Kerry’s Dilemma


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FRIZ
October 22, 2004, 09:48 AM
National Review
October 22, 2004

Kerry’s Dilemma
by Victor Davis Hanson

Or, how to lose an election.

http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson200410220824.asp

There is a good chance that no matter what Kerry says or does in the final two weeks of this election — barring some major catastrophe in Iraq, a presidential gaffe, or massive voting irregularity — he will lose. And he may well take much of the Democrats' remaining control of government down with him. After all, Putin wants Bush, while Arafat prefers Kerry — and that is all we need to know. But besides the obvious concerns of national security and Kerry's own failure in any honest fashion to offer a coherent and principled alternative course of action to defeat the terrorists, there are more subtle, insidious factors at play that will, I think, preclude his election.

I thought John Kerry clearly won the first debate, lost the second, and did worse in the third. Most Americans, however, apparently disagreed, since many polls showed that respondents thought Kerry won all three. We hear of mayhem daily in Iraq; news on the economic front is mixed; and an entire host of surrogates has defamed George Bush in a manner not seen in decades during a political campaign. Why, then, does Kerry gain little traction, trail in most polls, and perhaps even start to slip further? After all, he is a hard campaigner, has a razor-sharp memory, speaks well, looks statesmanlike at times, raises lots of money, and has a mobilized base working hard for his election.

At least six reasons come to mind that have little to do with issues or substance, but everything to do with style, character, and judgment. First, he comes across, perhaps unfairly so, as an unfriendly sort. He seems to confirm to flyover America that the Ivy League East Coast is a cold place of holier-than-thou privileged reformers who live one life but advocate another. Kerry is a pleasant man, but he nevertheless presents himself as a ponderous aristocrat. His oratory, for all his undeniable mastery of facts and classical rhetorical tropes, is too often humorless, condescending, and pedantic. His photo opportunities that showcase hunting vests or windsurfing look forced, and they lack the natural ease of George Bush on the stump, twanging with his sleeves rolled up. Thus while Kerry does well in debates, he in some sense does not do well, since Americans feel he is either their smug professor or cranky grandfather, peeved that he had to descend from Olympus to impart knowledge to the less gifted. Somehow most would rather be wrong with Bush than right with Kerry.

Second, Democrats should have learned after the Dukakis implosion not to nominate a Massachusetts ultra-liberal. Past voting records, affinity with a wildly unpopular Ted Kennedy, and blinkered assumptions that the Harvard-Boston nexus is synonymous with America marginalize such candidates — as we are now seeing with Kerry, who ineptly fights off the liberal tag, tries to adopt populist mannerisms, and only with difficulty curbs his references to the world of New England high culture. JFK barely pulled it off, but then he was a widely celebrated and nearly disabled war hero, had a stylishly coy wife, and projected a certain vigor that captivated friend and foe alike.

Third, most of us don't like lawyers all that much, at least in the abstract when we are not in need of wills or defense counsel, or being sued. Yet the Democrats nominated two to lead their ticket. Lawyers' capital is their verbiage, but in wartime talk pales before action; and when a John Edwards hits the campaign trail, his glibness sounds mellifluous for the first minute, aggravating by the second, and unctuous, if not nauseating, the third. A friend remarked to me that he normally loves to listen to Carolina accents, but that Edwards has nearly cured him of that taste. The senator knows very little about medicine other than how to sue doctors, so when he promises mobility to quadriplegics we sense it is yet another of his canned courtroom performances designed to fool gullible juries. Next time nominate a businesswoman, general, or actor — anybody but two multimillionaire barristers. Quite simply, the Democrats forgot that their candidates must convince voters, not juries, and that good vocabularies and speaking cadences don't equate to consistent, commonsense toughness in the face of terrorists.

