November 09, 2002

New National Post Column Fr...

L.A. Times story demonstrates.

Posted by at November 9, 2002 09:10 AM

Don't presidential front runners have to win more than 50% of the vote? Not to mention beat credible candidates? Not to mention get past their own party's base? Liberals hate Davis. Moderates don't particularly like him either.

If you are a lefty, why vote for Davis when you can vote for Gephardt, Kerry or Gore?

If you are a centrist, why vote for Davis when you can vote for Edwards, Lieberman or Gore?

But what do I know -- I never could figure Dems out...

Posted by: Martin at November 9, 2002 02:36 PM

Great article Matt -- great sketch of the landscape both parties have created and must now camp out on. As one who has some, but by no means entire, sympathy with the more social conservative wing of the GOP, I'd say the party really screwed the pooch (well, as if that weren't obvious). However, I have to question the extent to which it was Simon's "social conservatism" that was his albotross. There is the argument to be made that his albotross could e adduced to more prevailing things like being a patrician, running a shitty campaign, and most especially not campaigning like you really want it, i.e. out among the people, pounding the podium (Republicans rarely are good at this). I have to wonder to what extent a person opposed to our anarchic obortion laws is really unelectable in California. It would be interesting to see some hard scientific polling to flesh this out. Specifically I'm thinking of the fact that most Latinos are observant Catholics.

Norm Coleman was just elected in the Minnesota and the man is pro life. Of course Minnesota is a very different state than California, but nonetheless for a pro-life man to get elected in the land of Paul Wellstone is remarkable. (On that note, my biggest beef with Riordan was selling out on the issue of abortion.)

Posted by: Robert Light at November 9, 2002 02:46 PM

Good article, although it should be pointed out that when Nixon ran for governor, he lost in a landslide. I think that the only thing that keeps Davis from running for the Presidency is an indictment. Depending on where California is situated in terms of the other Demo primaries in 2004, I wonder if Davis even has to contest Iowa or New Hampshire.

Posted by: Steve Smith at November 10, 2002 10:45 AM

Thanks, all.

Martin -- Steve seems to have answered your question. Gephardt inspires more negativity on a national scale (because of his eyebrows, mainly), and he just got his ass handed to him. No one loves Al Gore, and he lost what should have been the safest election, ever. Lieberman is loathsome (to me, at least), and very attackable on many issues Democrats are supposed to hold dear. Kerry & Edwards, I don't know, but Davis, I suspect, has greater access to the moolah, and he can say, with some conviction, that he is about the only Democrat who knows how to run against George Bush and win. What Gray may have over anyone, is his *electability*. Doesn't mean people have to like him one bit. Means he has to have access to money, and a shortage of disqualifying negatives. No Republican out-Death Penalties him. Few Republicans have more military cred. He has important executive experience. He has now won, I believe, five election campaigns, so has proven he knows how to win. Lefties may hate him, but they hate pro-life & global-warming-isn't-really-happening politicians more.

Robert -- What's especially fascinating about this election, and what it means for the Bush/Wilson Riordan/Simon split, is that nothing conclusive happened, beyond perhaps the notion that as long as said Civil War exists, it will be hard to win an election here. Bush, who is proving to be a pretty good campaigner, managed to win a national election by not frightening pro-choice fence-straddlers, yet winking & nudging enough for the social conservatives to climb aboard. Of course, it was clarifying to have eight years of wilderness & Clinton to run against. But Bush *never* pulled a Riordan, and said "y'all are drooling knuckle-draggers, so I'm you're only ticket to power" ... *especially* during the primary, when he did his Bob Jones crap & effectively ran to the right of McCain.

But yeah, it's hard to declare the grassroots/social conservatives dead in the water, because A) The inexperienced Simon ran a bad campaign, and B) The Republican who did the best, McClintock, is a social conservative. Still, when you're running at such a numerical disadvantage, it is crucial that you appeal to independents & disaffected Democrats, and Simon just did not do that at all. You could do this through selective "liberalism," or perhaps charisma, or being able to convincingly portray yourself as a man of honor to restore dignity to the statehouse (to paraphrase Bush).

What the California GOP needs, in about four different ways, is George Bush. But here's the exquisite kicker -- Bush is going to govern *against* California for the next 2-6 years. Just like he did after his November 2000 shellacking (as I mentioned in this column). Meanwhile, Davis will continue trying to govern against Bush. It's hard to imagine how this process is going to improve the Republicans' statewide chances (see the excruciating Shawn Steel column for the between-the-lines agonizing over just this matter).

