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Messages and Messengers in 2008

November 3, 2004

As expected, Democrats rending their garments in anguish over yesterday's debacle are already turning to potential nominees in 2008. It would seem that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards head the list.
While all good and admirable Democrats and public servants, each would be a recipe for yet another defeat in 2008. John Edwards opportunity has come and gone; Obama's time will not yet be right, and for Hilary Clinton, the time will never be right.
Why? Because Democrats badly need to offer a nominee with the following traits:
1. Charismatic, Approachable Messenger
Kerry and Gore were good men, but Democrats paid a price here yet again in 2004 as Bush got a free ride on "likeability." Democrats do not seem to understand that in an age of cable news, the Internet, and reality media, politics IS entertainment. This was Edwards' principal strength and also key to Obama's appeal.
2. Public Policy, Thought Leader
Ideally, the Democratic nominee would be a thought leader in some area of public policy. Gore at least had the new economy and the environment; Kerry very little. Edwards was not and Obama will not yet be viable on this score.
3. Not a Polarizing Figure
This rules out Hillary Clinton from the get go. She can win the Democratic nomination, but she will never become President. She is simply too polarizing a figure and would never escape the Republican attack machine. She's a cultural icon for good and bad; Hillary in '08 ensures that the South, the heartland and white males remain firmly in GOP hands.
Democrats clearly will need to look elsewhere for a messenger. Two to watch are Governor Mark Warner of Virginia and Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana. Warner, a one-time venture capitalst, has gotten high marks in turning around Virginia's budget disaster while working with a GOP legislature. And Bayh has emerged as a centrist, polished leader in the Senate and does not carry partisan baggage.
A compelling candidate, however, is merely the necessary but not sufficient condition for electoral success for Democrats in 2008. More than a messenger, Democrats need a message. Until Democrats coalesce around a coherent philosophy, articulate positive, universal programs and communicate them in succinct 21st century sound bytes, they will remain in the wilderness.

5 comments on “Messages and Messengers in 2008”

  1. I disagree.
    Obama will be ready.
    Wasn't Bush ready in 04?
    He wasn't?
    Didn't make a difference, did it?
    Probably doesn't matter, the Dems will choose Hillary, and LOSE.
    Until the CENTER learns that they've got to jettison the shrill, condescending, insulting LEFT, they will never again gain political traction with a significant fraction of America's voters.
    It's not that the LEFT's cause is not worthy. In many cases, it is. It's that voters don't like being called stupid rednecks. How do you convince a person he's wrong, without insulting him? Perhaps George W Bush and his mandate will do that for us in the next 4 years. But he can't do that with the corporate dominated media spouting propaganda 24/7. It's up to US. The Pajama Brigade, to call them on their garbage. THAT must be our message for the next 4 years. No more "you're a stupid redneck". No more tinfoil hattery. No more rumors. Just facts. And focus on attainable goals. Those attainable goals are rooted in the now-popular philosophy of Fiscal Conservativism. Kleptocracy and Cronyism, IS, in fact, bad for business. Bad for Free Markets. Bad for Capitalism.
    If we cannot reign in these elements, or jettison them, and regain the trust of the American Center, the far right is going to drive this nation off an economic cliff. If they have not already done so.

  2. Once again, OBF is generally on the right
    track.
    Unfortunately, you and I seem to be
    among the few that focus our energies
    on such things as the Right wing focus
    on giving favors to corporate CEOs.
    That, I believe, is our potentially strongest
    appeal: American "values" include the notion
    (although fictitious) that we live in a meritocracy, and you should get what you
    work for because you earned it, not because
    you already have power, and that screwing people
    and defrauding them is wrong, and should be punished, not excused.
    Fiscal conservative policy used to mean restraining government spending. Now it means
    giving the money to people who don't need it instead of those who do. They key is to convince people that these are important issues.
    Right now they are ignored because people place a higher value on "morals" and "values" which
    they equate with gay marriage and abortion. Every religion I know of also values things like honesty, fair play and loving one's neighbor, but these have been overlooked in the values debate.
    On the next candidate, I have to agree with Jon that America is not ready for Barrack Obama. It is a sad but true fact of this nation that every president has been a white male (and almost always of the Protestant persuasion). Even in the sixties it was radical to elect Kennedy because he was Catholic. Unfortunately, this country is NOT getting closer to electing a president of other ethnic or religious backgrounds. Something to hope for in the future however, especially for those of us not in the majority demographic.
    I think Mark Warner is probably the best candidate mentioned by Jon, will Evan Bayh second. Governors have traditionally had a lot more success getting elected, and a Southern governor would be ideal. On the other hand, in the age of international terrorism, a senator, with foreign policy experience, may be more electable. It brings me hope that at least there may be viable candidates.
    Hillary would certainly be a disaster. It occurs to me that we often shoot ourselves in the foot in our primary elections. Kerry is a good example. Democrats (myself not included) thought he was the most electable candidate, but it doesn't take a genious to realize that Massachusetts liberals don't have much appeal in the heartland. Carter was from Georgia, Clinton from Arkansas, even Gore is from Tennessee.
    I think the primary system should be reworked so the southern and midwestern states have the first primaries, as they are the only ones that really matter.
    But I am not giving up on Edwards just yet, although it will be an uphill battle for him having lost the election, his home state, and a job in the lawmaking sector.
    Keep the ideas coming. Maybe we can get them up to the top.

