities of the world call for boring hard work in which we're unlikely to find any sort of immediately satisfactory self-actualization. It's worth doing anyway. But don't tell me I'm "bashing radicalism" because I make note of the fact that politics won't always make us happy.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 11:23 PM:

I think you're skim-reading in both cases. I didn't refer to Randolph's remarks as a prime example of liberal ineffectuality because he dislikes Kerry. What I was remarking on was Randolph's overriding concern with whether voters were making their choices for reasons Randolph approves of. From the way Randolph argued the point, one distinctly gets the idea that the actual choices matter less than whether they were made with what Randolph would consider a properly virtuous level of intellectual rigor.

Ok. I'm not sure that's a fair characterization of his argument, but on better reading I can a.) see why it would read like that and b.) get that part of your argument.

That kind of "radicalism" I'm happy to bash -- retail.

:)

For the record: I think the "get worse before it gets better" is just as pernicious as you do, but (when referring to the last election, which is the only time I know of it happening recently--see comments about politically naive, above) I try to restrict most of my blame for Nader rather than the Green party as a whole. Most Greens I know voted that way simply because the views best reflected theirs, end of story. While that might be abdicating the strategic possibilities of one's vote, I think it's an entirely justifiable interpretation of "democracy". A "strategic" view involves at best vague guesses and at worst some painful cynicism.

I'm a radical. I believe in making little bits of progress wherever and whenever they can be made. I think that's how you get to the "root" of problems: by getting into the world and working at them. Yes, by God, sometimes the material circumstances of a conflict call for spectacular, even theatrical challenges to the status quo. Dorothy Day knew that; Martin Luther King knew that; and they knew how and when to do it. But just as often, the realities of the world call for boring hard work in which we're unlikely to find any sort of immediately satisfactory self-actualization. It's worth doing anyway. But don't tell me I'm "bashing radicalism" because I make note of the fact that politics won't always make us happy.

Well. Yes. However: most people wouldn't make it in activism, radical or otherwise, without a large emotional commitment (sorry if that seems tritely obvious). It's a rare individual who can devote their life to a cause in which they have solely an intellectual, abstract concern. Your comment read as dismissing all self-driven activism, which seems like a silly position to take, and certainly didn't acknowledge that activism as a route to personal fulfillment might have also done some good.

I was, however reading into it perhaps a tidge too much to connect it to the orgies of Green-bashing that occasionally go on here.

Xopher--sorry, I just don't buy the electability thing. I hope this point hasn't been made before, but as far as I can see "electability" is a tautology. The voters in the Democratic primary are largely the people who'll be voting for the candidate in November. If primary voters like the candidate, he or she is "electable", meaning he or she deserves the nomination. Circular, so why not vote for the one you like?

As far as appeal to centrists and swing voters...meh. One thing Bush has done successfully is to polarize the country, and I don't think there's that many left. I think "getting out the vote" is going to be far more important.

On a completely disconnected note: "it has to get worse before it gets better" seems like it has actually happened--not in the Green party's benefit, but too many people are too scared of Bush to vote for him. Sucks for them that it benefits Dems instead, but such is life.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 11:40 PM:

For what it's worth, I don't bear any great personal animosity to Greens. Mind you, after 2000, I will never, ever, ever vote for anyone running on their ticket, but I'm sure many of them are perfectly nice people.

"Most Greens I know voted that way simply because the views best reflected theirs, end of story. While that might be abdicating the strategic possibilities of one's vote, I think it's an entirely justifiable interpretation of 'democracy'."

Yes, and so is my resolve to see the Green Party forever crushed and humiliated at every turn, as their reward for deliberately bequeathing us George W. Bush.

Funny about "democracy," you know. Run against someone, declare yourself opposed to their dearest aims, deliver the country into the hands of their bitterest opponent, and remarkably, they may well hold it against you. Gracious, they may not even buy your image of yourself as an above-it-all moral paragon!

That darn electorate. In the final analysis, you may have to have them replaced.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 12:00 AM:

That darn electorate. In the final analysis, you may have to have them replaced.

Goodness. Channeling Bush so early in the day? Anti-psychotic drugs just aren't what they used to be.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 12:08 AM:

Goodness, that pretty much sums it up. To observe that running against a political party is likely to provoke its enmity is exactly the same thing as being a psychotic who needs drugs.

A nicer illustration of the Greens' moral squalor I couldn't possibly imagine.

As I've said more than once, your typical Green appears to be genuinely shocked that liberal Democrats can't be relied upon to regard them as some kind of super-moral, super-committed liberal Democrat. Gracious, we have this tendency to regard them as some sort of enemy, just because they run against us and try to defeat us and stuff. Holy cow, we must be trying to suppress them! Now we see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I'm being repressed!

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 12:19 AM:

"Most Greens I know voted that way simply because the views best reflected theirs, end of story."

But that wasn't the end of the story. It never is. It's going on right now. It will continue.

There are people dead over some of the turns that story's taken, and people whose dearest dreams have been crushed, and people who've lost body parts it's nightmarish to even think about losing. The role we're playing at Gitmo would be recognizable in any movie script ever made as the Bad Guys.

We've piled up extravagant debts that our children will still be paying off when many of us are dead. There's been an appalling loss of the international good will and credibility we'd accumulated over a century or two of good deeds and good examples, and a commensurate loss of faith, here and abroad, in all those cooperative democratic values we're supposed to hold so dear.

I could go on. I must suppose you know at least the outlines of this litany of damage.

I fear you have mistaken voting for pornography. This is an error. A vote is not a private satisfaction, chosen solely for the exactness of its match with your own personal tastes. A vote is a social act or it is nothing. It has larger consequences in the larger context, and those consequences go on propagating until another set cancels them out.

Voting the perfection of your own conscience is a great luxury. We didn't have it. We're getting billed for it now. The cost is terrible.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 01:52 AM:

I'll confess--I voted for Nader in 2000 (and in 1996, for that matter). In a state that went for Gore, if that helps any.

Knowing what I know now, of course I wouldn't do it again, and will vote for the Democrat this year even if it's old Talking Lincoln.

But that's with 20/20 hindsight. No one foresaw, or could have foreseen, the Florida debacle, 9/11, or the Democrats throwing away the 2002 election. I didn't expect Bush to win at all (and hey... I was right!), and if I did, I was expecting, at worst, Reagan, not a Mussolini understudy. Even that seemed unlikely.

But I was wrong. And while I think the Democrats also have a lot to answer for, I'll let any of y'all call me any names you want if it'll help you get it out of your system so that we can form a united front against W. Once we win in 2004 we can go back to the usual circular firing squad. Deal?

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 02:18 AM:

Tim:

Hear, hear.

You know what? I voted Democrat. And I still refuse to accept that we can blame the current state of the country on the Green Party.

I nearly frothed at the mouth the last time I heard Nader on the radio. The man is at best an egomaniac, and at worst dangerously irresponsible. That does not change the fact that our current administration has caused its own problems. Our current administration had wonderful "satisfaction ratings" throughout most of its first three years, because the voters of this country agreed with Bush. You think that's the Green Party's fault?

And worst of all, you think these diatribes are doing anything to help our cause? Swing voters, hmm, and electability. If the Green party was significant enough to swing the 2000 elections, they still are now, and screaming that you can blame any single stinking one of Bush's murderous incompetencies on them isn't doing a darn thing.