I truly believe, though I hope to the contrary, that we are witnessing the twice-in-a-lifetime Rasputin-like rise of a despised politician to the White House.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 10, 2002 12:06 PM

Matt, your domestic political knowledge makes mine look like a chimp holding an election guide upside down, but I still just can't concieve of Davis, who has been likened by people I know who voted for him as a soulless bloodsucker, as being able to galvanize support on a national scale.

You mention above that Al Gore lost an election that a mentally handicapped goat should've been able to win, and a huge factor in that (the dominant one, I think) was that Gore was a stolid, irritating, dishonest and generally unpleasant human being. And Davis is Gore to the N'th power.

I find all of your talk about the other Dem hopefuls as fairly convincing (if only from a lack of personal knowledge of Dem politics), so unless some other Donk that no one has considered yet flies onto the radar screen very soon, I can't concieve of any outcome except an extremely easy Bush victory in '04. I mean really easy. We're talking "Well, at least Davis won Minnesota!" easy.

Posted by: Russell at November 10, 2002 03:03 PM

Russell -- I barely know jack, so don't take me too seriously (though the bit about Gephardt's eyebrows is spot-on). I just think that once in awhile the planets align for someone who is not loved (to say the least) can nevertheless blunder straight into a presidential nomination.

Davis has awesome fundraising abilities compared to just about any Democrat, and his grating nature isn't as immediately *visceral* as that of Lieberman, Gephardt, Hillary Clinton or Gore (though this is certainly my bias talking). Watching Gore speak causes something in my liver to curl; watching Gray speak just sorta bores me, unless he goes off on a tangent about loving Singapore's judicial system.

He can govern against Bush (setting new emissions standards, expanding stem-cell research, extending pro-choice protections, blocking off-shore oil drilling, increasing health care for children, blaming the energy crisis on Enron, etc.), without having to pay the price of voting one way or another on Bush's handling of the economy & foreign policy. There are more attractive people, probably, but they don't have his access to power & money... But I'm starting tor repeat myself.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 10, 2002 03:19 PM

Matt -- Your statements do cause me to reconsider the real chances of Davis, a man whose effectiveness of winning nationally I've long thought to be as availing as climbing a rope of sand. He does have things going for him insofar as he's a "new Democrat", however, it seems such types pull this off with booming success when they've the charm, such as Clinton's, to match it. And it's a natural redundancy to label Davis totally bereft of charm. New Democrats have proved themselves to be "new" only insofar as they match or steal the thunder from Republicans on really two and only two issues: crime and welfare reform. Doing so assuages the rank-n'-file citizen's distrust of Democrats' performance on matters of the "culture war" -- and crime and illegitimacy (which welfare is heavily implicated in) to some large extent form the center of that war. All other issues are tax n' spend hog-heaven for most other "new" Democrats. So, I'm not sure how well Davis would play in the heart-land and the South. But you're right on with respect to his coming from California, since the Democrats are resolved, with considerable justification, not to place high hopes on running somebody for the presidency from the effete socialist/Kennedyite/Corzine-ite Northeast: you won't see such a type gaining office in our life-time, barring some odd calamity. And the Southern Democratic politician, the party's greatest success, is in a whole lota trouble (witness Georgia as a possible prelude of things to come. That was Ralph Reed's victory and he's now a sort of rising star again -- for the record, I don't welcome this atavism. I'm a staunch conservative but I despise the "religious right" - and, as if the world should care, I'm a "Declaration of Independence, Abe Lincoln" sort of conservative:) ). Also, your take on Bush "running against California" is dead-on right. And his doing so doesn't help mend the divide, the very real phenomenon of "One Nation, Two Cultures" (seems simplistic, but Gertrude Himmelfarb's book is absolutely persuasive).

But alas Himmelfarb doesn't get to the root of the problem, because ultimately the "divide" is an effusion, whether people are aware of it or not (and most are unaware) of a Constitutional crisis: we no longer rally around common, shared principles -- those principles which the Constitution sought to promulgate through its republican form of democracy. Moreover, this attack on the Constitution's natural rights basis and on its implicit natural law conception, has oddly enough NOT issued in a sort of "rational state" (read: non-ideological, non-partisan state)which Progressives have yearned for going back to FDR and Woody Woo and others. Rather we have two parties more at odds with each other and more partisan than ever before because **so much less is held in common.** And consequently political parties are much weaker and much less inspiring (hence your very well justified dislike of/disenchantment with parties!).


Posted by: Robert Light at November 11, 2002 12:23 AM

Nobody here mentioned Daschle. He would be a good president, better than Kerry.

Posted by: gregor at November 11, 2002 12:57 AM

Herr Gregor der Ungeziefer! -- Daschle would be better than Kerry. But Daschle would NOT be a good president! What the hell does he stand for? Greater tax increases. Wealth "redistributionism", ahhh, how nice.

Posted by: Robert Light at November 11, 2002 02:38 AM
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