November 3, 2004

Where Kerry Went Wrong, and Where We Go from Here

The country is changing politically. The Republican lock on the Congress is not an anomaly, but the result of tectonic movement in the political outlook of the populace, and the decay of leftism in all its varieties. Bitterness will not change this fact, but it might blind the opposition to the important role that remains for it.

As for Sen. Nuance, Kerry ran a terrible campaign. First and foremost, he was stuck with a mixed message on terrorism and Iraq. "I'm tougher and smarter and can fight the war better" was one part of the message. The other part was "The iraq war was wrong, we should defer to allies (France?) and the U.N." Mushy, awful stuff.

Second, he did not sincerely project his own personality. He's a well-spoken, rather stiff millionaire. People might very well elect someone different from them, but Kerry's pathetic attempts to look like a regular guy contributed to his artificiality. The dead goose charade, "Lambert Field," and such are good examples of this problem.

Third, the Vietnam thing, which was an attempt to overcome the mixed message problem, was a big mistake. Vietnam is over, and the extraordinary effort to pimp on Kerry's military record opened up his anti-war, anti-military past and the questions about his military record.

Fourth, Edwards was not the right choice for VP. Kerry needed someone older with more gravitas. Gephart was the obvious choice, because of his long experience and the chance he could help win Missouri. Edwards has charm, but as VP he would be "John the Unready."

Fifth, Kerry didn't distance himself from the wackos in his party. With his physical stature and good diction, he looked and sounded presidential. Throw Michael Moore, Hollywood celebrities, and assorted rock stars and demonstrators in the mix and you lose that image. Remember Clinton and "Sister Souljah"? A symbolic line-drawing would have helped Kerry.

Finally, Kerry didn't stay on message. "I have a plan" is not a plan. This lack of focus and courage has plagued the Dems for some time. Bitterness about Bush was not a substitute for a one or a few key, repeated themes. Kerry either didn't have them, or couldn't stay on message clearly and consistently enough to persuade the voters. Bush, by contrast, projected consistency and conviction.

What now? Kerry, Daschle and others should face the music and concede the election. They should congratulate the winners, make the ritual offer to cooperate, and go lick their wounds somewhere warm.

Each party needs to rethink itself. The Dems face the danger of becoming the party exclusively of the coasts and the single, secular urbanites. Maybe Hillary can bring it back to the center, where Bill Clinton was able to win two terms. They don't need more Pelosis, for sure

The GOP's red state base is probably mobilized to the max, and the party needs to reach out. When does preemptive war turn into adventurism, the "moral agenda" turn sectarian, tax cutting and suspicion of regulation into corporate welfare, "compassionate conservatism" turn into big-government fiscal irresponsibility?

It's going to be an annoying few weeks, until reality sinks into the self-discredited MSM and the Democrats, and a challenging four years. We are at war. Even if W. is no Lincoln, we have avoided electing a McClellan. Now there's work to do.

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