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Bad Advice

I really hope Democrats don't take up Saletan's advice:

If you're a Democrat, here's my advice. Do what the Republicans did in 1998. Get simple. Find a compelling salesman and get him ready to run for president in 2008. Put aside your quibbles about preparation, stature, expertise, nuance, and all that other hyper-sophisticated garbage that caused you to nominate Kerry. You already have legions of people with preparation, stature, expertise, and nuance ready to staff the executive branch of the federal government. You don't need one of them to be president. You just need somebody to win the White House and appoint them to his administration. And that will require all the simplicity, salesmanship, and easygoing humanity they don't have.
The problem with what the Republicans did in 1998, of course, is that it led to George W. Bush becoming president of the United States. This was, according to both Saletan and myself, a bad thing. Indeed, a worse thing than one would have expected ex ante simply on the knowledge that he was a conservative Republican. Bush's electoral success aside, it still matters to have presidents -- and nominees -- who know what they're doing. The man Saletan has in mind, John Edwards, may well be up to the job, and I think he'll deserve a look in 2008, but he shouldn't get a free pass on the "would this man be a good president?" issue. He, like whoever else runs, should be scrutinized.

November 3, 2004 | Permalink


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Saletan is right. You cannot speak intelligently to a fool. Speak to a fool like a fool.

Posted by: Willem | Nov 3, 2004 4:03:16 PM

Damn your DLC bs. Edwards might be just a little off on trade, a little protectionist for your tastes, so he "should be scrutinized." You are wrong Matt, policy is nothing, less than nothing without power.

The urban, elite, Repub-lite wing of the party has cost the country enormously.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 3, 2004 4:09:33 PM

I wouldn't put it the way Willem does, but if you want to win, you need to adopt a winning strategy.

Everything else can be worked out later.

All of the so-called Republican hand-wringing over Bush spending like a drunken sailor didn't stop them from getting out and voting for him.

Not that I think Democrats are necessarily guilty of this (yet - most of my friends who supported Kerry in the primaries did so because of "electability" - so they said), but losing because you picked the "right man for the job" instead of the "right man to win the election" is still losing.

I'm with Saletan, then, I guess. And I think that's why I was supporting Edwards in the primaries - although he is not without his flaws either.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Nov 3, 2004 4:12:17 PM

What matters is: Will they win? Not Will they make a good president.

Posted by: MattB | Nov 3, 2004 4:14:25 PM

I would note that Edwards seems to have done jack squat to help the K/E ticket. I say this eating crow, as I was insistent that he be the VP.

Posted by: MattB | Nov 3, 2004 4:15:38 PM

Until the Republicans have thoroughly broken everything, we will not win again. It's not in our hands anymore.

Most people who remember the importance of the New Deal, not as an abstraction, but as a lifeline, are getting old, and fast. All the remnants of progressive policy will be swept away, and they won't come back until things are so bad that people remember why the policies were there in the first place. The greed-heads and Jeezus freaks have decided that they want the Gilded Age back. And until we hit rock bottom, they won't reconsider.

And when/if we do bounce back, we won't be running the show anymore. Historians will look back at this election as the setting of the sun on the American Empire.

Posted by: bobo brooks | Nov 3, 2004 4:18:06 PM

You guys just don't get it. How can the democratic party continue to nominate guys who can't win their own states, and expect them to carry a party to victory in the other states?

Gore, Edwards and I'm sure if I had an interest in democratic party history, I could point out more. If you can't carry the state you call home, you WILL NOT carry a majority in the electoral college.

Posted by: bruce in oz | Nov 3, 2004 4:19:47 PM

bruce, you know, if the kerry/edwards ticket had simply written off florida and added the resources they committed there to ohio, they'd have won this thing, even with north carolina.

and if theresa la pore had done a better job on ballot design in Palm Beach in 2000, they'd have won that thing, even without tennessee.

so while the dems have their problems that need to be addressed, your critique isn't anywhere near the top of the list.

as for matt's point, let's not forget that a vast majority of bush voters yesterday are both in active denial of reality (my favorite? 44% of yesterday's voters think that iraq is "going well," and 90% of them voted for bush, meaning that 80% of bush's voters believe the demonstrably untrue proposition that iraq is "going well") and unaware of what their candidate actually stands for. I have to think that sooner or later, this catches up with you (although the later obviously wasn't yesterday!), which is why just pushing a guy out there who seems "electable" without vetting his actual capabilities is a shaky approach at best.

