Looking for love in all the wrong places

In the days before we (or at least my colleagues) became newsmakers, we were known for never failing to link to a George Will or Charles Krauthammer column. We haven’t been as reliable lately, but today’s Will column should not be missed (by the way, no one ever accused that guy of working in his pajamas). Will points out that neither the Northeast nor the Senate has been a fertile ground for producing presidents in the past four decades.
What I wonder, though, is why the Democrats keep looking for presidential candidates in all the wrong places. If Kerry loses, then five of the party’s last six unsuccessful non-incumbents will have been from either New England or the upper prairie Midwest, which Michael Lind and others have argued is a political extension of New England, especially when it comes to foreign policy. And five of the six will also have had long Senate careers.
One possibility is that Democrats are highly susceptible to wishful thinking. This may be because liberalism is more a doctrine of wishful thinking than conservatism, at least old-fashioned conservatism. Regardless of the cause, wishful thinking does seem to be the best explanation for Kerry’s nomination. Democratic voters certainly didn’t nominate him out of passion, the election be damned. They made a conscious decision to reject the candidate they were passionate about in favor of one they could elect. Why were they so confident they could elect Kerry? Because they deceived themselves into believing that his status as a war hero would trump his record on national security issues. Believing this, they could comfortably reject candidates with better records on national security — Lieberman, Gephardt, and Edwards.
That’s wishful thinking — wishful thinking coupled with a failure to understand how profoundly concerned most people are about their security these days. And the failure to understand people’s insecurity may itself be a form or symptom of wishful thinking.


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