Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
This morning, I listened to students at the University of Wisconsin describe what happened at the moment of truth. Despite their support of Dr. Dean's platform, at the last second they switched to Kerry based on the "electability" canard. I know, everyone's doing it. But these were Dean's army. Many of them probably wouldn't have voted in the first place if it hadn't been for his candidacy. Et tu, Badgers?
And they went with Kerry--not hopeful, populist Edwards (at least according to this storyfrom NPR). That's odd, too. Edwards, in fact, picked up thepro-war conservative crowd. (Raising the specter that Edwards might run stronger in the industrial north, where broad-shouldered union men have lost jobs; war-hero Kerry, meanwhile, could run stronger in the patriotic south. Naaahh...) You'd think that if a student were going to switch from Dean at the last moment, the choice would be the new insurgent, right? Given the opportunity to boldly go where they've never gone before (the voting booth), surely they'd give the establishment the finger? No.
This is why youth is courted lightly. Lacking political experience, voting is like other exercises of trying on identities. The flightiness of the electorate isn't due to young voters alone--exit polls said 58% of voters made their decision in the last week. But particularly now, when the electorate is so flighty, the youth vote is the last segment to count on. An odd outcome for a group who just a year ago was considered such fertile ground by both Dems and the GOP.
Things will probably change in the general election. The choice will be far clearer between any of the Dems and Bush than it is now, with three likeable and similar candidates. I doubt that fact will give Howard Dean much comfort.