Battlepanda: Electability, with and without hindsight


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Electability, with and without hindsight

Rob Farley hammers Daniel Drezner hard for the following comment:
This process meant that the Democrats ran Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry in November. There's no way that any politico can justify a process that delivers that set of outcomes.

OK, perhaps Drezner should not have said 'outcomes' since, as Rob correctly points out, Hart could have been the one getting clobbered by Reagan instead of Mondale, who knows? And even as a strong Edwards supporter in 04, you'll never catch me say something that Edwards would have won if we chose him to be our candidate. "If only..."s are cheap.

However, there's no getting around the fact that the slate of candidates Drezner named are all rather unappealing and they are all the choice of the Democratic party establishment. And they all lost. In Kerry's case at least, the line being used to sell the establishment candidate have been "he is the most electable one" and the party passed up more charismatic, more visionary, more exciting candidates to line up behind the guy deemed most electable guy.

As Rob points out, there are myriad factors affecting the outcome, a lot of it having nothing to do with Kerry. But the thing is, Kerry has revealed himself to be an awful candidate long before the big day. He failed to strike back at smear tactics effectively, he allowed himself to be caught out in long, woolly explanations of his actions that made for terrible soundbites and he radiated deadly waves of anti-charisma. If he had eked out the election, that would not change the fact that he was not a great candidate.

I think the problem with 'electability' is that it reduces people's ability to think about candidates to a kind of checklist format. White? Check? Tall? Check. War veterans? Bonus! Candidates like Kerry are the most likely to emerge victorious if we look for the most electable candidates rather than asking who is our strongest candidate even though at first glance "strong" and "electable" seem to be synonyms.

Labels: ,