Thursday, July 10, 2003

Thoughts on Dean

I find American electioneering possible the third most fascinating thing about the US (after its legal system, and its constitutional set-up). Firstly it seems to be nearly continual. You have an election, a short break (six months maybe), electioneering (18 months), mid-terms, shorter break (4 months) electioneering (20 months), election. Of course that is a simplistic view, but I think broadly accurate.

Of all the contenders for the Democrats I find Howard Dean the most interesting. This is, in part, because he could make a decent stab at running in Europe (most US politicians, GOP or Dem, would be considered more right-wing than Attila the Hun in the European spectrum). He certainly makes plenty of noise, and at least part of his 'success' thus far has been his ability to keep the media's attention. Not all that attention is complimentary, but every story raises his rather low starting profile a little higher.

At the moment I doubt if Dean (or any other of the contenders) really care about the whole of the american people. They just have to win over Democrats. Dean has clearly been exploiting Democrat disillusionment with the party since the mid-terms. He has been doing so rather effectively as well, mobilising activists to his support. Activists, but nature of being active, are more likely to vote than moderates. Dean would appear to be doing precisely what William Hague did in 1997 and Iain Duncan Smith did in 2001 in the Tory Party - take control of the party by winning over the party faithful. The lesson was though that William Hague suffered one of the biggest election defeats in modern democratic history.

But how can one attack Dean when the things he stands for are thought of as being generally good by a large number of people in your party? Certainly his stance on the war can still be attacked, but his stance on taxes is far harder for the Democrat mainstream to assault precisely because they also oppose Bush's tax cuts. Dean is playing a rather shrewd game, and it will be interesting to see how this particular cookie crumbles. I am certain however that GOP strategists would think Christmas had come early if Dean wins the Democratic nomination.

Perhaps they ought to send Dean some more money for his campaign?

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