Doing the right thing
I really see very little down side to Dean's weekend appearance with Gray Davis in which he urged a no vote on the recall.
Some have argued that standing to close to Davis is like standing to close to plutonium. But I think the potential benefits of this to Dean far outweigh any potential harm that may come from sharing a stage with Davis:
- If Davis avoids getting recalled he will remember who helped him out (while all the candidates have urged a no on recall, Dean is the only one to do so while standing next to Davis). That means that Dean will have a might big IOU in his pocket from one of the most powerful political machines in the country.
- If Davis is recalled he will still benefit from the gratitude of the Davis machine, even if that machine doesn't have as much power as it once had.
- Dean will earn bonus points for taking a political risk and standing up for principle instead of what looks like the right thing to do according to the polls. This will sustain his maverick, damn-the-polls image.
- Dean is adopting the approach to the recall that Bill Clinton has urged: cast it in light of impeachment, the 2000 vote and the re-districting battles as just another example of how the Republicans don't like the democratic process. By doing so he gets the attention of the Clintonites who might be more willing, because of this, to help him out as the campaign develops. Having Bill Clinton on his side will be a good thing going into 2004.
- It's the right thing to do. Besides all the political calculus above, taking the stage with Davis against this blatant attempt to re-run the 2002 Governor's race demonstrates, I think, that Dean has his priorities straight about the future of our Democracy. You can't defend Democracy if you aren't willing to defend people whom you might otherwise not want to be associated against un-Democratic attacks. This the mistake so many Democratic consultants made in 2000 when they advised that Gore should run away from Clinton.
Doing the right thing is smartest politics of all.