Posted by: howard | Nov 3, 2004 4:27:43 PM

In a sense, Saletan is right. A simple message delivered by a good salesman is a powerful tool. But he misses the man behind the curtain. That salesman needs a marketing department, product development, operations, etc.

Posted by: Chibi | Nov 3, 2004 4:28:41 PM

I think what this election will teach us is that even with the right candidate you will still lose. And winning is everything.

I would like to bleieve that people will rally around the right man for the job, but that simply does not happen. We are going to have start looking, and I mean today, for the Democratic nominee in 2008. That person needs to start campaigning and fund-raising now. That person needs to have the likes of a Karl Rove crafting a strategy to win. And we need the likes of a Karen Hughes to lie their teeth if necessary to stay on message.

I think that wining is all important, but if we start now, we can try to get the right guy in the winner's circle.

Posted by: Nate | Nov 3, 2004 4:28:58 PM

I know that as liberals we have a natural inclination to try and reach out to our opponents, not to sink to their level because that would make us as bad as them, blah, blah, blah. As bad as adopting their methods may be, the alternative is even worse. We need to start lying to the sheep that make up the electorate. Call a new air pollution regulation "The Economic Freedom for Industry Act", call a new piece of anti-discrimination legislation "The Family Non-Interference Act". Bush has proven that they will eat this shit with a spoon.

Posted by: pablo | Nov 3, 2004 4:30:11 PM

The real thing that the GOP did to get Bush "elected" was to have some power brokers select him, then run off any challengers. By contrast we Democrats let anyone who wants to toss his hat in the ring do so, and the primary voters select the winner. Our power brokers do all they can to persuade the primary voters to pick the one they like best - like Kerry - but they don't preselect the candidate. I'm not sure the GOP method is what I could live with, but the current method sure doesn't select a winner.

Another point: we have been trying to win without a single southern state supporting our candidate. That has to stop, and the way to do that is to pick a real southerner as our candidate. I have no idea who that would be, but it isn't Edwards. Even I could design a campaign to defeat Edwards.

Posted by: Vaughn Hopkins | Nov 3, 2004 4:32:32 PM

I think what this election will teach us is that even with the right candidate you will still lose.

He wasn't necessarily a good candidate: very bad acting, painful to watch - among other flaws.

10,000 times better than Bush, of course, but that's not such a great compliment - anyone would be better.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 3, 2004 4:33:42 PM

Right after I posted, I started thinking that in 2008, possibly in the midst of a deep recession or worse, electing a protectionist not a safe idea. Then I started trying to think of a Southern governor who would be a possible.

And then I read bobobrooks comment, and agreeing with him, thinking that the nation will be in any kind of sane rational condition after 4 more years, or that DeLay and Rove will leave Dems and chance of gaining Southern states....the hell with it...we are so fucked.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 3, 2004 4:35:21 PM

Wow! I came across this site by accident and it amazes me how much anger is harbored.

It is fair to define "going well" when discussing Iraq, as a chance at freedom for 25 million people. It can be defined as the opportunity to fulfill one's dreams which would not have been possible under Saddam.

It is so selfish to sit in your 'taken for granted' life and be unwilling to lend a hand to those whom, without the United States, could never live better than a caged animal.

I have pity for you. How empty your soul must be.

Posted by: Lance | Nov 3, 2004 4:35:58 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with Saletan's suggestion,
provided that we add the following criteria:

a) the candidate should also be the son of a
recent former president, preferably with strong
ties to huge sources of funding and experts in
dirty tricks

b) the candidate's sibling should be the governor
of a major swing state

Then we can be all set for 2008 - if we can also
convince the major media that it would be impolite
to ask any awkward questions about our candidate's
history, accomplishments, or policies.

Posted by: Richard Cownie | Nov 3, 2004 4:36:52 PM

We need two things in 2008 -- a message and a messenger. I think the country might be ready for a recast form of liberalism by that time, something that can unite the country and appeal to the average joe and jane. I find it hard to believe we'll have much success with our adventures overseas, and like a drunk who's really hit bottom (unlike the false bottom, it seems, we are at now in 2004) we will be desperate for change. Let the messenger emerge through the primaries and debates. We don't need any appointed nominees. I don't think that'd work for the Dems.

