Monday, May 12, 2003

What will win it in 2004

I was thinking some this morning about the fears of some Democrats that a Dean candidacy would lead to a Bush blowout of historical proportions. They are convinced that the only kind of Democrat who can win in 2004 is one who runs from the center right, what some have derisively called "Bush-Lite" position. There are many who have argued against this position by pointing out that the strategy of running to the right has, so far, not worked (witness 2002). I happen to agree with this argument, but it just doesn't seem all that convincing to those who are themselves convinced that it is the rightward leaning policies of this administration that are in vogue right now. And that, I think, is the fundamental mistake they are making. Bush is not winning because of his policies. He is winning because he is Bush. Bush does not equivocate. Bush does not search around for winning strategies. He just does what he wants to do and dares anyone to criticize him for it. Back in my single days I used to get into discussions with fellow travelers on the newsgroup about the Nice Guy(tm) phenomena. Why, we asked, did the women seem to gravitate to the assholes when they knew there were a bunch of Nice Guys(tm) over there leaning against the wall who would never dream of treating them like shit? The short and simple answer is that assholes are self-confident while Nice Guys(tm) tend to be insecure wimps and self-confidence is attractive. People will be attracted to an asshole as long as he is strong enough in his presentation of what he wants because, for the most part, many people just lack their own sense of self-confidence. The same rule applies in politics. If people voted what was in their best interest then Adalai Stevenson probably would have been elected and Al Gore would have won in a landslide. But all the best intentions and policies are for shit if you can't sell it and Bush can sell it. The problem for the Democrats is that they are to focused on the product and not enough on the marketing. Clinton was successful because he understood this. He could be wonky when he wanted to, but he knew enough to be firm in his stand and stick to what worked. Gore tried out the marketing side, but he just looked like a desperate man hunting around for the right message. He needed to find that message right from the beginning and stick with it. Bush is a guy who sticks with it. Even when sticking with it means pursuing policies that are self-evidently ridiculous (tax cuts on dividends will add jobs to the economy? who actually believes that bullshit?) In order for the Democrats to win in 2004 they don't need to adopt the policies of the Republicans. They need to adopt the personality of the Republicans. Dean has that personality down much better then any of the rest of the Democratic field, which is why I support him. If Bush can sell a right-wing agenda as a centrist policy then why can't a Democrat sell a left-wing agenda as a centrist policy? Answer: he can, just so long as he sticks with a consistent message and doesn't waver the first time the heat starts to turn up. It's the tenacity stupid.


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