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Friday, May 23, 2003

The Nation's David Corn introduces a new feature to his web column: Campaign Contortions '04. The "CC's" are awarded to politicians who take inconsistent positions in order to appeal to different constituencies. Corn's first CC goes to John Edwards for supporting the right of gays and lesbians to adopt children, while saying that the country is "not ready for" gay and lesbian civil unions.

All politicians do this sort of thing in an attempt to gain maximum support, but it is embarrassing when someone points it out. Corn intends to point out these contortions throughout the campaign, and he encourages his readers to submit them.
--Posted at 2:34 PM | link by Ryan Lizza, associate editor at The New Republic (posted May 22, 2003). After the war in Iraq, some expected Howard Dean's candidacy to fade away. Ryan Lizza reports that it is still going strong, due in large part to an enthusiastic group of supporters who have made very effective use of the Internet. For example, a group of pro-Dean bloggers have formed something called the Dean Defense Forces (DDF), which responds with "e-mails, letters to the editor, blog entries, and phone calls against anyone spreading anti-Dean sentiments." The DDF flooded the Democratic Leadership Council with complaints after they released a memo that labelled Dean a liberal elitist. It remains to be seen whether this small but dedicated group of followers can help Dean get the funding and support that he needs to win the nomination, but for the moment they are keeping Dean's campaign alive and well.

So far, Dean's campaign has raised $1 million over the Internet. (Both of these links are from Cursor.)
--Posted at 2:02 PM | link

Thursday, May 22, 2003

What is the Green Party to do in 2004? Should it lobby hard for the candidate that it nominates (whether Nader or someone else), as it did in 2000? Or should it wage a token campaign that urges voters in solidly Democratic states to vote Green, while encouraging those in swing states to vote Democratic? Earl Ofari Hutchinson discusses this dilemma on AlterNet. Kirstin Marr and Robert Miranda respond in another AlterNet article that reaffirms the Green Party's commitment to its principles, but says that the party's plan "regarding whom to run, whether to run, and how to run in 2004 is still being decided."

Many Democrats still resent the Greens for preventing a clear victory in the state of Florida that would have assured a Gore presidency. The Greens didn't get their 5% of the popular vote that would have given them federal funds in 2004 and helped to justify the whole effort in the eyes of progressive Democrats. Given these factors, there isn't much reason to think that the Greens will have a better shot at 5% in 2004. But this doesn't mean, from the Green point of view, that an enthusiastic 2004 presidential campaign is pointless. It depends on a number of factors:

  • If the Democrats nominate someone who is virtually indistinguishable from a moderate Republican, then the Greens would have a justification for a strong campaign. The worst, from a "progressive" point of view, is Joe Lieberman. In a contest between Joe Lieberman and George W. Bush, the Greens would probably have some success in convincing voters that their oft-repeated claim--that there is no difference between the two major parties--is true. Still, Lieberman isn't [i]quite[/i] as conservative as Bush, and they are different on some important issues like abortion. And if a Gore-Lieberman ticket didn't cause enough defections to bring the Greens to 5%, then a Lieberman-Whoever ticket won't be much better. Ultimately, it would depend on what kind of campaign Lieberman wages. If he runs an "I'm-almost-as-conservative-as-Bush-so-I-can-win" campaign (which seems to be his strategy so far), then the Greens have a shot of capturing plenty of alienated liberals. If he emphasizes the differences between himself and Bush, if only rhetorically, then liberals will cling to him as their only hope. But they might do that anyway no matter how conservative he acts.
  • If the Democrats nominate somebody slightly less conservative than Lieberman, then the Greens' "there's-no-difference" argument will be less persuasive. A Dean candidacy would present an interesting dilemma. Dean is positioning himself as the "progressive" or "liberal" in the race, and the American people might decide to take him at his word. This would be bad in a general election, in a country where the term "liberal" is only slightly more respectable in the mainstream than the term "socialist." Yet, as noted in one of my posts below, Dean is not nearly liberal enough to satisfy the Greens. If Dean managed to get himself nominated, then should the Greens embrace the claim that Dean is really a "liberal" or "progressive" and encourage their members to vote for him? Or should they argue that he isn't liberal enough and push for their own candidate instead?
  • The closeness of the race is another factor. If the Democratic nominee manages to gain a comfortable lead, then the Greens can defect without fear of being blamed for a Bush victory. This seems like the least likely scenario, however. The more likely ones are that Bush will have a solid lead, or that the race will be too close to call. In the latter situation, the Greens will be faced with the same problem as in 2000, and will have to decide whether to repeat their decisions of that year. In the former, it would probably make sense to run the strongest campaign possible for their own candidate. If polls show that Bush would get more votes than the Democratic and Green nominees combined, then the Greens and their potential voters have nothing to lose by opposing the Democrats. They won't topple Bush, but they could get their 5% and send a message to the Democrats as well.