Fourth, Kerry's hypocrisy is finally catching up to him. He talks of raising taxes on those who make over $200,000, but he should start with Teresa, who paid a rate far lower than most blue-collar families. A "man of the people" — and Kerry has cultivated such an unlikely image — simply doesn't windsurf off Nantucket during a war, or snarl at federal bodyguards while skiing at Sun Valley, or peddle around on fancy racing bikes clad in Spandex. Few believe his calls for sacrifice and frugality when he owns a $500,000 powerboat, and could have saved thousands of gallons of precious fuel by symbolically shutting down one of his many estates or parking the Gulf Stream in the hangar and flying first-class. The suspicions about the new Democratic party of multimillionaires such as Terry McAuliffe, George Soros, and Ted Kennedy are only enhanced when it nominates a billionaire to head the ticket.

Fifth, Teresa Heinz Kerry started off as something of a novelty. Then she was praised as being refreshingly candid. But now? I wager that even handlers are more likely to grimace when she lectures, since she has the apparent ability to lose the election in a single moment. She tosses around slurs such as "shove it" and "scumbag" promiscuously, makes accusations of "un-Americanism," and yet, unlike the spouses of Edwards, Bush, or Cheney, finds it difficult to exude even forced public affection for her second husband. Again, fairly or unfairly, her appearances almost reaffirm, rather than cast aside, the public's doubt that if Kerry was not a U.S. Senator and she not a billionaire, neither would have married each other — all a world away from the preferable American Gothic tandem of George and Laura. So despite her elegance, intelligence, wealth, and verve, Teresa Heinz Kerry throughout the campaign has proven to be a walking time bomb.

Mimicking Marie Antoinette, Ms. Heinz Kerry advises the hurricane refugees to go naked, asks who cares about Arizona, tosses out conspiracy theories about wars for oil and October surprises, and assures us that she counsels her husband on "everything" well outside women's issues — precisely what most of us suspected and thus feared. Add in her advice to "vote often," her praise in wartime for dissidents as the true patriots, and her earlier promises to tap her fortune if the campaign got rough and we are left with the image not of a kindhearted philanthropist (which she probably really is), but a headstrong, do-it-my-way heiress, using a deceased Republican's fortune to subsidize trendy Democratic causes while retaining the lifestyle of the true corporate capitalist. No wonder she will not release her full tax records. And when she sneered that Laura Bush's past librarianship was not really a job, she had not a clue that most Americans would consider toiling in the public schools a far more difficult — and more rewarding — task than being a hostess to a billionaire, with plenty of time to brush-up on boutique causes and gripes. All that might sound harsh and terribly one-sided, but it is the image that she, not the media, created with the American voters, and it too contributes to the public's uneasiness with Kerry.

Sixth, at first it seemed neat to welcome in the billions of George Soros and the hype of a Michael Moore. But not now. MoveOn.org is also beginning to grate. Even its slickest commercials come across as crass, and lacking in the populist themes of the graying and grimacing Swift-boat veterans' testimonies. Soros is an unhappy and often cruel character, and he reminds the voting public that all Kerry's cries about Halliburton and Enron fall flat when he is being subsidized with the millions made from international money speculation, which has caused such mayhem in financial markets. After all, nearly ruining the banks and pensions funds in England to make a billion dollars is not a very populist or even kind thing to do. At least Halliburton, unlike Soros and his gang of speculators, creates something real, and its employees risk their lives to build infrastructure for those desperately in need of it.

Nor was it wise to piggyback on Michael Moore's transient infamy, whose buffoonery is even more tiresome than Soros's machinations. He cannot finish a simple sentence without a barely audible grunt, obscenity, or "ya know" — even while he caricatures George Bush's diction as inelegant. His movies are increasingly discredited as crude propaganda, his books simple big-print screaming, full of factual errors and teenager logic. Moore also talks of populism, but gouges college students for $30,000 a rant — recently offering nothing more than foul language and aimless rambling, before kicking out C-Span cameras in worry that they might have captured his embarrassing nonperformance for millions of viewers. That he has figured prominently in the campaigns of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, was highlighted at the Democratic convention, and jets around for Kerry are all embarrassments — not support that any sane operative would wish. Everyone Michael Moore has ever endorsed has lost, and he should have been avoided like the kiss of political death he is. His supporters find him useful but only mildly amusing, while his detractors are vehement in their dislike and impart guilt by association to any who come within his toxic orbit. That his lecture fees, lifestyle, and gratuitous slurs are at odds with the old Democratic image of a Happy Warrior only accents the mistake of welcoming him into the fold.

