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November 26, 2004
They'll Be Coming Around Soon Enough Now

Even the diehard Bush haters may be regaining their senses. Jonathan Chait lashes out at the Democrats rather than George Bush for not only losing this election but setting themselves up to lose the next one as well. Chait goes after the three Democrats sucking up the political oxygen thus far regarding the next election -- Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry. Chait sees disaster in each and all three:

This week's topic is Candidates Who Obviously Covet the 2008 Democratic Nomination and Who Must Be Stopped at All Costs From Obtaining It. ... As we speak, Deaniacs are reconstituting in their yoga studios and organic juice bars, plotting in their benevolent, cheerful but fundamentally misguided way to make Dean the leader of the Democratic Party.

Why would this be such a disaster? Because, remember, the Dean campaign advanced two novel theories about national politics. The first was that Democrats paid too much attention to winning over the center. What they really needed to do was mobilize the base by nominating a candidate like Dean who'd fire up liberals. This turned out to be doubly wrong.

Chait advises against the Dean candidacy for the DNC chair for all the reasons Republicans have secretly wished for his victory. The Democrats have had four years of unprecedented setbacks at the hands of Terry McAuliffe, whose complicity in turning them from the party of Scoop Jackson to a front for International ANSWER cannot be dismissed. McAuliffe discarded any notion of a coherent vision to instead run the Democrats as the automatic gainsay of the Republicans -- whatever the GOP was for, he was against, and vice versa.

To a large degree, the Democrats still have not realized this. Instead of analyzing their defeats honestly and engaging in some introspection, they have instead blamed everyone but themselves for the campaigns they've run and the candidates they've nominated. A Dean chairmanship promises more of the same. It's not just that Dean only motivates the base, as Chait correctly points out; the entire notion of a Dean chairmanship continues to extend the self-delusion of the Democrats into believing they were cheated out of their majority status, rather than ineptly discarding it. Picking the candidate with the most embarrassing primary stumble in recent memory clearly demonstrates their denial.

Chait also goes after Hillary Clinton and John Kerry with equal vitriol, although I think he underestimates Hillary. Kerry, of course, is another example of the same denial that makes Howard Dean attractive to Democrats. Chait sums up John Kerry as a presidential candidate in probably his most memorable salvo in recent memory:

In a previous column I compared Kerry's contribution to his own campaign to an anchor's contribution to a boat race. In retrospect, I seem to have given him far too much credit.

Chait probably doesn't give the Democrats enough credit here, however. It's true that Kerry has publicly stated that he's keeping his options open for 2008, but that doesn't mean that the party will nominate him again. It might be hard for them to turn him down, but I think that even the Democrats recognize that Kerry exuded zero attraction outside of Beantown, and in 2008 Bush hatred won't be a factor, unless Jeb runs for President.

Chait dismisses Hillary as a moderate in liberal clothing who will wind up emulating Dean by alienating the middle for the fringe. I think she's a bit more savvy than that, plus she'll have Bill around to remind everyone of the trailer-park Camelot that they created in the 1990s. It could be enough, depending on the next four years, to sway some moderates back to the Democrats. She's already staking out a conservative position on illegal immigration, triangulating in the best tradition of her husband on one of the red-meat issues for the GOP base.

However, Chait nails Hillary on one point that a nationwide campaign will make perfectly clear in short order: she has none of her husband's charisma. She can be pleasant while in safe environments, but in a partisan arena she reverts quickly back to her dour, wonkish personality. Her hard edge and sour temperament may play reasonably well in New York, although Chait reminds us that she gave back six points of Gore's vote to Rick Lazio in 2000, but in a national campaign ... well, she's certainly no Bill Clinton.

Chait has some wise words for Democrats in the Los Angeles Times today, and perhaps a few Democrats will heed them. If a Bush-hater like Jonathan Chait can start making sense, maybe the rest of the party is ready to turn the corner too.

UPDATE: Xrlq notes that Clinton's opponent was Rick Lazio, not Fazio. I've updated the post.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 26, 2004 2:41 PM

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