Patrick, I'm sorry if the anti-psychotic remark pissed you off. I assumed, given that you started off saying that you "bear no great personal animosity towards Greens", that the last part of your post was sarcasm, intended to point out the folly of extremity. I replied in kind. It was clearly a misreading.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 02:38 AM:

I nearly frothed at the mouth the last time I heard Nader on the radio. The man is at best an egomaniac, and at worst dangerously irresponsible.

His behavior since 2000 has turned me off completely. If I were ever to vote Green for president again, it would have to be somebody else.

Out of curiosity, how do y'all on the Green-hatin' tip feel about Matt Gonzalez' near-victory in the SF mayor's race? That, I thought, was Green politics at its best--local, focused, competitive, and keeping up the pressure from the left even after defeat.

But a lot of Democrats seem to think that voting Green even in that scenario was giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 02:50 AM:

What bothers me about a lot of the post-Dean griping is that a lot of it seems to reduce actual voters to the status of unconscious pawns, which is a funny way for liberals to talk. As Teresa said about the Kerry surge in Iowa and New Hampshire, "One suspects the voters had something to do with it."

I'm not sure what she's talking about here. At least half the voters have been saying they're making their choices on the basis of electability. I think they're wrong. That happens to me a lot. I'm generally listening to that different drummer.

I'm not asking anybody to be happy about anything. Politics in a democracy isn't about making yourself happy, it's about coming up with the result that the largest number of people can live with. The idea that political activism is a route to personal fulfillment is one that has left a lot of wreckage in its path.

This paragraph is making me grind my teeth with the effort not to scream. I am not happy with the situation not because my personal fulfillment has been ignored but because I think the voters are making the wrong choices for the wrong reasons. This also happens to me a lot. I dislike intensely your implying otherwise. I have said over and over and over that I think the most important thing we can do is get rid of those, those, words fail me, currently occupying the seat of government. That I think it is of paramount concern is why I'm really upset that what I think are the wrong choices are being made. Just what the hell is it you want me to do that I'm not doing?

MKK

Leah A ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 05:48 AM:

This is one of the most splendid comment threads I've read in an age.

Patrick, bravo.

My father was a life-long socialist of the British variety (I was the only kid on my block who knew who Keir Hardee was), and also a life-long Democrat. In 1948, when all his friends were voting for Wallace, he not only voted for Truman, but got out and worked for him, too. I was only a wee lass, but I remember carrying the handouts when he'd go to speak to union groups. Truman's firing of MacArthur was sufficient justification for my father's time and energy: "try and imagine Tom Dewey doing that," he'd always say.

Theresa, yes! So much damage.

Democrats need Dean and his movement, so perhaps we in blogtopia, (thank-you skippy). can figure out a few ways to remind them and ourselves of that.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 08:40 AM:

I think the thing that bothers me the most about the debate over the Green role in the last election is in headlong pursuit of their goals, Green supporters condoned a great deal of politics as usual on the part of their leaders (accepting thirdparty ad money from Republicans in the final days of the campaign, for instance).

If you're running as the party of purity, and purity is all you have to balance against the staggering human costs you've accepted as the consequences of your actions (largely for others to pay) in return, you have to be above reproach.

The leadership of the Green Party and their candidate cut corners on the only thing they promised their voters. One hundred percent is a pretty high percentage of campaign promises to throw away before the election even takes place.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 08:49 AM:

Varia, I don't in fact "bear any great personal animosity toward Greens." The point I don't seem to be getting across is that their decisions in 2000 have made me permanently antagonistic to their political aspirations.

Look, I'm a big believer in coalition politics, and in breaking bread with the devil when necessary. But when it comes to Ralph Nader and the Green Party, I find that I'm fresh out of forgive-and-forget. For individual voters who supported Nader, it's different. I may be incredulous at the idea that nobody could have foreseen how bad Bush II would be, but goodness knows I've made lousy predictions and bad calls myself. However, I'm not running for office, and neither are the individuals in question. The Green Party, on the other hand, wants me to trust it with power in a variety of local and national elections. But its blunder in 2000 guarantees that I will never trust it, or anyone foolish enough to run on their line.

"A vote is not a private satisfaction, chosen solely for the exactness of its match with your own personal tastes. A vote is a social act or it is nothing."

Exactly.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 09:07 AM:

Mary Kay quotes me:

"What bothers me about a lot of the post-Dean griping is that a lot of it seems to reduce actual voters to the status of unconscious pawns, which is a funny way for liberals to talk. As Teresa said about the Kerry surge in Iowa and New Hampshire, 'One suspects the voters had something to do with it.'"

--and responds:

"I'm not sure what she's talking about here. At least half the voters have been saying they're making their choices on the basis of electability. I think they're wrong. That happens to me a lot. I'm generally listening to that different drummer."

Do you mean you think they're wrong about who's electable, or that they're wrong to choose on the basis of electability?

If you mean the first, well, you know I always thought to "Dean is unelectable" meme was overblown, but the fact does remain that around the time of Iowa and New Hampshire, multiple national polls were showing Dean losing badly to Bush and Kerry either beating Bush or losing in a much closer race. For Democrats to consider this fact when choosing who to support doesn't seem to me on the face of it to be irrational.

If you mean the second, I thoroughly disagree, for reasons best stated by Teresa in her observations (quoted by me above) about what voting is and isn't.

I'm not sure what drummers have to do with it in either case. Teresa's point wasn't that the people who voted for Kerry over Dean were necessarily correct, but rather that most of them probably were making their choices with their eyes reasonably open. Yes, of course bad media coverage and sharp campaign practices can lead to large parts of any given electorate being deceived; but when we find ourselves repeatedly talking as if the voters are sheep and we're the only people who know the truth, we're probably on the wrong path.

I'm not saying you've been talking like this. This exchange started with me making a broad generalization about a certain kind of discourse; I wasn't trying to single you out as some kind of Bad Example, or demand you be someone other than who you are.

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 11:39 AM:

I think I simply didn't see the kinds of behavior you're talking about, and I hadn't heard anything about accepting Republican ad money. The Greens on my campus, for the most part, promoted a platform I couldn't argue with; vote Green for local elections, vote Democrat for the national. Either they were a splinter perspective, or one that's been seriously under-recognized.

Teresa said: "A vote is not a private satisfaction, chosen solely for the exactness of its match with your own personal tastes. A vote is a social act or it is nothing."

While that and the preceding argument were beautifully written, I think you're drawing a false or at least incomplete distinction. I think one can say in all honesty--as Erik Olsen did another thread--that as a "social" act, one cannot choose to support either of our major parties. Both parties have betrayed enough voters, enough promises, enough groups of people, that disillusionment, anger, and a hope for even symbolic gain for a third party makes such a vote conceivable and not subject to moralizing. I may not vote that way, but I sure as hell will not be spewing hatred over the people that do.

In the case above, voting Green (for example), for your somewhat-uninformed voter who doesn't know firsthand the Green party's own reprehensible actions, can be both an act of conscience and a social act. On the (perhaps mistaken) assumption that the state one votes in will be going Democrat anyway, voting Green makes sense; the delegates are locked up anyway, and it gives a smaller party a better chance at their magical 5%. How is that not a "social act"?

What bothers me most is not that people are pissed at the Green Party or at Nader or third-party-politics in general. What bothers me is that the strongest vilification, the worst criticism, and the bloodiest anger (at least on a quick-scan of the "read all bys"), seems to be reserved for the Greens, and that I just don't get. As I said above, GWB has been a bloody atrocity as a president, but I save my hate-spewing for him, rather than a third party that may or may not have contributed to his election. To have the priorities the other ways reminds me of feminists destroying other women in preference to the patriarchy. It might be easier to assuage one's own sense of betrayal, but on the whole you're not getting anywhere. Sheesh, channel it towards..oh..promoting Instant Run-off Voting, and you'd be a heck of a lot more productive.

