INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Reframing

I hope you’ve been following Maria Benet’s dispatches from London. They’re an excellent example of what good blogging is all about—personal, reflective, revealing, informative, and just plain good reading.

Maria writes that she may want to join in some of this political conversation when she returns home. I certainly hope so. Regarding my postings about Howard Dean, she comments:

A grassroots reframing of many of the issues -- including the meaning of what is ‘center’ and what is ‘left’ -- with the help of historical trends, is bound to make a difference next time people go to vote, don't you think?”

Ah, yes, reframing. An important point. Frank Paynter, with regard to reframing—at least in the case of the candidates--observes and asks:

Dean [is] marking out some mind-space as a not-centrist candidate . . . Kucinich, Sharpton, and Mosley-Brown are the not-centrist dem candidates on the left. Dean fills space near Kerry I think. What do you think?”

I quite agree with Frank. I suspect that another reason that Dean is doing well is that he is carving out a space between Kerry and the three leftists. The GOP has been deriding Kerry as a Massachusetts Liberal. But those of us who wear Democratic-tinted glasses see Kerry as another Bush apologist ever since his lap dog performance in the pre-Iraq war debate in the Senate.

However, some of us, e.g., myself, find ourselves uncomfortable with the three non-centrists that Frank mentions. That creates a perfect vacuum into which Dean’s political winds can rush and occupy.

I infer from Maria’s remarks that she thinks that the reframing will redound to the Democrats’ benefit. Perhaps on the matter of issues—which is what Maria was talking about--that will prove to be the case. But as for the candidates, the reframing process, I fear, while now working very nicely to Dean’s benefit, may ultimately do a 180 and bite him in the ass.

Once the primaries get underway. The three leftists, all seriously under-funded, will fall by the wayside, obliterating the advantageous space now occupied by Dean. He will be reframed as the Dread Leftist, and Bush, with his obscenely full campaign coffers, will drive home the point relentlessly.

Nonetheless, I’m not going to let that scare me into going with a Bush apologist in the primary. Come the general election in the fall, the voters will want to hear an authentic alternative message--I think--I hope.

That message may not win, but it will give the party much-needed new strength to survive and rebuild during the coming four years in the wilderness. If the Dems lose the election with a me-too candidate, the party will simply drift further into oblivion and irrelevance.

The country will be left with an impotent opposition to the Bush wrecking ball. I don’t even want to think about what this society would look like after four years of that scenario.

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