Following is the text from an email I wrote today to a friend about the prospects for Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. We exchange messages every few days updating one another on our thoughts on the race for the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, and whether these Democrats really have a chance of beating Bush.
Thanks for those links. That article in The Nation was really excellent; definitely one of the best campaign trail reports I’ve read so far this year. It reminds me that the public face of a campaign can be radically different from its true character.
My faith in Dean started to flag a little bit about two weeks before Clark threw his hat in. It really concerned me that he was starting to waffle so much on so many issues. Actually, I didn’t mind so much that he was changing his mind on stuff like campaign financing and Israel — I think that was too be expected as a byproduct of becoming a front-leader — but rather, it nagged at me that he was so apparently unclear on these issues. The effect was that he started to dilute the effectiveness of his message on non-Iraq issues, which doesn’t bode well for the general election at all.
Also, I have to admit that the vociferousness with which his emergence has been greeted has been a real bummer too. So many of the press reports and commentary I’ve read have been dismissive if not downright contemptuous of Dean’s success *and* constituency. This really came to light immediately after Clark announced, when tons of pols said, more or less, “Clark is the antidote to the Dean disaster.”
Of course, my first reaction to this is that the Democratic center is cynical and destructive. But after it became apparent that it was more than just the Democratic Leadership Council that had assumed this position on Dean, it really started to get to me. I mean, I’m willing to fight tooth and nail against the Republicans for a candidate like Dean, but it’s very dispiriting to have to fight the so-called mainstream of the party too.
I really want Clark to succeed, but I am frankly a bit disgusted by the Democratic center, the people who “sat out” the past few months, waiting for the right candidate to emerge. Like you, I’m also concerned about Clark’s surprisingly lack of preparedness. He more or less fumbled the first few days after his announcement and he basically asked the voters to “give me a little bit of time” or something. Ridiculous! He’s had plenty of time, having had the luxury of watching from the sidelines these long months. That’s very discouraging.
Last month I was feeling energized and extremely excited about Dean. But as you can see, I’m feeling a bit unsure about the whole prospect of a viable Democratic nominee right now, despite recent polling data bearing unfavorable results for Bush. I’m not happy with either Dean or Clark, and I’m pretty unhappy about the Democratic center. It’s still early so, so I can hope, at least, that things will change dramatically… as they tend to do during these races, luckily.