Patrick, as a clarification, are you angry because the Greens may have cost Al Gore the election, or are you angry because of their campaign tactics?

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 12:32 PM:

Do you mean you think they're wrong about who's electable, or that they're wrong to choose on the basis of electability?

The former. I had, at one time, thought the latter but further thought showed me the error of my ways. My thoughts in the matter of choosing the wrong person are based on my personal discussions with Republicans and Independants I actually know. None of whom are willing to vote for Kerry. I don't really much trust polls. So much depends on how questions are asked and data massaged. Shrug. I've been wrong before; I can handle it. In this case being wrong would be easier to handle than being right.

I'm not saying you've been talking like this. This exchange started with me making a broad generalization about a certain kind of discourse; I wasn't trying to single you out as some kind of Bad Example, or demand you be someone other than who you are.

Then you should stop using my words as talking points in your rants. Which you did repeatedly in the two comments I responded to directly. That sort of thing does make a person feel singled out, ya know?

MKK

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 12:44 PM:

The Greens on my campus, for the most part, promoted a platform I couldn't argue with; vote Green for local elections, vote Democrat for the national. Either they were a splinter perspective, or one that's been seriously under-recognized.

That was the original mainstream Green position. But I note with disgust that there are four candidates for president in the Green primary this year. I'll be voting for "None of the Above."

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 12:46 PM:

Tim: "mainstream Green"

Something about that phrase just makes me grin. Ah, ever-splintering splinter parties.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 01:09 PM:

"What bothers me most is not that people are pissed at the Green Party or at Nader or third-party-politics in general. What bothers me is that the strongest vilification, the worst criticism, and the bloodiest anger (at least on a quick-scan of the'read all bys'), seems to be reserved for the Greens, and that I just don't get."

I think you'd have a very hard time showing that I've levelled more, or more severe, criticism at Ralph Nader, the Green Party, or Green voters than I have at George W. Bush. Electrolite is my own "read all by"; give it a look.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 03:19 PM:

Mary Kay,

Electability is a guessing game, gods know. However, if Dean (whom I favor) is unable to convince a majority of Democrats that he's electable, well, maybe he isn't, after all. It seems like a reasonable test. The news media was absolutely and enormously unfair. However, I don't see that they would have magically up and started playing fair if Dean had won the nomination. Frankly, I suspect they would have turned up the heat. Dean was somebody they really didn't quite know how to deal with, and they fell back on even worse than usual cliches and lies.

Dean's smart. I think he pulled out at the right time. I hope he got some leverage out of it. Played right, he should be able to be a serious force within the party, which can't be a bad thing (I hope).

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 03:32 PM:

Kerry as the face and voice, with Dean tugging him to the left. Not a bad thing, no. Could be a very good thing.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Dean's going to tug Kerry to the Left? Now THAT is the best joke I've seen all day.

The worst, of course, is that Nader plans to run as something, and will announce on _Meet the Press_ this Sunday.

Stefanie Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 04:40 PM:

vote Green for local elections, vote Democrat for the national.

While this strategy has merits, another thing to consider is that local elections materially affect national elections. In its area, the local Democratic party machine has a great deal to do with the national campaign, and if Democrats are in office, the machine is that much more effective.

I am not necessarily saying not to follow the above strategy, or that the Dems are always the best choice for local office (or even that party machines don't carry their own set of unpleasant connotations). But it's also important to remember that local elections do materially impact national ones.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 04:42 PM:

Lydy: You're quite right and reasonable of course. Isn't it a shame that one of the electability considerations has to be who can be lied about with less damage? What happened to Dean really broke my heart but I don't think I'm letting that color my perceptions about other candidates. (Of course I could quite easily be wrong -- I lie to/fool myself all the time.) My fears about Kerry's electability are based on actual conversations I've had with real people not on polls. I don't really trust polls, they're too easy to slant. Of course, the selection of people I know is not a population without bias.

Apart from all that, you haven't been around much and I've been missing you. Hope everything is well.

MKK

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 05:08 PM:

"What I was remarking on was Randolph's overriding concern with whether voters were making their choices for reasons Randolph approves of."

Yes, of course, people make their own choices for their own reasons and will learn from them and this is the purpose of life, etc, etc. But people were actually better informed about the politics of W. Bush before the 2000 election than they are about Kerry's politics right now. So, unless you're going to argue that W. Bush is acting in the interests of most of the people who voted for him, voters can be persuaded to make electoral choices against their own interests, as defined by themselves. I think there are clear signs that Kerry is going to be some sort of trouble (never trust charismatic men who can't be pinned down) and that Kerry's rhetorical skill is enabling him to conceal that.

Now, don't get me wrong--this year I'm a yellow dog Democrat. But, should Kerry win, I think--though he will probably be much better than W. Bush--he is likely to do considerable harm.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 05:36 PM:

Mary Kay, way too many cold, hard facts are a crying shame. Yes, I think that what I've seen so far has been a bummer -- nowhere near as appalling as the 2000 campaign and the lies about Gore, but quite distressing enough.

I keep on trying to think about how to phrase this so that it sounds charasmatic: this year, we have to fight, and if we must, we have to fight without hope. Hope is lovely when it sustains us, but it is a traitor when it flees in the face of facts, leaving us frozen and despairing. It doesn't matter if we think we can't win, because the only other thing we can do is despair.

We have to deal with the cold, hard facts on the ground, and we will probably have to make repellant choices, because a half a baby is better than none (no, wait, I got that part wrong). Look, even Solomon would have a hard time unsorting the state we're in, ok? None of which means that grieving is inappropriate. It's just that there's so much danger that grieving will interfere with moving on to the next bit, is the thing. My guess is that's why people keep on fretting at you. So many people do drop out after their candidate fails, and this year, we can't afford to lose a single one.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 05:49 PM:

Lydy: Well, but I've already said here, there and everywhere that I will keep working and giving money and trying my best to do the right thing for our party and our country. That I think this is the most important election of my lifetime and we have to win it. Being who I am, I'm probably not capable of doing that without bitching though.

Hope and I have a very rocky relationship. Every time she promises me it will be different if I let her back into my life and it never is and I have to throw her out again. You'd think I'd learn. I'm really deeply weird in that I function better when I don't have Hope around.

MKK

Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 08:57 PM:

I always wondered about Pandora's box, and why hope wasn't considered just another curse. Brightly colored, shiny, and seductive, but no less dangerous or destructive. But then, we're cut from the same cloth on that one.

Here's the thing: I know you aren't giving up and you know you aren't giving up and so do bunches of other people, but your bitching sounds too much like defeatism. Oh, I completely believe in the right of everyone to bitch at all times and about every damn thing they want. I bitch as a hobby, thank you very much.

It's delicate times for the Deanies. A bunch of them probably feel betrayed, worn out, and despairing. I want them angry. I want them moving. I want them focussed on winning this time, and then the next time, and the time after that. I want them to understand that it wasn't _Dean_, it was _us_. We were the power, and the momentum, and we lost but we're _still here_, and we can contribute in unique ways. Change comes in increments, and Dean was too large an increment. Well, ok, so let's bite off a little less. Power to the people, dammit. Candidates are nothing without votes.

For the really sorrowful kvetching, I'm planning to wait until after the election. I move slow myself, but I sure don't want to slow anyone else down.

By the way, I thought Dean's email announcing his withdrawal from the race and thanking his supporters was brilliant. It made me want to get up and start slugging again. It didn't make me want to give up, it made me want to figure out which candidate I liked best and go work for him. Now that's artful writing.