Everything I've discussed above depends a lot on the Green party looking at poll numbers and making decisions based on them. Needless to say, this isn't the way that all Green voters will approach things. Nader ran a strong campaign in 2000, knowing that his candidacy could hurt Gore, because he felt that the Democrats had become the same as Republicans on most important issues. Even in a close 2004 race with Kerry or Gephardt or Edwards, the Greens might use the same strategy. This would anger the Democratic loyalists, but the Greens would argue that it's their own fault.

Much will ultimately depend on whether Nader himself decides to run. If the 2000 election is any precedent, he is unlikely to compromise with Democrats to send some votes their way in contested states. A different candidate might allow a different approach. Another thing to consider is that Nader has widespread name recognition, unlike any other potential Green candidate at the moment. His name on the ballot might be enough to boost the Green total by a percentage point or two.

Anyway, that's all the rambling that I'll do for now on this issue.
--Posted at 11:04 AM | link

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The memo issued by Al From and Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council has captured a lot of attention recently, much of it negative. From and Reed attack Howard Dean, claiming that he represents a segment of the Democratic party that is doomed to lose in November. They write:

"What activists like Dean call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration: the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home. That's the wing that lost 49 states in two elections, and transformed Democrats from a strong national party into a much weaker regional one."

TAPPED has lots of commentary and links on this issue. They note that the Democratic Leadership Council tended to praise Dean before he became a factor in this election (with many, many links that prove the point). Also, they point out that the attack is inaccurate. As noted in the entry below, Dean isn't very liberal. Anyway, go here, here and here to see TAPPED's reaction to the about the Dean/DLC issue. The DLC offers a reply to its critics here, and TAPPED has a reply to the reply here. The New Republic blasts Dean for his reaction (which includes the new slogan "Annoy the DLC! Contribute to the Howard Dean campaign") here.
--Posted at 3:10 PM | link

Jim Farrell of The Nation has criticized Dean for his conservative stances on many issues. Among them:

  • He cut welfare benefits, and once commented that some welfare recipients "don't have any self-esteem. If they did, they'd be working."
  • He supported sending nuclear waste from Vermont to a poor Hispanic town in Texas, a proposal that Paul Wellstone called "blatant envrionmental injustice."
  • He said that the way to balance the federal budget is "for Congress to cut Social Security, move the retirement age to 70 and cut defense, Medicare, and veterans' pensions."
  • He is not a strong supporter of Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Farrell's point is not that Dean is a conservative in disguise, but rather that he should not be seen as the "progressive" candidate in the race. Although no true "progressives" are in the race, some are at least as good from this standpoint as Dean. Farrell also says that progressive voters should back the eventual Democratic nominee, which is surely a message directed at potential Green voters.

New Hampshire's The Union Leader agrees that Dean is not an elitist liberal. (I found this link through TAPPED--The American Prospect's weblog--which is an excellent source for campaign and other political information).
--Posted at 2:58 PM | link

Howard Dean has answered some questions via email for Liberal Oasis. Read the transcript here. The interview covers the war in Iraq, Bechtel and Halliburton's contracts, welfare reform, medical marijuana, tax cuts, and campaign strategy.
--Posted at 2:30 PM | link

Michelle Cottle of the New Republic really, really likes Dick Gephardt's proposal to eliminate all television drug advertisements. She writes, "These ads do virtually nothing to help clarify people's medical choices--but do a damn fine job of jacking up the already sky rocketing costs of prescription drugs."
--Posted at 2:05 PM | link

John B. Judis of the New Republic criticizes Kerry for going easy on the Bush administration regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He writes:

"Democratic candidates don't have to say now that Bush and Cheney lied--leave that to the activists--but they should be raising the possibility the American public is being systematically misled by this administration--not just on taxes and the budget, but on the gravest issue the country has faced. Al Gore was eviscerated three years ago for confusing the head of FEMA with its deputy, but Kerry is giving the Bush administration a political pass on what could turn out to be a historic lie--comparable to the Johnson administration's Tonkin Gulf incident."
--Posted at 2:02 PM | link

Monday, May 19, 2003

The Bush administration is using the White House web an attempt to "to reach over the heads of the traditional news media to get the president's message directly to the 133 million Americans now online," according to the New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller. It has "what Democrats would call heavy-duty propaganda mixed in with pictures of Barney, the presidential terrier." Read the story here.

--Posted at 10:22 AM | link

Democratic presidential candidate Bob Graham is accusing the Bush administration of failing to fight terrorism adequately. Al-Qaeda was "on the ropes," he says, but the war against Iraq diverted resrouces and allowed the organization to recover. According to Paul Krugman of the New York Times, this is not just an election year ploy, but an argument that Graham has been making since last fall. Read the full article here.

Other Democrats have realized that this could be an effective tactic, as this article reports.

And Hesiod of the blog CounterSpin has some good analysis of how the Democrats could turn this into a winning strategy in November 2004.
--Posted at 10:09 AM | link

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