Tuesday, January 20, 2004

What Happened?

We will stay on politics for another posting because something great happened last night. Conventional Wisdom got a kick in the pants, and I always enjoy that. After weeks of listening to cable pundits (and I probably watch way too much cable news) say that Dean was unstoppable and the rest of the Dem candidates could just go home, things turned out very different in Iowa. John Kerry took 38%, John Edwards 32%, Dean came in a distant third with 18%, and Dick Gephardt is scheduled to drop out of the race today after garnering only 11%.

No one knows now what will happen in New Hampshire next week, where Wes Clark is added to the mix and the momentum from Iowa will certainly give a boost to Kerry and Edwards' campaigns.

Personally I could live with Kerry, Clark or Edwards as the party candidate. I am leaning Clark, but think Kerry or Edwards would make fine candidates. The problem with Dean is not his politics or his positions, but his ear. Last night I watched the speeches, concession and otherwise. Dean's triumphalism in the jaws of defeat did not come over well to me in comparison to the graciousness fest that the other candidates were taking part in. And personally, in spite of the pronoucements by the media in recent weeks, I don't think the math adds up for Dean.

Dean seems to have energized a base in the party and have a pretty solid support in the area of 20%. But what happens when other candidates start dropping out, who does their support go to? Will Lieberman supporters go to Dean? I doubt it, they will want someone with a more centrist reputation. I say reputation because I think most of the Democratic candidates, at least the ones I've mentioned, are centrist, but reputation and how the media paints them is equally important as reality. Now that Gephardt is out of the race will his supporters rally around Dean? I think not, much more likely to go to Kerry or Clark. I think you get the point. I just don't see Dean being the last man standing when the field starts thinning out.

Just a quick note to end this posting about yesterday's rant. I just want to say that I admire Michael Blowhard's writing and more often find his postings on culture and the arts to reflect my views than not. I merely took issue with how he framed the argument. In fairness I've read Michael's responses in the comments of his blog and read his interview with Jim Kalb this morning. It seems to me that both Michael and Jim are reasonable people who came to a personal political philosophy that is positive and well thought out. The problem with these sorts of discussions is we all define the argument in our own way. Michael and Jim define the terms conservative and liberal and build an argument that supports those definitions. Myself I am a more pragmatic and less philosophical type. I define the terms by the actions of those who label themselves conservative and liberal. I see people calling themselves conservatives pushing the country into war, giving tax breaks to the very rich, and participating in corporate cronyism. I see progressive and liberal voices for a multilateral foreign policy, helping the middle class find jobs, giving tax incentives to the poor, and protecting our environment. I form my worldview based on what I can see, not on abstract philosophy.

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