Saturday, December 04, 2004

In Defense of Pragmatism


Why did I do what I did during the primaries, during the campaign, on Election Day, and after? Pure calculation.

1. - Not being very political before, I nonetheless recognized the danger of Bush Administration to this country and the world. This was both an emotional and a rational response, guided by personal experience from another country. I recognized the totalitarian tendencies since the day Bush announced his candidacy in 1999.

2. - I realized that a revolution is impossible in this country. An armed uprising leading to a civil war does not seem like a very smart option - the opponent has us outnumbered, outgunned, out-televised and out-testosteroned.

3. - Fall-back strategy is to try, no matter the odds, to use the legal way - elections - to dislodge the Bushie mafia.

4. - In some ways I felt that Nader and the Greens are right-wingers on some positions, while in other ways the American Leftists seemed hopelessly out-dated and naive on their extreme left positions. Does not matter. The only force big enough and organized enough to win elections is Democratic Party, so that was the only option.

5. - This is a two-step process: Step One - winning, Step Two - governing. We needed to choose the best strategy and the best Democratic candidate in order to win. We could afford to think about Step Two later if we succeeded at Step One. Step Two would entail a grassroots effort to shape and mold the Democratic government to move into the 21st century, so some thought about malleability of the candidate could have been part of the thinking process.

6. - In order to win, we needed a candidate who could attract the independents/undecideds. The Republican core was going to vote for Bush anyway, and the liberal core was going to vote for the Democrat no matter who he was.

7. - I checked out all the Democratic primary candidates. Sharpton and Mozley-Braun, unfortunately, had about zero chance - this is America, after all, still wallowing in racism and sexism. Graham, Lieberman and Gephardt were ghosts - no energy, no charisma, nothing to go for them. They are dinosaurs of the 20th century, unable to adapt to the new environment of the present-day world. Also, if by some magic they were to get elected, they were so entrenched in the corridors of power, it would be very difficult to influence them afterwards. They would keep playing nice with Republicans, keep being hawkish in foreign policy, and keep playing the same old tired game of pandering to various powerful organizations, from business to unions.

Clark is a war criminal. If he won the nomination I would have abandoned the Democrats as a hopeless case and voted for Badnarik.

That left Kerry, Edwards, Dean and Kucinich as realistic choices. As I explained before, Dean was not Dean. He was what Deniacs wanted him to be. And Deniacs are bi-coastal anti-war, anti-WTO, animal-rights, tree-hugging nuts with no ideas what the conservative heartland is all about, thus no idea what it takes to win an American election. Good intentions, but tragically misguided strategy. I like the guy, but he was swept into a movement he was not able to control. This kind of movement, one that molds the politician, is something we need once a Democrat is elected, not in the primaries (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/08/deanomania.html,
http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/08/third-party-candidates.html,
http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/08/why-edwards-blog-was-better-than-dean.html).

Kucinich actually had a better chance of beating Bush than Dean. Dennis has a great life story, a coherent ideology, a strong message, and a consistent language. He was a very disciplined and powerful campaigner - he made no mistakes in debates or interviews. He was ignored by the official Democrats as unelectable, mainly because of their own misguided bias about the American public. I knew he had no chance because of the Democratic voters in the primaries (those trying to second-guess the general electorate), not because of presumed unpalatability of his message to the public at large. Also, if elected, he would have needed only a very minor effort from the grassroots: more to back him up against political opponents than to mold him.

I personally like Kerry. I can see myself having dinner with him and having great fun. He is less liberal than perceived, and less hawkish than perceived (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/08/kerrys-foreign-policy.html). He would have made an excellent President, and would be probably somewhat receptive to a grassroots effort to force his hand on some issues. Problem with Kerry, as for Dean, was inability to use phatic language (http://andyrobinsontheoryblog.blogspot.com/2004/11/oppressive-discourse.htm, http://andyrobinsontheoryblog.blogspot.com/2004/11/oppressive-forms-of-discourse-typology.htm). His analytic language works great on people like me and other lefty coastal intellectuals, but not on most Americans.

I supported Edwards because he was just what the doctor ordered (http://sciencepolitics.blogspot.com/2004/08/john-edwards-myths-and-misperceptions.html). Great life-story, no blemishes on the record, no ties to any special interests, natural use of phatic language that made many independents and even Republicans swoon, great analytical mind hiding behind that phatic language, and unbelievable level of preparedness and discipline. He is a liberal perceived as a moderate - great for winning first, governing later (as opposed to Kerry, Dean and Hillary who are moderates perceived as liberal = the deadly combination). If one designed a robot to be an ideal Democratic candidate, one would design John Edwards. He is the Machine in the Ghost. It is the natural aversion of the educated classes to the phatic language, exactly the kind of language that wins elections, that prevented the Democrats to see he was the ideal candidate. And for 2008, I cannot think of anyone better than him, especially now that he is widely known and liked. This is pure cold pragmatic calculation. It is the Dean/Kerry/Hillary fans who are being emotional here. If you want a cold calculus for a winning candidate, you have to pick Edwards.

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