Bush doesn't run in 2008, so the Reps are going to have a problem. The three R's who have the most appeal nationally, Giuliani, McCain, and Arnold, for various reasons, won't win the nomination. Who will it be? Frist, Jeb Bush...I doubt it. I am not sure if one of the red state governors, unless he has some Washington experience, will be the right ticket, if terrorism and war are still issues. There's always Cheney, but it's hard to imagine him as the front man. There's always Powell, but if he has the stomach for it, I don't know.

The Dems have their work do to (and how) but with an appealing candidate, I'd give them a better than 50-50 shot at retaking the White House.

Posted by: JJF | Nov 3, 2004 4:39:42 PM

SoCal and Bob Mcmanus are right. Electibility was a crock of shit. Obviously he wasn't electible or the right man for the job. Kerry was a salesman who'd never used the product. A populist without a people.

Edwards '08

Posted by: Just Karl | Nov 3, 2004 4:43:22 PM

This is just silly. Lack of charm on the part of the candidate is a shallow excuse: Kerry showed that he had far more charm than Bush at the debates. Those were his strongest moments of the election, when he stood up beside Bush and people responded.

Posted by: Davon | Nov 3, 2004 4:44:10 PM

Why don't the Dems propose a Constitutional Amendment for a right to privacy? It's simple enough and would short circuit a conservative Supreme Court. Opposing such a measure would seem unAmerican to most people even in the red states. The Democrats need a Contract with America of new ideas to put the Republicans on the defensive in '06.

Posted by: Just Karl | Nov 3, 2004 4:47:57 PM

Lance, if you come back looking for a reply, you should understand that the people of Iraq don't have a lot of hope right now --- Iraq is in much the same position Afghanistan was in before the Taliban took over. There is serious danger that the Iraqis won't get to "fulfill their dreams", they'll either die in a civil war or end up suffering under another repressive regime. That's not going well.

Indeed, Iraqis now appear to be dying faster than they were under Saddam's henchmen. You, in your taken-for-granted security, may want to reflect on what a few years of living in daily fear bordering on terror may make you willing to accept in a government that promises peace and stability.

Posted by: dm | Nov 3, 2004 4:48:49 PM

I don't get the "can't carry his own state" comments. Does anyone think that Cheney "carried" Wyoming? Wouldn't wyoming have gone to bush no matter what? The problem is trying to pick a southernor to get southern votes when the rest of the ticket (as they see it) isn't backing "southern" values (whatever the *&^* they are). The fact of the matter is a lot of people turned out to vote for KErry/Edwards--just one percent of the total population too few. If bush had lost by one percent do you think for a minute his team would be wailing about how "the rest" of the country didn't support him and his policies? Do you think they'd be worrying about how to reach accross the aisle and work the the other 51 percent? Hell no. The dems should take what they can from this solid support (49 percent) and work with it and expand it, not feel embarrassed by it.


Posted by: aimai | Nov 3, 2004 4:49:45 PM

Hmm, "a chance at freedom for 25 million people" ?
Well, maybe, but also a chance of becoming one of
the estimated 100000 excess deaths since the
invasion (see the Lancet). Many of them caused
by the US dropping Mark 82 500lb bombs (50% deaths
within 60m radius) on densely-populated urban

The most telling fact about Iraq is that the
Iraqi middle class is getting the hell out of
the country as fast as they can - probably to go
to neighbouring countries with less "freedom" but
better chance of survival.

So yes, I'm angry. With good reason. I pay a lot
of tax and I would prefer that it not be spent on
killing innocent people. If this doesn't bother
you, then I worry about the condition of *your*

Posted by: Richard Cownie | Nov 3, 2004 4:50:18 PM

Our next candidate must be able to:

1. Lie
2. Distort
3. Send hundreds of our children to their deaths without blinking.
4. Start wars and not be able to finish them.
5. Be fiscally reckless.
6. Be in the pocket of large corporations.
7. Be a fake christian.
8. Slander and smear decorated veterans.
9. Display a propensity towards abandoning service to country.

These are the qualities of a successful president.

Don't you get it... the whole process of political discourse has been warped and destroyed. You cannot beat these guys with silly thinkgs like sound policy and being responsible.

Posted by: Willem | Nov 3, 2004 4:53:51 PM

Kerry had charm? He was as dry as toast! He wasn't believable.
He past positions and actions contradicted his message. He spoke in generalities, never sharing substance.
I don't think his handlers understood the electorate.

Posted by: Lance | Nov 3, 2004 4:53:52 PM

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