Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Wednesday, July 02, 2003  

So now Doctor Dean's the man. Kerry's in trouble, Gephardt's almost done, and Lieberman is done. Edwards may or may not be done; he's the Dean of this summer. Braun, Sharpton, Graham, and Kucinich were always dead, but they haven't the good grace to lie down.

Or maybe not.

Handicapping the candidates is a fun pastime, but we shouldn't confuse it with actual knowledge. The factors that will decide the ultimate outcome of an election are far, far too many to consider. All analysis of the race account for only available information (and money is given 90% of the priority). Even in that context, it's almost impossible to know who will keep getting money, who will get the most press, who will get the best press, and of course, who will Iowa farmers and New Hampshire granite cutters like. But factor in something like a terrorist attack, a serious dip or rally by the economy, scandals, or war, and it's clear no one can know.

One factor I don't see people considering is whether or not the country is in a transition. Everyone assumes political stasis in the electorate--particularly the Republicans. I think history will record this period (if not this election) as the moment when politics began a sea change. Americans do not support conservative policies. We know this because we have polling data and because Republicans have been uniformly disengenous in their promotion of their unpopular, conservative policies. You have only to look at the names: "Jobs Package" for tax cuts, "Healthy Forests Iniative" for scaling back forest protections, "Clear Skies" for a business-friendly, pollution-relaxing bill.

Extrapolate. If the people don't like the bills that are being passed, and the results are yet to be fully realized, what is likely to be the population's reaction to the people who passed this legislation? The Republicans have won the war of rhetoric and they've pushed through a lot of their agenda, but none of that means people will like it. At a certain point, you've got to do more than roll out a President in a flight suit.

New Guard
If we are in a period of transition, then those who are associated with the old, failed policies are in trouble. People will begin to look to fresh faces for new solutions. This doesn't mean a candidate like Gephardt is necessarily out of the race, but it does mean he'll have to be the convincing voice of change. Dean has emerged for the moment as that new voice, but there's no way to know if he'll last as the "new" voice for the next 16 months. One thing going against him is his policies--for the most part they're not new. On the other hand, he's really distinguished himself from the do-nothing, support-the-President Congressional Dems.

But in the change scenario, others have an opportunity to emerge. Obviously, I think Dennis Kucinich is the best candidate, the one who has the freshest ideas. He's a real liberal, but his views aren't extreme (at least not by historical standards). If he is able to work his way into the national spotlight, he has a chance to grab the "new voice" momentum from Dean.

We're also not considering the candidacy of others not yet declared. Time's running awfully short, but it's not yet too late. (Further proof that this early handicapping--and the rumors of the deaths of certain candidates--are premature.) People are looking for a new voice. America's in a time of transition. The race is wide open.

(As proof, check out the betting line on Presidential candidates from June 11:

3/5 George W. Bush
4/1 John Kerry
6/1 Joe Lieberman
15/1 John Edwards
15/1 Bob Graham
20/1 Dick Gephardt
20/1 Howard Dean
250/1 Carol Moseley-Braun
250/1 Dennis Kucinich
1000/1 Al Sharpton

Don't you wish you'd taken Dean at 20-1 now? How about people who put a C-note on Lieberman at 6-1?)

posted by Jeff | 11:53 AM |
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