Last week I outlined a strategy to win the next election: have a bold progressive platform and sell it with populist rhetoric like common sense and saving money. With this, and strong pressure on the media, you could pick up tons of voters from across the spectrum. You’d win the election by a wide margin, take control of Congress, and have a mandate to push through all the stuff you want but can’t run on.

Another way to look at it: conservative/liberal labels aren’t so useful anymore. If you want to peg down Bush’s politics, the most apt description for him would be pro-corporations (gut environmental regulations, ignore corporate crime, give out lucrative reconstruction contracts, etc.). The best way to run against that would be as pro-people. I’m betting that in a people vs. corporations fight, the people will win.

Since no one emailed me and said I was completely insane, let’s see how the candidates stack up. The Greens don’t have any serious candidates yet (judged by their Google results) and the Republicans will almost certainly nominate Bush, so that just leaves the nine serious Democrats to judge. Let’s get to it:

I’ve listed the candidates in order of how much I currently like them. For each candidate I evaluate four factors: personality, politics, strategy, and conclusion. These are in the order of how easy they are to change; Kucinich can change rhetoric (strategy) but he can’t really make himself taller (personality). This information was put together on November 4, 2003. I might update it if I have time.

Dennis Kucinich

Personality: Too short and un-Presidential-looking, overactive, poor in debates/discussions.

Politics: Best of the bunch — wants universal health care, social security benefits, freedoms, guaranteed education, clean environment, no drug war, less wars, etc.

Strategy: I’ll paint myself into a corner as the “progressive choice” — that way Democrats won’t want me and conservatives won’t touch me.

Conclusion: Kucinich has the most electable platform but is killing his chances with his personality and strategy. He might be able to turn things around with strong populist positioning, though.

Wesley Clark

Personality: Intelligent but friendly, excellent military credentials. May have trouble connecting with voters, though.

Politics: Pretty reasonable: wants fair trade, civil rights, less weird wars, universal health care (but not single-payer), progressive tax cuts. However, is still hard to pin down on many issues.

Strategy: I’ll push a meaningless phrase (“New American Patriotism”) without any clear theme.

Conclusion: Clark’s campaign needs to get into gear fast. His military credentials take Bush’s “we’re at war” card off the table and since he’s new to politics it’ll be easy for him to take a winning stance on the other issues. Unfortunately, his campaign staff seem too timid to do things right so he’s likely to just fizzle out.

Howard Dean

Personality: Strong speaker who connects well with people but apparently has an anger problem.

Politics: Moderate-to-conservative on most issues: a fiscal conservative (balanced the budget in Vermont) who wants to increase the drug war and military budget. He has more moderate views on civil liberties (won’t violate the constitution), environment (wants some increased standards), and health care (complicated plan to extend current programs) etc.

Strategy: I’ll let the rest of the world pretend I’m a liberal while I let these kids get me votes through the Interweb. I can give strong speeches that seem to win supporters, take strong stances, and attack Bush a lot — that seems to work. My theme is “let’s fight!”.

Conclusion: Dean’s managed to use the Internet and his charisma to become the front-runner, but he needs to get an identity and strategy fast. That his supposed liberalness is so widely supported bodes well for a real liberal candidate willing to learn from him.

John Edwards

Personality: Honest hardworking American with strong principles and values.

Politics: Moderate: somewhat-progressive tax, pro-environment, eventual universal health care, but will continue drug war (while removing sentencing disparity).

Strategy: I’m an average middle-class American just like you. Sounds reasonable in theory, but doesn’t seem to be working too well in practice.

Conclusion: No strong platform or strategy and doesn’t have the guts to mount a serious challenge against Bush. Nice guy, though.

John Kerry

Personality: Stuffy old guy.

Politics: Moderate.

Strategy: I’m serious. And I was in a war once.

Conclusion: Some chance.

Dick Gephardt

Personality: Unknown.

Politics: Moderate.

Strategy: I like labor!

Conclusion: Little chance.

Joseph Liberman

Personality: Jewish, wrinkled, and moralistic.

Politics: Almost a conservative with an overdose of absurd moralism.

Strategy: Let’s be republicans!

Conclusion: Please no!

Al Sharpton

Personality: African-American “hipster” who no one seems to take seriously.

Politics: Pretty liberal: single-payer health care, against death penalty, against mandatory minimums for drugs, cut defense budget.

Strategy: I’m not going to win so I might as well have fun!

Conclusion: No chance.

Carol-Mosely Braun

Personality: Playing the token African-American female.

Politics: Moderate-to-liberal: balanced budget, civil rights, progressive tax.

Strategy: I need a strategy?

Conclusion: No chance.

posted November 04, 2003 02:28 PM (Politics) #


Question for Free-Market Libertarians
Frag the Flag
Followup to “Question for Free-Market Libertarians”
How to Win Elections
The Immorality of Copyright Law or GET YOUR DIEBOLD MEMOS HERE
Evaluating the Democrats
Cats: The Silent Killer
People With Better Birthday Presents Than Me
Movie Reviews (Kill Bill, Matrix Revolutions)
Nip/Tuck: The Best Drama on TV
Nader for America

Aaron Swartz (