  3. I'm actually thinking of becoming a Republican, and working to get the Moderates to reject the lunatic fringe on the right. Or somehow convincing Moderates to form a new party to replace the Center that the Democrats have abandoned to the wolves.
    I don't care about abortion rights. I don't care about gay marriage. Sure, I'm embarrassed to live in a nation where there are so many who oppose these things - but THAT'S the problem. Not the government. The problem is the people. Anyone who believes in Democracy has to now grasp that the government cannot dicatate values to a majority.
    I'm just sick of having a college education, 12 years of engineering experience, and being in constant fear of being able to feed my kids.
    The Obama thing was really just a momentary lapse of wishful thinking.
    Ah, I'm still ranting. Still freaked out about Tuesday. I was prepared for a Bush victory. I was not prepared for a Bush victory, sweep of the senate, popular-vote approval, AND massive turnout. None of us were. Except for Karl Rove.
    I came up with a theory this morning in the shower.
    Karl Rove, out of all the people he could have chosen chose Bush.
    The obvious reason was name recognition.
    Could he have chosen someone with a less questionable past or record? Absolutely.
    I think he chose Bush, because he KNEW it would prove a distraction. He picked the guy he KNEW would piss off the left, and make them focus on character assassination. The left was BAITED into this. Of course, I remember back in the 1970's, the popular "Male Chauvanist Pig" term that used to get fired around. (Probably what killed the ERA). So name-calling has been a part of the national argument for a long time. But Rove must have known this. He must have realized that he could get this guy in there, on name-recognition and sheer chutzpah, knowing that the Democratic opposition would consist of a guy with Monicagate hanging over his head, and as crippling as that was, Bush still lost the popular vote, because he was such a terrible candidate.
    The constant barrage of personal attacks against Bush only made his support stronger, because of who the attacks were coming from. The same people that were telling the American White Male that he was a Chauvanist Pig, a Racist, a Homophobe, and that he shouldn't spank his kids, or eat any meat.
    I'm not really going to turn Republican. But I'm going to start writing lots of letters to Democratic politicians. Not about issues. About strategy.

  4. We have to consider the idea that in an era of television, the familiar face and the 'devil you know' plays a huge part in electoral politics. It's why Nixon ran again and again until he won. It's why Reagan ran again and again until he won. It's why Clinton won the first time with only a lot of Perot's help. It's why Bush Senior won. It's why Gore won. And it's even why Bush Junior came so close in 2000 as to be able to be awarded the election--he had his father's face.
    Which leaves us with the very real possibility that we may need to keep our options open with regard to John Kerry in '08. This liberal from Massachusetts came within 2% of the Presidency--and the people were starting to warm up to him. Several Bush voters have told me they would change their vote after seeing his concession speech.
    I'm not sold on Kerry in '08 by any means, but I think we'd be foolish not to consider the possibility. There are 2% of this country that are persuadable, and what -else- could the GOP throw at him?

  5. first of all, anyone who believes that the election in 2000 was stolen, is seriously operating under misconceived facts. do some research, you'll see that that election worked as it should. and that bush was by no means the only president in recent history to not have won the popular vote, but won the electoral college.
    second of all, the margin that bush won in 2004 was not small. 2% was more than 3 million votes. i am not sure i buy into this "mandate" buisness, but when our liberal media in this country is throwing around that word despite the fact that they look like they are going to move to canada every time they say it, yeah, i would say that it's not hasty to call it just that.
    i would greatly dislike to see kerry run again in '08. obama would be a nice new face, and i think a president once again from the homeland of america is always refreshing. kerry is too stiff, not in touch with the plight of the common man and woman. i have a lot greater faith in someone who understands what normal people are concerned with, not some of those east coasters who think that the rest of us are living on farms and not educating our children in internationally renoun universities. shows the lack of common knowledge and respect for the rest of their fellow citizens. this is the feeling that i got from senator kerry. however, i still respect the man.
    as far as hillary, i am scared of the woman. i think she already spent too much time in the lime light, and if we have to have someone from new york (even though that's not where she's really from), i would much rather see giuliani take over the white house. the problem is getting him nominated, as he is a very liberal republican. between him and obama, that would be a good election.


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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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