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

Monday, September 22, 2003  

Not that my paranoid little mind's getting the better of me, but what do you think of this scenario:

Far from things getting better, Bush's incomprehensible incompetence drives the Iraq situation further into chaos and the economy into a tailspin. As difficulties mount, he and his team continue to handle it with profound ineptness, alienating all but the most ardent conservatives of the base. His approval ratings fall to the 30s. All of this happens by February, when the excitement over the Democrats starts to pick up.

Then what happens?

I saw this headline in the Times today ("Clark Collects a Large Sum in a Short Time"), and had a grim flash of a possible future. If it's clear early on that Bush is doomed, the money is going to start flowing to the Dems. Who will it flow to? The reform minded? The incorruptable? The straight shooter? The liberal? Ah, no--it'll flow to whomever looks the most likely to keep the corporate trough full of slop.

I'm not suggesting that any of the candidates is corrupt. But a pretty cool thing is happening in politics right now: the big money is coming from the little people. Whether you like him or not, Howard Dean is a populist--his support comes from the people, not the usual structures of power. His money comes from the many checkbooks of average Americans. They're not supporting him because they think he's the best candidate to beat Bush, but because they like his policies and his style.

Remind you of anyone? In 2000, a straight-talking populist John McCain was running on the money of average citizens. He was not only attracting a lot of press, he was beating George. But when things started to look too close, big money flowed in--to defeat him.

I can't imagine a scenario in which big money flowing into the Democratic primary doesn't subvert the will of the people. So far, the will of the people has been expressed because there are so many candidates and because Bush has looked so good. I still think Dennis Kucinich (coo SIN itch) has a viable chance to emerge--his policy positions are most distinct from the crowd, and now that people are starting to see the debates, these will get out there. Clearly, though, a Dean or Kucinich candidacy can be stopped in its tracks by the flow of big cash. More importantly, big money refocuses the debate on conservative issues, rather than on the opposition, liberal views that already have Dems considering a number of innovative solutions. Imagine, for example, an infusion of dough into the Lieberman coffers. Then, rather than a de facto position of change, the candidates must argue against a front-runner who wants only minor modifications in foreign and domestic policy.

So the best thing Democrats can hope for is that Bush's woes don't get any worse. He's still supported by a majority of Americans, and safe money is still on him to repeat (particularly when backing a Dem at this point looks like buying a lottery ticket). Instead, it would be best if things started to go seriously wrong in about May.

posted by Jeff | 9:19 AM |
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