So there you have it. Despite uncertain news here and abroad, the perception that Kerry won the debates, a skilled — and extremely vicious — campaign team, and the hefty subsidies of time and money from the arts, universities, media, and Hollywood, Kerry still cannot quite close the stubborn remaining gap of two to three points. How can he, when it was a mistake to nominate him in the first place, and a further mistake to add Edwards to the ticket? A Gephardt/Lieberman combination, or something reflecting such middle-of-the-road practicality and seriousness — scolding the president from the responsible right on tactical lapses in postwar Iraq — would never have gotten though the extremist primary and embarrassing Deanomania, but it might well have won the general election.

When this is all over, and George Bush is reelected — Republicans then controlling all branches of federal government, and most of the state legislatures and governorships — then, and only then, will Democrats grasp the march of folly in 2004, and either return to their roots or perish from increasing irrelevance. Meanwhile, George Bush, oblivious to the hysteria, will finish and win this war.

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Henry Bowman
October 22, 2004, 10:31 AM
— Republicans then controlling all branches of federal government, and most of the state legislatures and governorships —
If only it could be actual conservatives, instead. :rolleyes:

Dave R
October 22, 2004, 10:40 AM
As much as I would love to believe this assessment, I have to question the author on one thing....

How has Kerry managed to keep this election a virtual tossup despite all the mistakes listed?

He must have some traction with the undecideds, or the polls wouldn't be this close.

Fastlane
October 22, 2004, 11:09 AM
I am worried about Bush not winning Ohio. We are losing more jobs, Taft has increased the state tax, local taxes are going up. Some voters who were for Bush two months ago are now saying that they don't know if they will vote Republician. In Ohio it is all about jobs. Hope I am worrying about nothing.

OF
October 22, 2004, 11:35 AM
How has Kerry managed to keep this election a virtual tossup despite all the mistakes listed?

He must have some traction with the undecideds, or the polls wouldn't be this close.I think the point is that despite the media fawning over him and Bush-bashing at every conceivable opportunity, despite the mountains of cash, despite the pro-Kerry 527's outspending Bush's 527's by orders of magnitude, despite all the crazy anti-Bush conspiracy theories (every single one of which no matter how insane manages to get enough traction to hit the papers and CNN) he's still only barely even.

I'm convinced that if it wasn't for the media free-pass he'd be another 15 points down. The only reason the modern far-left democrats are even a political issue at all is due to the completely one-sided media in this country. If the media was unbiased, they would be a complete joke.

- Gabe

John Hicks
October 22, 2004, 11:36 AM
keep in mind that polls are easy to skew one way or another. Simply asking "Who will you vote for: Kerry or Bush" vs. " Bush or Kerry" can alter the results. You wouldn't think it would, but there are people who get confused easily and are more likely to go with the first option. Sadly, their vote counts the same as ours.

There have been historically a lot of people who vote for who they think will be the winner. Definitely a reason for liberal media to make sure the race seems close, even if it is not.


Honestly, I don't know how close this race is or will be. I think the only voters who matter now, though, are Ohio, PA, and FL. Get out the vote, remind the voters how important this election is for our economy, rights, and soldiers.

jh

BrokenPaw
October 22, 2004, 12:15 PM
keep in mind that polls are easy to skew one way or another. Simply asking "Who will you vote for: Kerry or Bush" vs. " Bush or Kerry" can alter the results. You wouldn't think it would, but there are people who get confused easily and are more likely to go with the first option. John is exactly right about this. When I was in high school, I performed an experiment on this very subject, using my school's Prom Queen elections as a test.

My teammates and I made up several ballots, with each candidate's name appearing first on an equal number of ballots. We tallied all of the votes, separated into categories based upon who was listed first. The votes were always marginally higher for the candidate listed first on the ballot. The candidate listed last on the ballot was the second most-skewed selection.