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 09:14 PM:

Randolph: "unless you're going to argue that W. Bush is acting in the interests of most of the people who voted for him"

I'll argue that. He's definitely acted in the interests of at least three Supreme Court justices.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 10:09 PM:

Varia: The voters in the Democratic primary are largely the people who'll be voting for the candidate in November.

This isn't even vaguely true -- if it were, there would have been no need to hand the last election to the Supreme Court. It's true that turnout at primaries has been higher than usual this year, but my loose recollection of figures is that primary voters are about half the general-election voters. The guesswork -- and it's not much more than guesswork at this point -- is over what the people who only show up for the general election will do.

For those of you who despise Kerry (and I'm far from enchanted with him) consider this: how will he use the bully pulpit? How many comforting lies will he tell the people, and how much will he move the center of the debate leftward (as Clinton too often did not)?

I really don't know whether Kerry is more electable than Dean; I don't know whether someone who could out-campaign Harry Truman would have better against Bush than Kerry (or maybe Edwards) will. Despite becoming more and more personally cautious, I still liked to see a candidate with gumption -- but I have no idea how all the other voters in this country would have reacted.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 10:40 PM:

And now that we have established that I am elitist snob, I want to return to other aspects of the problem.

Putting on my yellow dog Democrat hat for a moment, what arguments can I use in support of Kerry? "He's a heroic vet" is pretty good. "He's better than Bush" is only likely to persuade wavering Democrats. And the Honorable Senator from Massachusetts doesn't seem to have given us much else to work with--if his oratory cannot carry the day, there's little else. I suspect this is the source of the problem Mary Kay sees.

Mary Kay, Lydia--the true hope in politics is always in the long term; sometimes the very long term. Susan B. Anthony retired; all US women finally gained the vote 14 years after her death.

Pericat: You know, I'm feeling more hopeful about Kerry after reading this than before. There's no end to the number of congresspeople who will sponsor legislation, important or not, but of ones who will represent their constituents? If representing constituents has gotten to be a habit of his, it might carry over into his presidency.

For a Senator, that's enough; for a chief executive and head of state, there needs to be more: he has to be able to engage the national public in debate, or be marginalized; perhaps even made a tool of a Republican Congress. And to do that he has to have ideas and imagination, nether of which I can find in his record.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2004, 11:42 PM:

I may be incredulous at the idea that nobody could have foreseen how bad Bush II would be, but goodness knows I've made lousy predictions and bad calls myself.

Hey, I thought Bush would be an absolutely terrible President, but I sure as hell couldn't forsee how bad he would be.

I was fully expecting him to make a run at being the worst President of my lifetime; what I wasn't expecting was for his sheer awfulness to completely surpass my knowledge of history.

I mean, he blew past Nixon and Reagan fairly quickly, and passed Harding shortly thereafter; but when he reached all the way back to being the worst President since Rutherford B. Hayes, I lost the ability to make further comparisons with any degree of accuracy. I'm afraid I simply don't know enough about Franklin Pierce or Taylor or Tyler or the first Harrison to say for sure.


The same thing goes with Ashcroft: He blew past Mitchell in a heartbeat, but I just don't know enough about allocating blame for the Alien and Sedition Acts to confidently declare him the worst AG ever. Actually, no, wait. Who am I kidding? The Alien and Sedition Acts would be a mere appetizer for Ashcroft's seven-course meal of horror. So never mind about that one, then.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2004, 10:20 PM:

"I'm afraid I simply don't know enough about Franklin Pierce or Taylor or Tyler or the first Harrison to say for sure."

Well, the first Harrison was President for less than a month, before achieving the distinction of being the first President to die in office, so it's hardly fair to rate him as one of the Bad Presidents.

John Tyler, his successor, was an oddball. Among other interesting Tyler facts (paging Eliani Torres, Clarion West 2003!), depending on your view of Confederate sovereignity 1861-1865, it could be argued that Tyler is the only American President to die a citizen of a country other than the US. (He died in 1862 while serving as Senator from Virginia, in the Confederate Senate.)

Zachary Taylor probably also doesn't deserve to be on the Bad Presidents list. He was actually displaying some intelligence and initiative in response to the growing North-South logjam when he dropped dead after eating too many cherries at a picnic.

Which brings us to Franklin Pierce, definitely a contender for most ineffectual President in American history -- saved from the crown by the ever-useful James Buchanan, since it's hard to beat having the country slide into actual civil war on your watch. Among Pierce's salient characteristics: morbid and disabling depression and a propensity to alcholism! Indeed, he is almost certainly the only ex-President to die of advanced alcohol abuse. Entertainingly, he's a collateral ancestor of George W. Bush, through his mother Barbara.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 12:52 AM:

Ah, crap. I got my Harrisons reversed. Serves me right for not double-checking it first.

I wonder who I had Zachary Taylor mixed up with?

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 02:29 AM:

quoth Chip: "This isn't even vaguely true -- if it were, there would have been no need to hand the last election to the Supreme Court. It's true that turnout at primaries has been higher than usual this year, but my loose recollection of figures is that primary voters are about half the general-election voters. The guesswork -- and it's not much more than guesswork at this point -- is over what the people who only show up for the general election will do.

I've been trying, continuously, to come up with an answer that doesn't amount to "....oh. good point." in a very sheepish tone of voice, because it's a really obvious point. while I remain a bit dubious of electability, it does logically knock out the tautology argument.

I don't know what you mean by the Supreme Court thing, though?

Patrick, I'm still working on a reply to the post about Green-bashing vs. Bush-bashing. It involves rather a lot of data. I remain curious about the answer to my question (pissed about effects versus methods?).

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 03:16 AM:

Reviewing this further, and without a headfull of antihistamines (the poor maintenance where I live is causing me to burst out in hives), quite a few more thoughts.

"From the way Randolph argued the point, one distinctly gets the idea that the actual choices matter less than whether they were made with what Randolph would consider a properly virtuous level of intellectual rigor."

Well, on re-reading it does sound rather like something an offended conservative would write. But I think the basic point stands: if we choose our presidents on superficial qualities, we will usually be disappointed in them. And, if you think about it, we usually have been; the greats--or even goods--among US presidents are a small minority. I am more and more convinced of a need for structural reform in US politics. I hope that the kind of activism Dean and moveon.org are inventing will be part of that reform.

"What bothers me is that the strongest vilification, the worst criticism, and the bloodiest anger (at least on a quick-scan of the 'read all bys'), seems to be reserved for the Greens, and that I just don't get." Green-bashing does seem to be seductive for Democrats. (Side note: one of the best reason to be careful with political bashing is the way it can run away with one.) I think the the reason it is so harsh is because, after 2000, many Democrats see the Greens as either traitors or heretics.

Finally, to all the loyal Dean supporters who are so bitterly disappointed: to stay politically caring in the long term one must give loyalty to causes and groups: particular elections may be lost or won. And even if Kerry wins there will be much to be done. Our politics have, as the Union of Concerned Scientists report shows, wandered far from reality. House elections are now, seemingly, decided by districting rather than the interests of voters. (See the Jeff Toobin article in The New Yorker.) The level of violent hatred that the radical right has engendered is such that it will take years before the risk of internal terrorism is reduced--I am expecting violence at the next national elections. This election is going to be a battle in war that I expect will last decades; win or lose, we cannot focus only on it but rather must look to the decades.

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 07:51 AM:

You're really on a roll Patrick. Fun stuff.

