Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Thursday, September 18, 2003
Why Clark Can Win
Claims that Clark can't win repeatedly make the same arguments: he has no voter base, it's too late to get into the race, and Clark lacks political experience.

The voter base problem is easily solved. Clark's base is Democrats who are determined to beat Bush and want the strongest candidate to do it. That base is easily large enough to win in the Democratic primaries.

Is it too late? Critics claim that Clark doesn't have time to build a nationwide organization before the primaries. Wake up, folks: it's already there. Clark has over 20,000 volunteers and around 150 local coordinators in 50 states. It's true that a group of volunteers can't really substitute for a professional campaign organization, but no Clark rival except Dean really has those running yet in more than 3 or 4 states. And the party leadership, sensing a disaster if Dean is nominated, is likely to do a lot to help Clark bridge the gap between meetup volunteers and a serious campaign organization.
< p>Money is one of the main hurdles to get over. According to reports in the campaign, over $500,000 was raised yesterday; not a bad start. Whether Clark has the support to raise the necessary money remains to be seen, but he does have the time.

Clark is without political experience, but that's as much an advantage as a disadvantage in American politics. Voters prefer non-politicians, but critics say that Clark will stumble due to his inexperience, or be unable to handle questions outside of his military/foreign policy expertise. The truth is that Clark has been doing many interviews recently, and these appearances suggest he is extremely effective. Here's a sample from an extremely successful appearance on Bill Maher:

MAHER: Right. A lot of the – you know, they all talk about the military. Very few of them served like “hm-hm.” [holds up Bush doll] [laughter] [applause] I want to – I want to read you a quote, because I’m not saying whether you’re going to get into this or not, but Howard Dean, who is apparently the front runner now for the Democrats, he said last week, he said, “In Vermont, politics is much further to the left.” He said, “A Vermont centrist is an American liberal.”

And then his campaign manager came out and said, “That’s not an admission he’s a liberal.” [laughter] Which, quite frankly, pissed me off. Because somehow they hijacked that word, “liberal.”

Now, you’re a Democrat. You said that last week.

CLARK: Absolutely.

MAHER: Okay. [applause] I’m just – I’m just wondering, of all the people who has the credentials to say, “liberal” is not a bad word, I’m wondering if I could get you to say that.

CLARK: Well, I’ll say it right now.

MAHER: Good for you.

CLARK: We live in a liberal democracy.

MAHER: Right.

CLARK: That’s what we created in this country. [applause] That’s our—

MAHER: That’s right. Thank you.

CLARK: That’s in our Constitution. [applause continue] Let me follow on this, okay? I think we should be very clear on this. You know, this country was founded on the principals of the Enlightenment.

MAHER: Right.

CLARK: It was the idea that people could talk, reason, have dialogue, discuss the issues. It wasn’t founded on the idea that someone would get stuck by a divine inspiration and know everything right from wrong. I mean, people who founded this country had religion, they had strong beliefs, but they believed in reason, in dialogue, in civil discourse. We can’t lose that in this country. We’ve got to get it back. [applause]

MAHER: Thank you.

CLARK: I’d like to follow that. Can I follow that?


CLARK: Because, you know, a lot of people have said, “What are you interested in? Why would you even consider running?” And they say, “Isn’t it just about Iraq?” It really isn’t. Iraq is part of it. I think the foreign policy has serious problems.

MAHER: Right.

CLARK: But I think the economy and the way the administration has dealt with the economy has serious problems. But more fundamental than that, it’s about what kind of country we want to live in. I think this nation wants open, transparent government. I think it likes a two-party system. I think it likes to hear reasoned dialogue, not labeling, name-calling and hateful politics. [applause] And I think 2004 is the election that voters have to put that back in.

On a question he couldn't nave been expecting, this really couldn't have been any better. Dean, the seasoned professional who supposedly is going to take apart the inexperienced general, slipped up and implied he was a liberal. Excepting unorthodox views on guns, he pretty much is, obviously. After which, Trippi was pretty much reduced to saying, "Nassty liberalssess. We hatess them. But those who are volunteering for our campaign shouldn't take it personally."

Clark stood up for liberals - but notice he did it without actually saying he was one. He hit the sweet spot, where he's reaching primary voters on subjects they feel strongly about - the media smearing of liberalism and Bush's attempts to delegitimize opposition - while he doesn't say a single word that can be used against him in the general. His answers to Maher's earlier questions on Iraq were similar, hitting Bush hard on lack of competence and preparation.

If he can hold to this formula, Clark has a real winner. Hit Bush hard and consistently for extremism, dishonesty, inability, and especially for his endless failures in foreign and domestic policy. Do that through the primaries, where the Bush-bashing and the prospect of victory will draw in the party faithful. And in the general, keep on doing the exact same thing. Any Democrat, Clark included, can make the case on jobs and the budget deficit. But every poll shows that security, where Bush has in fact been as bad as he has on jobs, is Bush's political strength. No Democrat can make the case on security and terrorism as effectively as Clark.

Executed well enough, this can give Clark the left, the center, and even chunks of the right that are unhapppy with Iraq, infringements on civil liberties, and Bush's fiscal recklessness, leading to a blowout victory.