We also found that freshmen, who had the least personal knowledge of the candidates, were more prone to pick at random (and thus probably either the first or last candidate), whereas seniors were the least likely to vote at random. We even overheard (whilst distributing the ballots) one freshman say to another, "I don't know any of these people, so I'm just going to vote for the first one."

This is why an uninformed electorate is so dangerous; there's no way to predict what it'll do in a vacuum, and it doesn't actually cancel itself out; if uneducated voters truly picked a candidate at random, statistically they would not affect the election at all. But because their choices are not actually random, factors such as ballot design actually can change an election's winner.

-BP

DRZinn
October 22, 2004, 02:55 PM
This is why an uninformed electorate is so dangerous; there's no way to predict what it'll do in a vacuum, and it doesn't actually cancel itself out; if uneducated voters truly picked a candidate at random, statistically they would not affect the election at all. But because their choices are not actually random, factors such as ballot design actually can change an election's winner.

Why do you think the left always tries so hard to get the MTV crowd to vote? They know d*mn well where most of those votes will go, and why.

Lone_Gunman
October 22, 2004, 03:32 PM
Why do you think the left always tries so hard to get the MTV crowd to vote? They know d*mn well where most of those votes will go, and why.

So if the MTV crowd is uninformed, how do they know to vote Democrat?

If they just vote randomly, Bush and Kerry would get equal votes.

If their votes were influenced by ballot design, then Bush would get more votes, because his name appears first on the ballot.

OF
October 22, 2004, 03:55 PM
When you stop thinking of liberalism as an ideology and start realizing it's actually a 'club', it will make alot more sense.

I'm a reformed liberal, so I know whereof I speak.

Voting for the democratic ticket (all the way down the line, 100% in every race or issue forever and ever) isn't an ideological stand for anything. It's a secret handshake. It's swallowing the goldfish. It's proving yourself. If you don't do it, you're not in the club. If anything, it's a vote against those who are not in the club - not based on ideology, necessarily, but based on the fact that they are not in the club. The club identifies itself by what it is not, rather than by any belief in anything specific. The magnitude of the vitriol directed towards the opposition (repubs, conservatives, whatever) is not linked to the positions or ideology of the opposition, it's linked to the need for the individual inductee to create a sense of self-worth by belonging to the club. The greater that need, the more hatred is displayed against the 'enemy', being defined as 'anyone not in the club'. To belong to the club you must reject that which is not the club. Sound familiar? (see socialism, communism, et al)

Why do we see liberals becoming violent in the face of calm opposition, tearing down and stomping on signs, pushing conservative marchers, etc? Because the oppositions' attempt to present an opposing point of view is not just seen as an opposing point of view to be combated through debate or ideological strength. It is seen as a direct assault on the self-esteem and self-worth of the individual liberal 'club member'. The anti-Kerry sign is not just an opposing point of view, it is a personal affront, an attack on that individual person's sense of self. Their sense of self which is direectly tied to membership in the club of liberalism, of which the democrats are the political embodiment.

Understanding this can explain for you how liberals can hold so many opposing and seemingly contradictory views. Take Wesley Clark for instance. Baby killer? Nope, liberal demi-god. If you think liberalism is an ideology, Wesley Clark makes no sense. Once you understand that it's a club, it makes perfect sense.

Same with Nader. His running would fit all the typical liberal plusses. But they hate him. Not based on ideology, but because he's blowing the party. His ideology is beside the point. The club is all that matters.

Or Bill Clinton. He can invade foreign 'sovereign nations' at will without a coalition or UN support. Why is that?

Why do crowds of marching liberals become violent when faced with opposition? Why do kids, who obviously have no idea about politics, rove and smash as part of the liberal crowd? Where are the conservative roving bands of bandana-faced kids tearing down Kerry/Edwards signs?

- Gabe

DRZinn
October 22, 2004, 04:01 PM
So if the MTV crowd is uninformed, how do they know to vote Democrat? If they just vote randomly, Bush and Kerry would get equal votes.

