Democrats desperately need to know how to win.
Instead we are hearing an endless repetition of incorrect conclusions
about the election results. Democratic politicians and pundits
either have no clue why they lost or they are unwilling to say
that Emperor Kerry and the Democratic party potentates never had
The same politicians who looked over the Democratic
field and decided that Senator Empty Suit was going to be the
savior of the
party are now blaming gay marriage for the loss. They have said
nothing about electronic voting irregularities in Ohio and Florida
that disenfranchised their most loyal voters. They have said nothing
about the system of electoral racial separation that condemns black
voters to use punch card “hanging chad” machines and provisional
ballots that aren’t counted.
During the long night when the outcome was still up in the air
John Edwards said that he and his running mate would fight for
every vote. Nothing has been heard from them since. Kerry conceded
later that day and the foot soldiers are once again left to their
own devices to demand that the state of Ohio count all of its votes.
It is all over. The closet door can be opened
and we can speak the truth out loud. Kerry ran a terrible campaign.
He never gave
voters a clear, coherent rationale to cast their ballots for him
instead of for Bush. He fled from his party’s base. The result
was nail biting and wishful thinking that he could pull off a miracle
Kerry himself mused as
late as April, “What is our message?” If Kerry didn’t know his
own message he should never have run in the first place. Bush had
a message. “Stay the course.” The course can be crooked, it can
be broken, but if a candidate acts like he knows where he is going,
millions will follow.
Here is a good political rule of thumb. You
can’t win with a candidate
that no one is truly excited about. Depending on hostility toward
the other side isn’t good enough. For the second time in four years
Democrats were hoping to thread a very narrow needle, praying for
good turnout and the good will of dedicated activists who decided
to grin and bear being dismissed and ignored for most of the campaign.
It is true that the Republicans skillfully used wedge issues like
gay marriage. It is also true that the Democrats are too stupid
to defend their own wedge issues and are afraid to mobilize their
Mary Beth Cahill, manager of the Kerry campaign, admitted as
much. "Their entire strategy is to enlarge their base. If
more evangelical Christians come out, they win.” It boggles the
mind, but in typically inept Democratic fashion Ms. Cahill was
criticizing the Republicans for using the strategy that put them
over the top.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq is the
best example of Kerry’s
mishandling of an issue that should have sent Bush packing. After
months of expressing very serious misgivings about Kerry, Democratic
activists made the painful choice to vote for him. In return they
heard meaningless slogans like “Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.” If
dyed in the wool Democrats were confused, why would swing voters
swing in Kerry’s direction?
Karl Rove knew that Kerry’s support for the
war made him an easy mark. In his book Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward wrote:
"Rove believed they had Kerry pretty cold
on voting to give the president a green light for war and then
backing off when he
didn't like the aftermath or saw a political opportunity. Whatever
the case, Rove sounded as if he believed they could inoculate the
president on the Iraq War in a campaign with Kerry."
Despite his early support for war Kerry had opportunities to do
his own inoculating. He only had to remind voters that weapons
of mass destruction were never found. He could have said that warnings
about mushroom clouds were all a lie. He could have pointed out
that the CIA warned against the use of military force but buckled
under the pressure of Dick Cheney and Colin Powell twisting arms
to get the phony analysis they wanted.
While Bush warned against changing horses in midstream Kerry confused
the issue so badly that no on knew what he would do differently
in Iraq. As a result, several million voters decided to stay on
the same horse, lame though he may have been.
One year ago Howard Dean led the Democrats
in fund raising and popularity. He had a simple message for voters.
Bush had bankrupted
the country, and lied to get the nation into a ruinous war. His
message made sense to millions but struck fear in DNC and DLC land.
They don’t want Democrats who act like Democrats. They call them
unelectable. Useless pundits repeated the mantra. Dean was unelectable.
Then the corporate media selectively edited
footage to make him look crazy. The same media who showed the
Dean “implosion” in an
endless loop were afraid to point out that the President of the
United States was obviously wired for electronic audio help during
Corporate media bias and Democratic party incompetence should
be the subject of discussion. Instead we are told that the next
nominee should be a bible thumper or a red stater. Better yet,
he should be a bible thumping red stater.
In 2008, will the Democratic party have the courage to stand up
for basic, common sense rules of campaigning or will they fall
for foolishness and get a phony, second rate evangelist as their
nominee? Will Democrats keep running from black voters? It is a
certainty that Republicans will unapologetically cozy up to the
ugliest, most extreme segments of the right wing.
The last time I was optimistic I convinced myself that John Kerry
would win. Not only did he realize my worst fears and lose, but
no one is willing to talk about why. That is very bad news indeed.
It makes it more likely that November 2008 will be a repeat of
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly
Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She
can be reached via e-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/