Democrats, heed the errors of losing Class of '84 By DAVID YEPSEN Register Political Columnist 05/22/2003 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The 2004 Democratic presidential campaign is taking on the trappings of the 1984 contest. There's a glut of candidates - eight then, nine now. They're starting to spend much of their time traveling from one debate to another courting different party constituencies at these political "cattle shows."
The wannabies do a good job beating up the Republican incumbent at these yak-a-thons, but in an effort to differentiate themselves they can jeopardize party unity by sounding small and sniping. Candidates also tend to pander and fall into the natural trap of telling groups what they want to hear. Both the pandering and the sniping could contribute to making the nominee unelectable.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan eventually won re-election by a landslide. That, despite a first-term recession. Also, the nuclear-freeze movement mobilized anti-war activism that pulled Democratic candidates to the left. Reagan was ridiculed as looney, dangerous and a yahoo cowboy who was just a master of the presidential photo-op.
Sound familiar? Is "04 going to be a repeat of "84? George Bush has good leads in early polls.
In 1984, Walter Mondale won the Democratic nomination and the right to run against Reagan. Part of Mondale's problem was the protracted nomination process and the baggage it hung on him. He had made a lot of promises to various party constituency groups, yet he was so worried about the federal deficit that in his acceptance speech he promised Americans a tax increase. (Hmmm. That, too, is starting to sound familiar. Isn't repealing a planned tax cut the same thing as increasing taxes?)
In this year's show, Mondale is played by Dick Gephardt. A front-runner in Iowa, the neighboring state politician is a familiar face loved by organized labor. But can he win Iowa? And can he win big? John Edwards is the budding fresh face Gary Hart was in 1984. Howard Dean is the darling of many peace people and gays, a la Alan Cranston. Al Sharpton and Carol Mosley Braun are the token black candidates akin to the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Both have the same chance of getting the nomination that Jackson had, yet no one dares suggest the two get out of the race for fear of being called racist or alienating black voters. Sharpton, like Jackson, does have a preacher's gift for the good one-liner and often provides needed comic relief.
Dennis Kucinich plays the darling of the anti-war movement, George McGovern, who is always asked: "Why are you running?" Liberals who don't find Dean pure enough have a home with Kucinich, who is also more politically correct because he's anti-meat in addition to being anti-war. John Kerry plays the hero and early front-runner role John Glenn played in 1984. Bob Graham reprises the part Ernest Hollings played that year - a respected Southern senator who enters the contest late and has trouble finding traction. Joe Lieberman looks a lot like Reuben Askew, a guy too conservative to win a Democratic presidential nomination.
It all means Democrats, who are so fond of remembering 1992 when a sour economy undid the first President Bush, should also remember the history of the Class of "84 - the year they helped undo themselves. By letting a campaign become little more than a grinding cattle show, they may move too far to the left. Front-running candidates can become nothing more than the targets of the lesser candidates, who try to elevate themselves by bringing down those most likely to become the nominee. Leading candidates often can't respond in kind for fear of alienating the supporters of that minor candidate in the fall campaign. Everyone's stature is diminished and phrases like the "Seven Dwarfs" start being tossed about. It's hard for anyone to break from the pack without saying far-out things such as "I'll raise taxes" or "I'll halt weapons production" - statements that have a way of winding up in GOP attack ads.
Fortunately for the Democrats, some do remember 1984. Key strategists for each campaign met earlier this week in Washington to consider an idea offered by Lieberman, who proposed they agree to only one debate a month. The candidates are looking at about 40 invitations to do different forums in front of key party constituencies. If they try to attend all the events, there's little time for anything else. If they skip one, they run the risk of alienating someone.
Even having a Debate-A-Month Club is going to be plenty. (Someone needs to invent a play-off system.) But by limiting the number, each candidate is more likely to show up. Since the debates are rarer, they'll generate more news coverage.
But are debating skills really a fair test of who would make a good president? Probably not. That's one of the strengths of the town-hall meetings Senator Tom Harkin is doing with each candidate individually in Iowa. People get a closer look at an individual and it's a solid format, especially when Harkin sticks to playing Oprah and remembers he's not the one who is running.
