The political blooper award of the
election season thus far goes to former Vice President Al Gore for
endorsing Howard Dean. It was an incredible miscalculation for such
an experienced politician. He may have endorsed Dean because he
passionately believed in the governor’s platform, even though
that platform was almost a polar opposite of the stances Gore
dedicated his career to championing. Or, maybe, Gore’s close
loss to Bush enraged him so much that he wanted to endorse the
angriest candidate.

Jason Pesick

More likely, Gore thought the Democratic Party was heading left,
and he wanted to get on board before it was too late. Nixon
endorsed the conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964 because
that’s the direction the Republican Party was heading at the
time, not because Nixon and Goldwater were ideological twins.

Gore probably thought he would endorse Dean, who would win the
nomination and then go on to lose to President Bush. Four years
later, Gore would sweep in, win the nomination and finally assume
the presidency, which is rightfully his after all.

But Gore is not the only person who drew this mistaken
conclusion. The common misconception of this primary season has
been that the influence of the Democratic Leadership Council, the
centrist organization within the Democratic Party, has lost its
influence. Led by the rank and file, the party was rejecting the
likes of Bill Clinton, Bob Rubin, the old Al Gore and Al From. The
globalizers were not bona fide progressives.

But John Kerry’s rapid ascendancy proves this view wrong.
Kerry is indeed from liberal Massachusetts, but on a number of
issues, including the typical litmus-test issue of trade,
Kerry’s views are in line with the DLC’s. He sounds
like Bill Clinton did in 1992 on this issue.

The DLC praises Kerry on its website, saying, “As a
charter member of the Senate New Democrat Coalition, Kerry has
often rejected the stale left-right options that disguise the real
choices facing the country — choices that are rarely
reflected in mechanical interest-group Congressional vote ratings,
but that are in line with the real sentiments of the American
people.” It goes on to call Kerry a “Blair
Democrat,” the highest compliment for a centrist
Democrat.

Gore and the other purveyors of the conventional wisdom were
right that the Democrats are angry at Bush. Their error was in
believing that this anger would lead them to the open arms of the
fiery Howard Dean. Ironically, (well, it’s not that ironic
when you think it through), this anger led these Democrats to a
centrist candidate with an impressive military record. This is
because the Democrats are so angry that most of them decided that
they wanted to get rid of the source of their anger, the president.
They decided to go with a candidate they felt could win. I guess
there really is a difference between Bill Clinton and George
Bush.

Even liberals are starting to catch on to the American political
truism that only a moderate Democrat can win a national election in
the current political climate. The American people don’t
elect protectionist, dovish presidents.

The elections that followed Sept. 11 were embarrassing for
Democrats. I would like to draw your attention to the sight of
James Carville with a trashcan over his head, as the Democrats were
humiliated in the 2002 elections. But there have been some bright
spots recently. Mary Landrieu held her Senate seat in Louisiana.
Mark Warner was elected governor of Virginia, and Bill Richardson
was elected governor of New Mexico. And of course Jennifer Granholm
is the top dog in our own Great Lakes State. What they all have in
common is that they are members of the DLC. Don’t forget what
happened when the DLC allowed potential presidential candidates to
speak at its summer convention: Everyone and his great aunt showed
up.

Sure this primary season featured pandering to the left, but
there’s nothing unusual about that. In fact, the debate
remained pretty moderate throughout. John Edwards thought he could
make progress with a protectionist, populist agenda. The primary
voters liked it, but were too wise to cast their ballots for
Edwards. And when the economy starts to pick up again and jobs are
created — whether that happens next month or next year
— the anti-trade sentiment will dissipate. Kerry is about to
start his dance to the center, and I guarantee you, that’s
where he’ll stay.

Pesick can be reached at
“mailto:jzpesick@umich.edu”>jzpesick@umich.edu.

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