Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Been There, Done Dean

I don’t follow the daily polls like a fever chart (I have a life, unlike Chris Matthews and Frank Luntz), so I don’t know exactly when Dean’s progress stalled and started going into reverse. It is tempting to date it to Al Gore’s endorsement--is there any more certain kiss of death than to have Gore on your side?

But if you pick apart the polls numbers and look carefully, I’ll bet one Dean gaffe stands about from all the others and can be seen as his turning point: his remark that the capture of Saddam made the U.S. no safer. Even most liberals are smart enough to know this is stupid. It took a while for this to percolate, but in retrospect it looks equivalent to 1968’s early GOP front-runner George Romney, whose campaign imploded when he made his famous remark about being "brainwashed" over the Vietnam War.

Another time-honored lesson is reaffirmed. Dean is an undisciplined candidate. Undisciplined candidates almost always lose (Hart, Buchanan, Kemp, Eugene McCarthy), where as the disciplined candidates (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, GW Bush) usually make it.

Discussions - 5 Comments

Another time-honored lesson is reaffirmed. Dean is an undisciplined candidate. Undisciplined candidates almost always lose (Hart, Buchanan, Kemp, Eugene McCarthy), where as the disciplined candidates (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, GW Bush) usually make it.


What is meant by undisciplined? Perhaps I am not familiar enough with the campaigns given as example, but what qualities of those would lend to the characterization as disciplined or not? Any insight into the intended meaning of the italicized statement by either the author or anyone with insight to give, would be very welcome.

What I mean by "disciplined" is a candidate who sticks to a core message and strategy, and doesn’t shoot from the lip or improvise from one moment to the next. It is not perfect or technical term of political science (Reagan stumbled badly for a period in 1980, but recovered; GW Bush ran a very focused and disciplined campaign in 2000, whereas Gore kept reinventing himself). I think one reason candidates are "undisciplined" is that they grow quickly bored with saying the same thing five times a day for months on end, and just start winging it.

While here in chilly DC, I listened to a Dean interview with an Iowa radio station, rebroadcast on CSPAN radio. The interviewer asked Dean why he got into so much trouble with some of his comments. Dean’s response: I think several steps ahead in my logic, and I really shouldn’t expect my listeners, who don’t know as much as I do, to follow my reasoning. But they would get it if I spelled it all out.

Like an arrogant doctor, who can’t be swayed from his diagnosis.

To me Howard Dean’s defining moment of revealed character deficiency happened with his horrid bullying of that Iowa senior citizen who simply asked about the candidates showing more civility and being neighborly in their campaign’s. "NOW YOU Sit down. It’s my turn to speak" was absolutely insulting to that gentleman. That in itself may have cost Dean a ton of votes. Dean may be governor of a small state. But he seems to exude elitist Big City arrogance.

Bullying verbal dreck like Dean’s may play in NYC or San Fran; but certainly not in Des Moines or Ames. It certainly would not fly here in Raleigh or Greensboro or in Asheville.

"Like an arrogant doctor"...that should speak volumes for Dean who does strike me as arrogant, not confident. As the unfortunate victim of bronchitis this past weekend, I watched all the hype over the outcome of the Iowa caucus like a helpless fish out of water. My confinement, however, was not in vain. I was reminded of two very important lessons: One - Since change is a constant but uncertain (on the scale of Heisenberg) principle, then we should never be surprised by the will of the people over the polls; and Two - it ain’t over til it’s over. And it ain’t over til November.

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