November 5th, 2004


Political Post #1

I want to do 3 posts on different subjects, this is the first.

Why Kerry Lost: Kerry lost because people didn't like him. They didn't like him because, try as he might, he wasn't very likeable. He's always been a pretty hellacious buzzkill. He wasn't my first choice -- I went for Edwards in the Caucus -- but I saw the part of him that was quite admirable. He just isn't the guy you want to eat barbecue in your driveway with.

Bush is hard not to like on a purely personal level. And he managed to sell the 'Horton the Elephant' pitch based on that liekability. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful, 100 percent." He really has connected with people; even if he is giving an unemployed truck driver in Grand Island, Nebraska a reaming with his economic policies, that truck driver feels that if he sucks it up and figures out a way to keep on going, that Bush will love and respect him for it.

People vote their emotions, not their political convictions. Bush was able to build a narrative that resonated with people. Unfortunately he mostly inflamed people's worst tendencies as well as their best ones. Along with a gut deep flag waving patriotism, you get a contempt for the grey-area quibbling of the other half of the country. Along with a appeal for the compassion implicit in people's religious faith, you get the inflaming of prejudice against homosexuals. He defines a well lit, sharply focused world view admits no ambiguity, and make folks welcome there, if they're willing to buy the dream.

People LIKED it that he didn't feel like he's made any mistakes. The only mistakes he admitted to was of hiring people like Richard Clark, who in his eyes betrayed the President's loyalty, Well, Richard Clark is a tremendous buzzkill himself. It's way easier to kill the messenger than to incorporate his uncomfortable facts and viewpoints into your incompatible worldview.

And if you wan't to know in simpler terms why Kerry failed, look at all the attacks that Bush and Cheney hammered him with. They said the same thing over and over again all year, and it stuck.

Political Post #2

Bush has made all the usual conciliatory noises since winning the election, which points out something that we, the disenfranchised, can do: Hold him to it.

Here's my challenge to everyone: write Bush a letter saying in your own words something like this:

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on your re-election. I didn't vote for you, because I disagree with many of your policies. Still, I can respect that you're as sincere in your convictions as I am, and I don't see any profit in perpetuating useless rancor.

I welcome your call for conciliation and collaboration. I want you to make a reality of your call by seeking consensus with those of us who oppose you, and moving forward with broadly supported, effectively implemented programs that follow from that consensus.

My primary concerns are threefold: Nuclear Non-proliferation, preserving and remediating environmental damage, and promotion of real tolerance and support for people outside the mainstream of American society. I want you to do what you didn't do enough of in your first term: consider positions outside your ideological comfort zone, and find incorporate the good ideas you will find there.

You have a choice now about how you will be remembered as a President, and I hope and pray that you will seize this opportunity to become a great President for all Americans. If you do, I will be at your side. I believe that there is a middle way for America, that avoids the traps of political extremism on all sides, and if you strive to achieve it, I will support you however I can.

We will never agree on a lot of issues, but there's too much important work to be done in America to get bogged down arguing them -- neither of us will change our minds. But please, please, consider the possibility that you can learn from we that disagree with you, and make us feel that we're inside the tent when you make important decisions.

Sincerely, Kent Williams

Political Post #3

There's a lot of moaning and weeping going on in the Democratic Party right now, but I think there's a useful thought-experiment to perform to find what will need to happen for the more progressive half of the country to regain a voice in the national discourse. I noticed early on, during the primary season when polls suggested that an un-named Democrat had a better chance of beating Bush than any of the specific people who were running. So, let's start playing Mr. Potatohead: Build the perfect candidate.

The perfect candidate will be from the inland South, the source of all electable Democrats since Harry Truman. He (or she) will belong to a politically moderate, mainline Protestant church, be an active and sincere member of his congregation, and not afraid to use the language of religion where appropriate and proper in his political speech. He will be youngish -- 45 to 55 -- vigorous, and handsome without seeming callow. He will have some grey hair, but still look presentable in jogging shorts.

He will hold mainstream Democratic political positions, but will avoid talking about hot button issues, like gay rights and abortion, any more than necessary. He will state his positions in these issues forthrightly, but assert that he will always and respect and listen to people who disagree with him on those issues and look for common ground. He will look moderate Republicans, and try and ally himself with them whenever possible.

He will be a nice guy. He will golf, rarely, and badly, and laugh about his lack of skill. He will play softball, but his real passion will be playground and driveway, shirts and skins basketball. He will always have something nice to say about the professional sports teams in every city he visits. He will throw out first pitches whenever possible. He will go to stock car races, but also go to the US Tennis Open.

He will know how to shoot a gun, but not make a big deal about it. He'll go hunting but he'll never be seen with dead animals.

Early on he will hone a carefully crafted stump speech that explains his positions simply, colloquially, in the simplest language possible. He will critique Bush's policies as president in terms that suggest constructive criticism, even as he refutes them. He will have a pretty wife, who is active and vigorous without being controversial.

He will spend a lot of time talking to church congregations, and encourage the formation of an ecumenical coalition of moderate and progressive faiths. He won't seek their endorsement, but he will publicly stay on the same page with them ideologically.

He will be WASPish in appearance, but he'll have some hispanic and/or american indian great-grandparents. He will speak Spanish fluently. He will have grown up in modest, yet comfortable means, and if he's rich, it will be because he earned it in some way that demonstrates vision, acuity, and good management skills.

In short, he will be Jimmy Carter, without the malaise, Bill Clinton without the bimbos, and John Edwards, without the law practice. He will be George Bush, without Karl Rove. He will be intelligent, but not make a big show of it.

Above all, he will be starting soon to run for the president soon, and do so by meeting and talking with as broad a base of people all over the country as he can manage, to figure out how best to reflect back to them their hopes and ideals. He will craft an image that people can fall in love with, without being a fraud.

It would be nice too if he could cure the sick and raise the dead, but I don't want to get greedy about this.

Southern Democratic Governors

So maybe I'm thinking about this too early but can you really think about this too early?

Let's take a look at the talent pool for the next Democratic nominee for president. The best place to look, based on which Democratic presidential candidates have actually been able to win, is in the pool of southern governors.

1. Kathleen Babineaux Blancoof Louisiana -- given the way the red state electorate is going all Jesus-Crazy, a good place to start with her is her Address to the Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention. She talks a good game -- if you go through her speeches she strikes the right tone.

2. Bob Holden -- Missouri is VERY red -- John Ashcroft ran for Senate there. He looks like a defecit hawk, he must be using to tip-toeing around the bible thumpers, because they're thick on the ground in Missouri.

3. Brad Henry of Oklahoma. Another very red state with a democratic governor. Looks like a nice enough fellow.

4. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee. He looks a bit old for a presidential run in 4 years, but Tennessee is in the bulls eye of the red states.

5. Mark Warner of Virginia. I'd disqualify him for being in an Eastern Seabord state, though hey who knows.

Michael Easley of North Carolina. Another east coast state, and the home of John Edwards. It will remain to be seen whether Edwards is going to be a viable candidate in 2008, and if he's running seriously I don't know if Easley would want to get into it.

7. Bob Wise of West Virginias. Pluses: Pun-fertile name. Minuses: West Virgina is a third world country that no one notices unless Robert Byrd starts fulminating about something. Also, lose the mustache.

Runner Up: Bill Richardson of New Mexico isn't from the 'real' south but he's got some charisma and brown-person street cred.
Second Runner Up: Tom Vilsack of Iowa. A decent governor, and a decent guy, who has some gravitas he can bring to bear. Liabilities -- not Southern at all. Assets -- no one has ever found any dirt on him, good public speaker.

Anyone know anything about any of these people?