I suppose anybody that dabbles in amateur political commentary should have something to say about the Democratic convention and John Kerry’s official coronation as the party’s candidate. But what’s left to say that hasn’t already been said? I could babble about my own mixed feelings about Kerry, but I think I’ve made that clear before. I was recently struck by one ironic thought that might be worth mentioning.
There is a lot of heated debate about Kerry in some of the Internet’s political playgrounds where I lurk. It’s 2000 and Ralph Nader all over again. In spite of Dennis Kucinich’s endorsement of Kerry, some Kucinich supporters are pointing to all of Kerry’s flaws and pronouncing that they can’t vote for someone like that. This draws rabid responses from the pragmatic compromisers who realize that Kerry is far from perfect, but, like it or not, either he or Bush is going to be our next President, and people should quit pouting and do what it takes to save the world from 4 more years of Bush.
In the midst of all this debate, I’m reading news stories about the Republican party’s plans to portray Kerry as a “liberal”, and point to his Senate voting record to show how “bad” he is. I can’t help but see the irony in this. With Kerry’s candidacy facing a serious threat of being abandoned by enough of the “true believers” to tip the balance to Bush in a close race, the Bushies might actually be doing him a favor by helping remind some of those defectors about how “liberal” Kerry is.
I’m not a political genius, but I think the Kerry and Bush campaigns may both be making a serious error here. As other more erudite political pundits have previously pointed out, the Republican party has long been very successful by sucking up to the extreme right wing of their party. This tends to rally the faithful and bring out voters who might otherwise stay home. Since they know how well this works for them, they should be glad Kerry’s folks aren’t smart enough to consider it.
The Democrats, on the other hand, abandon the extreme left wing of their party, and spend all their time trying to dodge the “liberal” label. As a result, many of the voters they should be able to attract either stay home or vote for some third-party wacko. By running to the center and trying to act like Republicans, they lose Democratic votes. Kucinich pointed this out during a Q/A session in Lexington a couple of months ago, when someone asked him about Nader. He said that when Democrats act like Democrats, they tend to win elections, and that if the Democratic party would just “steal” Nader’s platform, they would get back his voters. While history seems to agree with this, the Kerry campaign doesn’t.
So, with the Kerry folks being too stupid to run the kind of campaign that could draw back some of their disenchanted voters, the Republicans are promising to do it for them. It will be truly ironic if their spending massive amounts of money publicizing Kerry’s “liberal voting record” succeeds in pulling some left-wing fringe voters back to Kerry, even when those of us voting for Kerry because we have no choice have not been successful in persuading those folks that regime change is vital.