Lurching to defeat

Hugh Hewitt, in his Weekly Standard.com column, disputes the conventional wisdom (and my assumption) that Dean will move to the center once he has locked up the nomination. Hugh predicts tbat Dean will, instead, lurch to the left. He believes this will happen because Dean believes his rhetoric and because he realizes that he can’t win by trying, Dukakis style, to pretend he’s a pro-military centrist.
Until recently, I have assumed that Dean, hardly a leftist as Governor of Vermont, doesn’t believe his rhetoric very much. I had Dean pegged as an opportunist who found his niche on the left. However, I now think it possible that Dean has come to believe what he preaches. After all, these preachings have been good to him, making him an object of adoration among a faction powerful enough to elevate him to Democratic nominee for president. That kind of success can make one into a convert.
Nonetheless, I would still expect Dean to try, in the first instance, to move to the center. Hugh is correct that he probably won’t be able to pull it off, but neither is it likely that he can win as a left-wing radical. And I suspect that Dean fancies himself as the kind of guy who can appeal to average American voters through mainstream discourse, and thus doesn’t need to throw a radical “hail Mary.” As the election unfolds, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increasingly frustrated Dean lurch from one approach to the other, as Dukasis, and indeed Gore, did to some extent before him.

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