Friday, July 30, 2004

John Kerry: Brought to you by...Karl Rove and George Bush

I don't always agree with William Saletan's pieces over on Slate, hoewver, I found his assessment of Kerry's speech to be quite dead-on. Its best moments were when he was attacking George Bush's policies and decisions, all of which have been to cater to an extreme right-wing base that Karl Rove feels cost Bush the popular vote in 2000. Since then, as Saletan puts it:
He believed that Bush's father lost the 1992 election by alienating the right and creating a Republican primary challenge by Pat Buchanan. So, on issue after issue, the current President Bush has played to his base. On Rove's theory, every step to the right earns Bush another conservative vote.
This seems like as good an explanation as any - and perhaps more logical that the "stealth candidacy" argument/conspiracy theory I've heard (that being, that Bush was always this conservative and that they basically pretended he wasn't - sadly, his record as Texas governor would seem to point out the fallacy in this argument. Personally, I always believed that Bush was a moderate. It was his advisors and his party that I didn't trust to allow him to stay there...). This was much the same idea behind Howard Dean's primary run for the Democratic nomination - deliberately courting the hardcore left-wing of the Dems and hoping that each step in that direction would bring voters out, at the expense of Dean's truly moderate record.

The trouble was...it didn't work for Howard Dean in the primaries, and it might not work for Bush in the general election. For every vote he got on the hardcore left, he lost moderate and right-wing Dem votes, and scared mainstream Dems enough that they got behind Kerry in many ways to stop Dean (I realize this is an oversimplification - there were many factors that resulted in Kerry getting the nomination, but this is an interesting prisim to examine the primaries through). Saletan makes much the same point regarding El Presidente and Rove's decision to move right.

That calculation is correct. But it's only half the story. For every conservative voter who's inspired to turn out for Bush because of his unyielding conservatism, there's a liberal voter who's inspired to turn out for Kerry. That's why Kerry has had no trouble uniting his party after the primaries. It's why the FleetCenter exploded tonight at every one of Kerry's applause lines. And it's why Kerry can now move aggressively to the middle without fear of losing the left.

In his determination to unite the right, Bush hasn't just united the left. He has lost the center. Look at last week's New York Times/CBS News poll of registered voters. "Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq or not?" Fifty-nine percent say it was not. "Which do you think is a better way to improve the national economy—cutting taxes or reducing the federal budget deficit?" Fifty-eight percent say reducing the deficit. "When it comes to regulating the environmental and safety practices of business, do you think the federal government is doing enough, should it do more, or should it do less?" Fifty-nine percent say more.

One more Bush voter on the right, balanced by one more Kerry voter on the left, plus the tilting of one more voter in the middle toward Kerry, is a net loss for the president. That's the lesson of this administration, this election, and this convention. Kerry doesn't have to write any good lines. He just has to read them.

The bolding above is mine. It notes an interesting point I've been making - that the left is more solidly behind Kerry (and committed to defeating Bush at any cost) than it ever was for Gore in 2000. This is why I think Kerry hasn't much to worry about from Ralph Nader - even though his numbers are still there...I think Kerry hasn't much to worry about him because the left is desperate to avoid the mistakes of 2000, which gave us one of the worst Presidents in living memory (in the eyes of the left - of whom I'm a proud member). Its why I believe left-wing turnout is going to be heavy - perhaps heavier than right-wing turnout.

Now, I could be wrong. Been known to happen. But right now...my gut feeling is that Karl Rove, the GOP, and El Presidente are in a heap of trouble - and I'm not entirely sure how they'll manage to get out of it without opening themselves to charges of hypocracy. I guess we'll see - El Presidente still has his "secret plan for the next four years," after all. ;)

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