As a disappointed Dean supporter, I'm going to keep most of my post-Dean grousing to myself, since I decided early on that venting it would only help Bush. That having been said, while I am willing to give monthly to the DNC to defeat Bush (through Atrios), I don't think I'll be donating directly to Kerry, should he end up the nominee, unless Kerry does a lot to improve my opinion of him. I am a bit mystified by his appeal (I'm being serious here, not mean).

Dean is significantly to the right of his base. He attracted interesting supporters I felt I had a lot in common with. When Dean fired Trippi, he left me in an awkward spot, unsure whether my loyalty was really to Dean himself or to the manner of his campaign (for which Trippi was largely responsible).

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 12:04 PM:

Varia: the SuCo reference was clumsily put. What I was trying to point to was my recollection (possibly wrong) that more people vote in Democratic primaries than in Republican ones; if only the primary voters had voted in the general election, Gore would have had an electoral majority. I can \not/ point to hard numbers on this and would love to see any that can be found.

Randolph: Green-bashing does seem to be seductive for Democrats. I suppose some of this is the 2nd stage of grief (as laid out in many sources, most recently the Slushkiller discussion on the adjacent blog), hardened by the fact that some readings of the numbers do make the Green vote the reason Gore lost. (I consider this unknowable, absent the loan of a paratime conveyor; since the percentage of eligibles voting went up for the first time in many elections, it can be argued that some of the Green voters turned out only because there was a Green candidate.) There have also been quotes suggesting that individual branches of the Greens deliberately run where they expect to thereby throw the election to the Republicans; OTOH I've run into people who claim Nader never said there was no difference between the two parties.

My guess is that raging at the Greens will not get them to turn out against the Shrub -- but I know my reactions to other people aren't near the median, so that guess is probably worth less than it cost you to read it.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 12:22 PM:

"If we choose our presidents on superficial qualities, we will usually be disappointed in them."

Quite so, but the possibility (I would say probability) that I might be merely "disappointed" in a President Kerry or a President Edwards is about fifty miles back from being one of my primary concerns at the moment.

Most politicians disappoint. It's in the nature of democratic politics: most people don't agree with you, most of the time. And most of the time, politicians are going to be catering to the needs and desires of other people, the bastards. If your goal is to be led by politicians who deliver non-stop inspiration and satisfaction, you are going to be disappointed.

The problem with the current regime isn't that it's "disappointing." The problem with the current regime is that it's going to wreck our lives and quite possibly get us killed. Under those circumstances, withering about whether some other politician might "disappoint" seems like a case of misplaced priorities.

"This election is going to be a battle in war that I expect will last decades; win or lose, we cannot focus only on it but rather must look to the decades."

That I certainly agree with.

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 02:42 PM:

Well, Nader's done it.

But this time he's running as an Independent, not a Green. Guess all that talk about getting Green matching funds was just that.

tomb ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 04:04 PM:

Lydia wrote:

I keep on trying to think about how to phrase this so that it sounds charasmatic: this year, we have to fight, and if we must, we have to fight without hope. Hope is lovely when it sustains us, but it is a traitor when it flees in the face of facts, leaving us frozen and despairing. It doesn't matter if we think we can't win, because the only other thing we can do is despair.

I remember my mom and I having a talk about hope. She was volunteering as a legal secretary on death penalty appeals. She couldn't do it without hope, but she had to be realistic. It was very hard, but it was fulfilling for her, so she kept on.

We can always have hope. What we can't do is expect, for nothing is ever certain. Hope is not for what will be. It is for what could be, if we try, and enough others do the same. Hope doesn't betray us. We can fail. We can abandon hope. But hope is something we can have when nothing else is left.

Not that things are so bad yet. With some luck and hard work, they'll be better, he said hopefully.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 04:39 PM:

Kathryn got it correct; Dean's supporters are LEFT of Dean. In fact, I suspect they are closer to Edwards than either Kerry or Dean, and likely closer to Kerry than Dean.

I'm currrently more interested in Bob Graham's declaration that he would be willing to be Vice President than Nader's run for president. (Nader supporters didn't even get their 30 pieces of silver--excuse me, $12MM in matching funds for this round--which I personally DO see as a flaw of the Green party's selection process, and therefore a endemic party flaw, fwiw.)

But that may be because I think of Graham as Lieberman-lite, and would lose all interest in the Democratic ticket if he were Kerry's wingman.

Not that I wouldn't vote ABB, but it will--as I think people have been observing without saying--make it more difficult to try to convince fence-sitters, Deaniacs, and others to vote.

A vote not cast is likely a vote for Bush, if it comes from that constituency.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 04:48 PM:

I dunno. Bob Graham doesn't make my heart race, either, but he brings a couple of intriguing things to the table:

(1) He's deeply wired into the intelligence world and knows where a lot of bodies are buried, and

(2) He's never lost a statewide election in Florida.

Probably not enough to make me enthusiastic about him on the ticket, but certainly enough to make me willing to hear the case.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 07:52 PM:

Slacktivist just now posted some longish quotes from an recent interview with Tony Kushner. There's already a quote from this interview in my commonplaces section, but I'm struck by how well it all applies to the conversation we've been having in this thread:

"Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this. [...]

"The system isn't about ideals. The country doesn't elect great leaders. It elects fucked-up people who for reasons of ego want to run the world. Then the citizenry makes them become great. FDR was a plutocrat. In a certain sense he wasn't so different from George W. Bush, and he could have easily been Herbert Hoover, Part II. But he was a smart man, and the working class of America told him that he had to be the person who saved this country. It happened with Lyndon Johnson, too, and it could have happened with Bill Clinton, but we were so relieved after 12 years of Reagan and Bush that we sat back and carped. [...]

"I think what one has to do is to ask oneself, 'Do you want to have agency in your own time?' If you really believe that it's your place to leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived, then how do you get the power? In this country, the most powerful country on earth, you get it by voting the right people into power. There are means of getting the power out of the hands of the very rich and the very wicked. It still flabbergasts me that people didn't see this during the last presidential election. [...] It's absolutely jaw-dropping that Democrats saw that and decided instead that they wanted to send a message to their own party that they weren't happy with it for some relatively minor offense. Why didn't we turn out in vast numbers for Gore? Why did we vote for Ralph Nader or not at all?"

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 09:40 PM:

Patrick, first off, as far as support for Kerry goes, you are preaching to the converted here.

"The problem with the current regime isn't that it's 'disappointing.' The problem with the current regime is that it's going to wreck our lives and quite possibly get us killed."

Just so. But if we choose our Presidents based on superficialities we will get greatness, mere disappointment, or stunning heartbreak, at random. There lies my concern. I don't think Kerry will be in the "stunning heartbreak" category and W. Bush already is, so I will support Kerry. But I have no solid reason to believe that, because I have so little solid information about Kerry.

Last night, though, rethinking my remarks, I went over my knowlege of 20th-century presidents. Now there were three I'd put in my "heartbreak" category: Harding, Reagan, and Nixon. About 25% of the years; that's a pretty poor electoral track record. But I decided that many presidents outside of that category had made horrific mistakes. My list would be: Teddy Roosevelt--imperialism, Wilson--missionary imperialism, Hoover--bad economics, FDR--demanding an unconditional surrender from Japan, JFK--failing to support Kruschev's reforms, LBJ--Vietnam. To my surprise, I find that even presidents I regard as good often made spectacular botches in foreign policy. I think this probably points up systemic problems. We have the whole USA to pick from--why aren't our Presidents usually excellent, even when we don't agree with them?

