View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, December 18, 2003

Littwin and the Democrats

Price: Well, don't bother, Sefton. I don't like you, I never did, and I never will.

Sefton: A lot of people say that, and the first thing you know it, they get married, and live happily ever after.

       Stalag 17

The other bit of Littwin's column involves his complaints about the trailing Democrats attacking Howard Dean's foreign policy positions and experience. Littwin's in a snit because:

And the other suggests another kind of desperation. In this kind, they're so desperate to catch the front-runner, they're prepared to tell Democratic voters it's more important that they beat Dean than it would be for Dean to beat Bush. Try that on as a campaign slogan.

No, Mike, their slogan is that it's more important that they beat Dean, because Dean can't beat Bush. That's what the whole primary nomination process is about, I've heard those ads, and they're legitimate critiques, certainly far more on the up-and-up than the NAACP suggesting that Bush was driving the truck that dragged James Byrd to death. They're reasoned appeals to Democrats not to nominate a guy who'll take the party's snowmobile into a tree.

I don't know what Littwin's worried about. That the intramurals will get so rough that the winner won't be able to lead the varsity? It seems to me that Al Gore was nominated real good, even though he didn't get elected. And John McCain managed a serious run at the nomination, enough to give Governor Bush a scare. Bush's father famously called Reagan's economy-reviving tax plan "voodoo economics," and they did marry and live happily ever after, though once the separation was final Bush pere reverted to his old ways. Coronations are better for sitting Presidents, since a real internal challenge means his own party's not happy with his on-the-job performance. Parties take a little longer to decide on challengers, and a good race toughens 'em up a little. And then they can bring the also-ran on board to "broaden their appeal" and "reach out to the other factions."

The nominating process is about finding someone who can a) win, and b) represents the party's ideals, and c) can lead once he wins. Sometimes you have to compromise on b) to get a). Sometimes you end up ditching a) to get b), just ask the California Republicans. But it's perfectly legitimate to run ads reminding primary voters that the guy they're considering getting married to has some deficiencies in a) and c), and is he really all that much b), after all? Remember, this year's process is so front-loaded that the game will likely be over by March. If the Democrats go ahead and hand Dean the first round, there's not gonna be a second round for second thoughts.

Which brings us to the dynamics of caucuses and primaries. About which I know almost nothing. Deacon and Trunk over at Powerline has posted a couple of articles about the alternatives to Dean, and the chances that he'll be stopped. Peter Schramm over at No Left Turns is arguing that Clark's the guy to do it. (He also finds it interesting that Sharpton is ahead of Kerry and Edwards, but that doesn't surprise me. It's almost certainly entirely the black vote. Sharpton ran for office, what, three times in New York? And he always ended up with the same percentages, and it was always the same voters. The fact that he's picking the same faces out of a larger crowd shouldn't surprise anyone. Disappoint, disturb, and dismay them, yes. But not surprise.)

I know this much. If Clark somehow turns into Frank Reich and gets the nomination, his only card is his foreign policy "experience." Aside from the part of alienating every military officer who'll talk about him, that rests on his role in Kosovo. The Balkans, as Tina Brown, plumping for Hillary, points out, is full of unpronounceable places and people. Expect the debate moderators or Clark himself to bring those up, just to get Bush to try. Expect the papers the next day to lead with whatever happens.

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