These Democrats up in Texas — they may not be patriots, but they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.-Rep. Tom DeLay on the "fugitive" Texas Democrats
For those of you holding hope that Bush is invincible..... Why Rove Should Worry, Too By Joe Conason Salon.com -------------------------------------------------- Lately I hear much of what I call "the counsel of despair" from Democrats and other progressives who seem demoralized by the constant media repetition of phrases like "hugely popular Republican commander in chief." How, they ask, can anyone expect to defeat Bush next year?
If all that matters is a servile press (and I don't discount its importance), then Bush may indeed be very difficult to beat. But there are other, underlying factors that portend trouble for this president, as Karl Rove understands very well.
A glance at recent polls reveals that Bush's "huge" popularity, when not propped up by war, is quickly returning to ordinary levels. (For some reason, the media rarely referred to Bill Clinton as "hugely popular" even when his approval ratings rose to 75 percent.) More significantly, Bush's "reelect" numbers have again dropped below 50 percent in most surveys, which is where they have languished during most of his presidency.
For instance, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows him with 47 percent, or a couple of points less than he got in the 2000 election. The Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report poll taken two weeks ago shows him at 43 percent. The CBS News/New York Times poll gives Bush 34 percent, the unnamed Democrat 21 percent, with 56 percent of independent voters undecided.
Whatever their opinions about war and terrorism, voters are presently more worried about the economy, with good reason. The Philadelphia Fed survey of economists released earlier this week cut growth forecasts sharply, as unemployment continues to rise. First-term presidents with that kind of economic record don't usually get a second term.
Yes, the Democrats have to find a voice and a focus. Yes, national security will be a salient issue, and perhaps the dominant issue depending on events yet to unfold. Yes, the Republicans are raising an enormous campaign war chest and rewarding their donors -- even with what Bush called an "itty-bitty" tax cut.
But voters apparently hate the tax package. (An excellent blog aptly named "It's Still the Economy, Stupid" provides graphic illustrations of how the GOP "jobs" tax cut will be maldistributed -- and the record number of jobs Bush has lost so far.) And remember that Bush outspent Al Gore by many, many millions of dollars -- and lost the election by a few million votes. He may win, but he isn't unbeatable.
If the economy doesn't pick up soon, and REAL soon (November 2004 is getting close) Bush will have a struggle on his hands. War is fine and dandy for a short-term boost, but unless Bush finds another country to invade before the election.......trouble.
For the Democrats to beat Bush on the economy, they're going to have to have, you know, a plan. So far all I've seen is an intense hatred of Bush. Likely not the way to draw independent voters in. The lefties might believe he's a monster, but swing voters will need some more substance.
"May God bless our country and all who defend her."
Originally posted by PalpatineWFor the Democrats to beat Bush on the economy, they're going to have to have, you know, a plan. So far all I've seen is an intense hatred of Bush. Likely not the way to draw independent voters in. The lefties might believe he's a monster, but swing voters will need some more substance.
I would think that anyone who has lost their job on Bush's watch wouldn't need all that much convincing, but hey that just crazy ole' me talking........
His re-elect numbers have fallen below 50% since the Iraq war ended, by the way.
For the Democrats to beat Bush on the economy, they're going to have to have, you know, a plan.
There thus far appear to be three distinct plans forming, all along the same lines - create a meme that has a degree of factual basis, repeat it until it forms into the public consciousness as a truth. This is more or else how Bush beat Gore in 2000.
Meme one: "Bush is unfit to run the war on terror." Primarily espoused by Bob Graham, who as part of the Senate committee investigating 9/11 has the best credentials to do it. Standard points being raised here - a paucity of funds spent investigating how 9/11 slipped under the US intelligence radar ($30 million - less than one-tenth what was spent on the Starr hearings), the staggering inefficiency of Homeland Security, et cetera.
Meme two: "Bush can't handle the economy." Best put to use by Howard Dean, who is a fiscally conservative governor (and Vermont, unlike a lot of states, isn't broke). Talking points: jeez, take your pick, there are literally tons.
Meme three: "Bush represents an intolerant party." The Rick Santorum thing, et cetera. They just have to keep hammering this point - a majority of the populace supports civil unions now.
Here's an interesting bit of revisionist history. Imagine that Congress had never passed the two-term limit (also known as the "Republicans Bitter Over FDR" rule) on presidential terms. How would history be different? * Dwight Eisenhower.