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 10:03 PM:

Not all of Dean's supporters are to his left. Like a fair number of libertarians on the Bush Must Go program, I favor Dean or Edwards (it's a toss-up), and it would take a lot of straining to produce a map that puts me on the left of either one of them.

I've been thinking a lot about responsibility in elections lately. It's a foregone conclusion that a candidate I really like has no chance - the Libertarian Party's almost always in the hands of flakes or worse, and hey, it's a fringe outlook. So...what, then? I really underestimated how bad Bush would be. I thought, and still do, that much of the serious criticism leveled at him was so strident as to be untrustworthy. But not all of it was. In retrospect, there are warning signs I should have paid more heed to, and leads that I didn't follow up on partly because of the comfy sense that from my vantage point, anyone likely to become a candidate for either major party would come out much the same in big practical ways.

I was wrong.

I don't bear a lot of blame for the results, I don't think, but I do think I bear some. In the end, I didn't vote for Bush, but neither did I vote for Gore, and since I've complained since then about the psychological stress of living with the uncertainty of so close an outcome, I have to put some blame right here on myself. I will be doing my part to move the overall outcome outo f the threshold of "too close to call".

And I very strongly agree with Patrick about the role of radical vision in guiding steps at hand. The country can't even begin to undergo the sort of transformation I might want until it pulls back from the brink of a full-blown fascism. Some libertarians throw the word around carelessly to describe anything in the way of corporate statism entanglement. I've done so myself sometimes. This was a failure of imagination, at a minimum, because honestly, I didn't foresee anything like these last four years...and in some ways I could have, or at least that the people in power would try for it and that events might provide them with the opportunity. Any step at all away from this course of action they're on now is not the lesser of two evils, but an active good: it is in fact the old-fashioned virtue of repentence, in the literal meaning of "turning again". I repent for my lack of vision, and am prepared to pay the price in time, effort, and money to do my part to help make the country once again a place where people like our host and I could debate great visions without such fear for the present.

I hold nobody to any standard higher than that, at least not anyone of basic good will. We always act on limited information and out of reasons that have nothing to do with logic and data, and that's okay - I like humanity and don't propose to demand any of us give it up. But I also think that we all have the duty to look at what comes after we make our choices. All of us who said anything like "Bush isn't that bad" or "but is there really much difference between Bush and Gore?" were wrong, and what we owe ourselves, our fellow citizens, and the cause of truthful living is the frank admission of error and some effort to correct the damage now, before it gets any worse.

It doesn't matter, for this purpose, just why we underestimated the threat a Bush administration would be, and acted in our various ways that helped make it possible. The fact is that we were wrong, and it's got to be fixed. There will be times in teh future, no doubt, when some of us get to be right while our host is wrong, and we will do well to be as practical about repentence for it as he's being now. We have this chance to help make things start heading toward being right again, and must take it. Anything, in our heads or outside, that leads us to try to hide our mistakes or wave them away is a dangerous indulgence right now. Sometimes choices are real and significant.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 10:11 PM:

"I have so little solid information about Kerry"

Jesus, Randolph, the guy's been in public life for a third of a century. If you can't figure out how to get on the Internet and read up on him, I don't know what anybody can do for you.

Personally, I know a lot about Kerry, mostly from such occult insider sources as "reading the newspaper" and "using Google," so forgive me if I'm not too impressed by the Argument From My Ignorance Is Somebody Else's Fault.

"Why aren't our Presidents usually excellent?"

Gee, I dunno. Why aren't all my friends geniuses, millionaires, international philanthropists, and sex gods? My heart is broken. Woe.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 10:20 PM:

Bruce Baugh posted while I was writing my own post. Allow me to, not for the first time, express my abject admiration for his reasoning and rhetorical powers (note the distinction, they're not the same thing). It's libertarians like him and Jim Henley that keep me engaged with that whole tendency, despite the best efforts of some others...

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 10:47 PM:

There are some pretty good reasons few presidents are going to meet any one's person definition of excellence, and it's much like why you don't use a laser instead of flash lights, street lights, and so on - very often, a smearing general coverage of the whole area is lots better than looking so sharply at one point that you can cut through anything just there. What the country at large needs in a president, most of the time, is someone a lot of folks can point at and say "yeah, pretty good, as far as they go", and we all go the further steps we want to take on our own.

Specific crises may call for more, but that's rare. We need the national grounds keeper to keep the lawns and hedges in order so that we can tend our individual plots.

Patrick: Thanks. Goodness knows I find most vocal libertarians annoying bozos and don't blame anyone who regards them as ignorable and/or contemptible.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 11:04 PM:

"Jesus, Randolph, the guy's been in public life for a third of a century. If you can't figure out how to get on the Internet and read up on him, I don't know what anybody can do for you."

I have--there really isn't very much there. He has consistently refused to fill out Project Vote Smart's National Political Awareness Test, which suggests to me that many of his stated positions are weakly held at best. For a Senate track record I only found his Senate investigatory work; he sponsored very little significant legislation in nearly 20 years in the Senate, and his executive experience seems quite limited--his highest management position seems to have been lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

In his favor he seems to be a genuine environmentalist and, of course, there is his anti-Vietnam-war activism. I've done a bit of poking around his web site where I noted several modest sensible policies, sensibly spelled out, but most of the site seems to me very headline-oriented. I find the "foreign policy" section of his platform especially poor; there is no "science" section at all, his stated trade and economic policies are very geared to the headlines, and so on. It is striking that the top level of his "jobs and economy" section makes no mention of unions, though many of his press releases do.

So it looks to me like there's a lot more campaign rhetoric than substance to the man. The lack of executive experience and his very limited record of legislation sponsorship seem to me especially troubling: who knows how much of that platform he is even going to try to enact and, if enacted, how he will put it into practice as chief executive?

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 11:51 PM:

I made a Google search on "John Kerry" "voting record" and got this analysis as the first link. It has a bunch of data, and links to a lot more. 30 seconds' work, plus the time to write this post.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 11:54 PM:

Jeepers, Randolph, at the start of things John Kerry was at best my fourth choice. But you may convince me to support him yet.

Let's see, he's a "genuine environmentalist", and he was a leading voice against the war in Vietnam around about the time I was getting beaten up out behind the K-Mart on McDowell Road in Scottsdale, Arizona for being too much of an antiwar loudmouth.

Another such post and I'll be down at Kerry HQ stuffing envelopes. Oh yes, there's that "lack of executive experience." That's a poser.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 01:01 AM:

For disappointments I'd have to go Wilson all the way, and say segregation and the introduction of Jim Crow into Washington D.C. bureaucracy - any man who thoroughly enjoys Birth of a Nation and thinks it good history is an evil man.[not that disappointment is the right word = Wilson delivered what he promised and showed himself early] On the other hand I don't see Hoover's economics as a disappointment, and if so then FDR must be equally tarred - of course if by economics one means selling job that's different. Lots of opportunities for alt history on who has the President's ear under Bush.

On Kerry I share the bemusement of my friends in Mass. who wonder how a man not really liked at home can be so popular abroad.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 01:25 AM:

Patrick, come off it. Those are his good points. and on reflection I'd add that he appears to have actual ethics, which lifts him well above W. Bush in my book. His bad points, to me, are: (1) that he seems to have been very narrowly focused, which a good president cannot be; (2) he hasn't bossed anything big and he'll be in charge of one of the world's biggest bureaucracies (that's what "lack of executive experience" means--don't sneer at it, it counts); (3) he has sponsored almost no major legislation and yet as president he will be expected to arrange the introduction of a great deal of it; (4) he seems to be very focused on the short term yet effective national policy must take the long term into account. These are major lacks in my book.

