Whenever a party loses a presidential election, there are recriminations against the wing of the party that produced the losing candidate. If the candidate was a centrist in the context of the party, the more extreme wing of the party argues that the candidate lost because he couldn’t energize the party base. Examples include Nixon in 1960, Humphrey in 1968, and Bush in 1992. If the candidate was from the hard left or right, the centrists argue that candidate lost because he was out of touch mainstream voters. Examples are Goldwater in 1964, McGovern in 1972, and Dukakis in 1988.
These kinds of arguments are more self-serving than enlightening. A presidential election is usually a referendum on the economy and, where applicable, the incumbent party’s handling of a war of serious security threat. Nonetheless, it is natural that the arguments are made, and they almost always are.
What’s intriguing about this year’s version of the blame ritual is that the Democrats can’t seem to figure out which portion of the party their losing candidate represented. It shouldn’t be that difficult to discern. John Kerry is the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. No one in public office has been a more consistent and longstanding opponent of U.S. military action and preparedness. Admittedly, he gave a little ground during the election to spare his party from the trouncing he was nominated (instead of Dean) to avoid. But to suggest, as many Democratic leftists including Kos are doing, that the election was lost because the Democrats failed to nominate a leftist is absurd. Kerry may have been presented as a moderate alternative to Dean, but this was mostly a matter of cosmetics. In any event that status would not render Kerry other than a leftist.
It reminds me of the child psychologist who postulated that babies are born with the innate ability to swim. When he threw a one-month old in the water, and the baby sank, the professor concluded that he should have tested the baby earlier.
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