You're assuming an idealogical vaccum in these young minds. The fact is they are influenced by figures from popular culture; read: musicians, actors, "personalities," and the like. And it's obvious which way they lean.

Standing Wolf
October 22, 2004, 05:19 PM
How has Kerry managed to keep this election a virtual tossup despite all the mistakes listed?

It isn't a virtual toss-up. The national leftist extremist so-called "news" media want us to believe it is, but it's not.

Bush will win by at least six percentage points. That Kerry creature probably won't accept defeat, but will call in the assault lawyers to muck things up in the courts.

Mr. James
October 22, 2004, 05:46 PM
Brilliant post, Gabe. Your diagnostic skills are unequaled. :)

Waitone
October 22, 2004, 05:46 PM
I still think this election is a repeat of Carter's loss to Reagan. The media reported the horserace. I was convince it was a nail biter, right down to when the returns started.

Literally, 15 minutes into the returns Carter issued a concession speech. The media immediately began the analysis of the polling data they failed to report all during the campaign. Seems Carter was doomed from the beginning but from a financial standpoint and and ideological standpoint the media had to keep the horserace going.

I'm getting a dose of the same medicine this time around. Thanks to the alternative media its harder to pull off a coverup like the 1980 election but that doesn't seem to stop 'em.

I can assure you polls are being manipulated to create the horserace. I can also assure you ideology and blind hatred for Bush and things republican affect poll structure and executing.

For me, I believe nothing from either side about the race simply because deceit rules the day for both parties.

ObeOne
October 22, 2004, 05:49 PM
Lone_Gunman,
That is not the case everywhere.
I just sent my Absentee ballot in (Illinois, Douglas County), and the ballot had all of the Democrats listed first for each position. Republicans were next, then any third parties, if there were any. This is even the case when there were no Dems running.
Obe One

John Hicks
October 22, 2004, 06:10 PM
regarding polling data:
I've noticed a trend (although I by no means investigated the hell out of it yet), but whenever I see a poll that is really close or shows Kerry in the lead, I can't find a link to polling data. And I mean raw data: exact question, exact number of answers, no spin.

When I see one with Bush in a big lead, or marginally ahead, I can always find a link to the source data.

More food for thought:
most polling is done on a quasi-random basis with phone numbers chosen at random, but localized by region to try and get an accurate cross section, geographically anyways. However, what about people like me who have anonymous call block and/or screen caller ID's that we don't recognize? Futhermore, what about people like my ultra-gun-nut-cop-friend (he'd be proud I referred to him like that), who does not have a landline, but only a cell phone -- which are much harder to get (from a random or telemarketing standpoint).

So if all this is true, then we're really only seeing a cross section of america who doesn't have caller id or call screening and have a land-line phone. Add in all the democraphics / economics / politics spin you want, but I'd say that factors into the result somehow. Sadly, I have no idea what exactly this means. :(

jh

OF
October 22, 2004, 06:39 PM
Thanks for the kind words, Mr. James. But it's not too hard for me to diagnose, I used to be a liberal - 'in the club'. Big time. Kerry would have been too far right for me way back when. This was before I got what is commonly called 'a clue'.

Kind of gives me a unique perpective. ;)

I'm not saying that everyone who votes Kerry is a kool-aid drinking liberal, but the modern liberal mass-movement is not based on ideology - it offers a home for those that have low self-esteem. The deeper the need to 'belong' the more violent the outlashing at the opposition becomes in a bid to be ensconced deeper and deeper into the crowd (the farther you distance yourself from those outside the club, the more 'in' the club you become - due to the fact that the club is not defined by what it is, but by what it isn't - who it isn't), until the person feels comfortably 'at home', gets the sense of belonging and self-worth they are looking for.

- Gabe

tyme
October 22, 2004, 08:14 PM
Where are the conservative roving bands of bandana-faced kids tearing down Kerry/Edwards signs?
I have a bandana... and I'm prepared to use it!

GOP Club '04!

Best sign ever: along Royal Lane, eastbound between Preston and Hillcrest, in Dallas, there's a house with two real toilets out front, along with a banner that says, "Flush the Johns."

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