The voting record Bruce cites is that of a DLC coalition Democrat who breaks from the pack only on a few issues he cares about. I note in particular that "he supported reducing the dividend tax long before Bush proposed eliminating it"--do we have to worry, now, about what Kerry would do about the Bush tax cuts? Perhaps.

Bruce, Project Vote Smart, which I have been citing for years now, covers most of that. The problem is that a record of votes doesn't tell the reasons for the votes: when did he really care, and when was he just making deals? Kerry seems, really, to have only two issues he personally cares about. But who knows? Once he is President we may see who new sides to the man.

Clark, why is he disliked in Mass.? Too conservative?

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 01:36 AM:

For some reasons I like the Australian preferential system see link below.
I have a long rave about the problem with UK & US & other first-past-the-post systems not allowing for reasonable representation of the electorate's real opinions, but this will keep you going. Intelligent use of a voter's preferences (not just following the parties' how-to-vote cards) can get your opinions across without "wasting" your vote.

Another good thing is having paper ballots where you can write stuff on them. Unfortunately a lot of those are just insults, but it has been used to good effect for particular issues, e.g. back in 1983 the scrutineers for all the parties saw "No Dams" written beside their vote on many papers.

A question: here it's compulsory to attend & put a ballot in the boxes. Because the ballot is secret, no-one can see what you've put on it, so some people who don't like any candidate in their area just put in a blank one (or "None of the Above"). I don't agree with this, but haven't ever been in a situation like recently in Iran, where they stopped a lot of candidates running.
Where you have 'voting machines' or 'electronic voting', is this sort of thing possible?

www.australianpolitics.com/voting/systems/preferential.shtml

(Thanks to http://www.roadtosurfdom.com/surfdomarchives/002012.php for the link to this fairly clear explanation.)

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:04 AM:

Randolph, I'm not sure that it's always meaningful to ask the sort of questions you are about motives. Or at least it's not always reasonable to expect answers. People decide things for lots of reasons, and disentangling motives is sometimes very complicated. Surely a fairly consistent record over time, with the digressions one can expect from times of crisis, is itself indicative. Likewise with votes that demonstrate a plausible evolution.

Now, I often argue that I do want to know how and why people make the decisions they do, because in an unpredictable world, there'll always be matters that you can't extrapolate. But, well, like I said. Sometimes it doesn't come around. And we do have the campaign partly to answer questions like this. The data at hand are significant even when they don't tell all the story I wish they would.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:42 AM:

Randolph said: "Mary Kay, Lydia--the true hope in politics is always in the long term; sometimes the very long term. Susan B. Anthony retired; all US women finally gained the vote 14 years after her death."

True, but not relevant. Long-term is comprised of endless losses and victories played out in the short-term. Some victories are more important than others, as are some losses. This year's presidential election is one of those.

Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:49 AM:
Clark, why is he disliked in Mass.? Too conservative?

I'm not Clark, but speaking as a fairly recent Massachusetts immigrant, near as I can tell people's objections to him boil down to the fact that he isn't Ted Kennedy (e.g., he's "aloof" - which he is to some extent, but not to the extent that I think anyone would find it annoying except by comparison).

On a somewhat related note, I saw an interesting article in the Herald the other day (snobbish disclaimer here that I don't read the Herald as such, I just browse it while waiting for my lunch in the cafeteria). Normally, if Kerry were to be nominated and win, the governor would get to appoint a replacement - SOP. Some legislative leaders are apparently floating the idea of introducing a bill which would provide for a special election in this case, in part out of a suspicion that the governor (Mitt Romney, a Republican whom the legislature is not best pleased with) would resign and have his replacement appoint him (Romney denies any such plan, but I frankly don't believe him). The particularly interesting bit is that Barney Frank said he'd be interested in running if such an election is held (unless an anti-gay-marriage amendment is up for vote, in which case he would be spending all his time working to defeat it).

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 10:57 AM:

"We can always have hope. What we can't do is expect, for nothing is ever certain. Hope is not for what will be. It is for what could be, if we try, and enough others do the same. Hope doesn't betray us. We can fail. We can abandon hope. But hope is something we can have when nothing else is left."

Hope and I aren't on particularly good terms. However, as they say, it takes all kinds. What I wanted to say, and what you are saying, is that even if the numbers are bad, even if it doesn't look like there's a prayer in hell that we'll win, we still need to fight like demons for the Democratic candidate. Nader is not an option. No third party candidate is a good choice this year.

I plan to vote straight party ticket, come November. Party matters. Oh, the Democratic party is a sorry mess, but it's also the only thing standing between me and Bush. When the flood waters start rising, you don't question the morality of the neighbor who's filling the sandbags right beside you. What we do wrong is to become complacent, or worse, obstreperous when the Dems are in power, forgetting how to work together. Party matters. It's what lets people like me, little people, get involved. More Dems means a better bargining position, better funding, more influence everywhere. If you don't like what they're doing with it, you can get involved and try to stop it. Maybe there's a time for a third party, but I don't believe that it's now. I think we are all in too much peril to split up. This isn't Capture the Flag, this is Call of Cthulu. "Never split the party. Never!"

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 11:12 AM:

Lydy: You are absolutely the only other person I have ever found who feels like I do about Hope. Definitely separated at birth. It is amazingly comforting knowing someone else feels that way too. Mostly people just think I'm insane when I say I prefer not to have the bitch around.

MKK

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 11:45 AM:

Unfortunately, it's available only to subscribers so far, but Michael Crowley has a piece in the current New Republic attempting to answer the question: if everybody in Massachusetts dislikes John Kerry so much (as some folks upthread have claimed), how did he win four statewide elections in a row?

Kerry's lousy relationship with Boston pols would seem to confirm the worst stereotypes about him: that he's a haughty elitist out of touch with working-class sensibilities. And it would be a disaster if that's the Kerry Americans came to see. A lack of blue-collar credibility could destroy Kerry's candidacy among Reagan Democrats in Rust Belt swing states like Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where he will have to perform flawlessly if, as is likely, he gains no traction in the South. But, if Kerry couldn't establish working-class credibility in liberal Massachusetts, one has to wonder: How can he possibly appeal to a Reagan-Democrat steelworker in Ohio?
The answer is that, when it counted, Kerry did establish working-class credibility in Massachusetts--not among politicians but among voters. He did so largely thanks to the symbolic power of his Vietnam service. In election after election, the Brahman Kerry managed to convince blue-collar workers, partly through his war record, that he was more like them than his pedigree suggested, and, in election after election, they voted for him. If he can do the same this year--and early indications suggest he can--Kerry could be a formidable candidate in November.
I note that, in fact, Kerry does seem to be making strong national headway with those voters who were once typified as "Reagan Democrats", as shown by polls taken after this article was written. Indeed, Kerry is way out ahead of populist Edwards (as he was ahead of populist Dean) with working-class voters, people of color, voters below the poverty line, and most other demographics usually associated with "populism." By very wide margins.

Make of it what you will, but it's a fact on the ground.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 12:26 PM:

Epacris, the Australian ballot system is clearly superior to our system IMO. (And not just because Al Gore would now be President if we'd had it.) And no one is required to vote in this country; we have a major powerful party whose interests are served by low turnout (the Democrats win more with higher turnout, the Republicans with lower turnout), and they've consistently opposed reforms that make it easier to vote; making it REQUIRED -- well, they'd rather eat their own children.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 01:15 PM:

Democratic political operatives have also opposed efforts to raise turnout. I think what any professional campaign manager wants is for only one person to vote, so that the campaign can target just that person with extremely well-focused advertising.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 01:48 PM:

Funny about "democracy," you know. Run against someone, declare yourself opposed to their dearest aims, deliver the country into the hands of their bitterest opponent, and remarkably, they may well hold it against you.

