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Sunday, April 03, 2005

Politics: Part 2 - The Anti-anti Election

It was a classic battle. One party vs. Another. A liar vs. A great leader. One man who sought money over another who sought community. In the Presidential Election of 2004, the only question was which one was which in the battle.

Late in 2003, the election was looking something like 1992. There was a Republican president who was succeeding in Iraq while the economy was stagnant. The Democrats new how to fight that battle. Of the half dozen serious candidates, most supported finishing the job in Iraq but getting the economy back on track in Clinton style. It hit Bush on a weak point while not making Democrats look like a bunch of anti-war weenies.

At the end of 2003, I was on the fence. I thought the war in Iraq was necessary to show that the new president wouldn't punk out like Clinton did in Somalia. At the same time, I was very tired of excuses over the economy. I'm not one of those libertarian types that thinks if we cut the tax rates to 0%, we'll become some sort of paradise. That kind of business at all costs attitude led to workers dying in coal mines and the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Someone like Joe Lieberman appealed to me. He was tough on the war but wanted to correct the excesses of Bush's economic plan.

Then came a former Vermont governor named Howard Dean. He was the opposite of what the party needed. Dean was more of a free market economist than the national party, but most importantly he opposed the war in Iraq. Being primary season, he was gaining momentum among the liberal party regulars. They had been fed a regular diet of media claiming that Bush did everything from sending troops off to die to hanging out with Osama bin Laden at family barbecues. Staying the course was not an option for them, and Dean's fiery rhetoric plus (Joe Trippi's) web-based fundraising gave him the momentum.

By then, I knew that I couldn't stand voting against Bush. It was no longer a question of his handling of the war or the economy. Bush's detractors judged him rotten to the core. And in the absence of a strong vision, the hard-core social left of the Democratic Party came in. Moderates would be toast and I was in no mood to support a bunch of conspiracy nuts.

This is where the election came off the rails. Senators Kerry and Edwards had to scramble for anti-war credentials. They decided on a symbolic vote against funding for a war they voted for in an earlier time. And even though Howard Dean self destructed quickly enough, being pro-war was left to Joe Lieberman who finished 5th.

By the summer of 2004, the anti-war strategy seemed like a winner. Iraq had turned deadly, and job growth was removing Bush's economic vulnerability. John Kerry traded on his 4 month stint in Vietnam. Unfortunately for him, a book by Douglas Brinkley that glorified his service also trashed other soldiers who served in swift boats at the time. The Swiftboat Veterans for Truth started to questions Kerry's stories at the same time highlighting his protests.

Now the Democrats had an anti-war weenie during a war on Terror. Media retaliation with Bush's National Guard activity backfired when a CBS producer took the word of a disgruntled Texan with a copy of Microsoft Word and an ax to grind against George W. Bush. Kerry started to flip flop, arguing to pull the troops out now, then a year from now, then slowly.

What Kerry really did was to galvanize the anti-anti-Bush vote. Republicans have a remarkable ability to torpedo themselves. They put Bill Clinton in because they were lured (twice) by a megalomaniac who quit running for president during the race. Christians sat home and nearly lost Republicans the election because Bush drove a car intoxicated 20 years before. The one thing that would overcome their indifference was their disgust for the liberal posse that talked about Bush (and his evil deeds) more than Kerry.

Thanks Hollywood, for breaking me from my indifference.


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