Yes. Very true. Which is why, given Kerry's performance in the last three years -- when we *needed* him to oppose, has made my voting for him unacceptable.

Nader's entry into the race means that there may be three people running for president who I will not vote for.

The problem with ABB, and the reason that I never accepted ABB, is that ABB means that you are really foresaking your choice in the other candidates. Why should they care? They know they'll get your vote, because they aren't Bush. Now that my primary is passed, I no longer have a say in the candidate selection process. The only lever I hold is the voting lever.

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:23 PM:

I suggest it might be reach from "not really liked" to "dislike so much" if I'm one of those tarred with claiming so much dislike. The record does show Kerry polling poorly at times and recovering - which might be a showing of skill or of pandering - I have no idea.

For what it's worth my contacts would prefer to think of themselves more as haughty elites than Southies - no more in touch with working class sensibilities than most other folks who've had a cover story in Science. Some say Kerry demands better seats and shorter lines than his social position entitles him to

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:06 PM:

I blogged a bit on the Romney-appointment issue...seems that Mitt is less interested in "let the people vote" and more in favor of unelected gubernatorial appointees (like, er, the SJC justices) when it's his chance to name a Senator.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 03:40 PM:

"Randolph, I'm not sure that it's always meaningful to ask the sort of questions you are about motives. Or at least it's not always reasonable to expect answers."

I think, actually, the answers are in his record; Kerry has mostly gotten along by going along with the conservative Democrats, with the exception of his two key issues. He likes investigating (he did used to be an assistant DA) and is good at it, and that's most of what he's done in the Senate. God knows why he wants to be President; it doesn't seem like a job he'd be good at.

"I note that, in fact, Kerry does seem to be making strong national headway with those voters who were once typified as 'Reagan Democrats', as shown by polls taken after this article was written."

And yet as Senator, he is not their friend. Brrr. Brrr.

"Long-term is comprised of endless losses and victories played out in the short-term. Some victories are more important than others, as are some losses. This year's presidential election is one of those."

I know this one is important. Nonetheless, if we loose this election, we have to keep fighting. If Kerry turns out to be awful, we have to keep fighting. We have to keep fighting, even if it's the next generation that wins.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 04:05 PM:

Erik: I, at least, don't feel I've surrendered the power of making distinctions even though I'm an ABB-ish voter. Come the Oregon primary, I'll look for the Democratic candidate I think best represents my concerns and vote accordingly. Ditto in the general election, up and down the ticket. It's just that my response to not getting the people I would most prefer won't be to go off and not vote, or vote for a third-party candidate, but to go ahead and vote for the candidate in the general election with the shot at replacing Bush.

Hope. Hope is a tricky one. My life is so full of totally unexpected ups and downs that I find it hard to form any expectations at all. I don't seem able to make plans and have them work out. But sometimes the changes genuinely are good. I take my goal in life as a) making good use of the opportunities at hand and b) keeping alert so that when new ones come along, I can jump on them. The world may not oblige, but at least if it doesn't work out, it won't be my fault. I'm never quite sure what to call this sort of outlook.

Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 04:09 PM:

I guess I'm bewildered a bit by claims about how this guy or that is "unacceptable" when the alternative is Bush for a second term. It's not like we can do as the Libertarian Party does and let a position go unfilled until the next round of elections if None of the Above wins - someone will be President of the United States, and it will be George W. Bush unless someone defeats him. And therefore it'll be Cheney and Rove and the gang again. I submit that even though Kerry might be far from ideal, he is nowhere near Bush, and if someone wants to argue the contrary, I'd like to see some real evidence for the assertion.

(I would say precisely the same thing about any Democratic front-runner, by the way.)

Varia ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 09:41 PM:

Most of you probably already read this blog, but Michael Berube (plus accent marks) has some amusingly-written comments on "voting your conscience" in today's blog. somehow I mind having my face rubbed in being-wrongness much less when it's funny than when it's screamingly angry. Which is one reason I like him.

http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php?id=P67

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 03:17 PM:

"[...] what really took him out was a bit of political slime, as usual, and it was entirely within the Democratic party." Chicago Sun-Times article the Iowa caucuses. Claim is a stealth group funded by Kerry and Gephardt supporters. Via Worldchanging.

After that, I don't feel like barking at all.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 03:41 PM:

So, let's see: Iowa voters (the second-most informed in the States, after NH, if we judge by candidate access) fell prey to an ad that was Very Publicly described as "shadowy" and "secretive" and that was (eventually, at the time required by law) revealed to have been funded by George Steinbrenner and others, and was spoken of AT THE TIME as having possibly been funded in part by Kerry or Gephardt.

Exactly how stupid and naive are we claiming Iowa voters are? And, if they are that stupid and naive, why did the astute doctor make "the crucial Jan. 19 Iowa caucus...a must-win"?

There is a LONG list of candidates whom losing Iowa did not keep from the nomination, or even the Presidency. "Ma nishtana ha leila hazeh?"

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:05 PM:

Exactly how stupid and naive are we claiming Iowa voters are? And, if they are that stupid and naive, why did the astute doctor make "the crucial Jan. 19 Iowa caucus...a must-win"?

I did not find Iowa voters to be necessarily any more or less sophisticated and informed than any other random group of citizens of the USA. The importance of the "crucial Iowa caucus" is entirely caused and promoted by the media. In their ever desperate to fill hours, get the story first, and sound authoritative, they take what happens in a relatively homogenous midwestern state and attempt to apply it to the entire country. I have never been happy about the reporting of elections in this country and this year have grown to loathe the entire process. The media have no interest but their ratings and bottom line. And, yes, I am getting to be a bit of a crank about this.

MKK

Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 04:50 PM:

Surely that's haphazard group?
Not a "random group of citizens of the USA"

Odd results follow if we take the Iowa voters as a random sample of citizens of the USA - although perhaps not so odd as if we took them as a random sample of voters of the USA.

Of course as a single issue voter I am once again left without a candidate to gaze fondly on.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 05:56 PM:

Ken, advertising works on smart people, too.

Mary Kay, I agree. We need some sort of reform. I don't know what; maybe reducing the power of the Presidency, maybe a more formalized primary system. But the combination of government forms and media we have now is consistently working to the disadvantage of the USA.

Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2004, 06:56 PM:

Mary Kay,

I don't disagree with you about the media-related exaggeration of the Value of the Iowa Caucus.

It appears, however, that Dr. Dean bought into it lock, stock, and two smoking "I don't need no stinking matching funds" barrels.

Given those two as facts (perceived that he needs to win Iowa; will spend as much as he has to), the lack of a counter for the ad, I'm not inclined to give him the benefit of any doubt when he doesn't respond.

Nor, apparently, were the voters.

Randolph:

Yes. So? The Iowa results, just as a reminder, were:

Kerry 38%
Edwards 32%
Dean 18%

We're not talking "well, the last-minute undecideds went with The Other Guy" here.

Is anyone SERIOUSLY going to claim the ad convinced(let's be optimistic) 20-30% of the voters that to vote for either Kerry or Edwards?

Or were the voters reacting to the basic messages of the three (Kerry, "I'm electable"; Edwards, "There are two Americas and our half needs help"; Dean, "I opposed the war") and going with the candidates who most reflected their concerns?

Looking at those numbers, I'm betting the latter.