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July 05, 2002

More on Bush Loss 2004

Let me run through a bit deeper analysis on why Bush is in trouble for 2004. I probably shouldn't if I want to see anyone offer better than even odds for Bush, but I will be charitable before I take peoples' cash.

But first, Didn't Gore Win in 2000? ask Jeff Hauser and Yuval Rubinstein. They comment that unless "butterfly and caterpillar ballots, overseas post-election day ballots, etc. were factored into your predictions", "Gore DID end up beating Bush in the 2000 election, so I think your prognosticating prowess is somewhat overstated."
...I bow to no one in my outrage at the theft of the 2000 election. I worked as a volunteer on Gore's legal team for the month after the election, I wrote this hyperbolic but still sound commentary against the Jim Crow Five the day of the decision, as well as leading the charge at the National Lawyers Guild for the organization to go impeach the Court, as detailed in this long essay/polemic.
..But politics is not, as they say, beanbag.

The winner is the person who ends up with the nice tote bag with the ability to obliterate the world. Yes, the electoral college and ballot theft are predictable factors, as is the assessment of a candidate's willingness to fight in the trenches on behalf of the votes of his followers. What happened in Florida was not specifically predictable, but it was always clear that Gore would fold rather than face a real fight. He gamely litigated in a gentlemanly way, but while the GOP was organizing riots in Dade County, he was telling his activists to go home. And when the Supreme Court stole the votes of black voters who had dragged themselves to the polls despite Gore's lame campaign, Gore just politely folded up shop. Gore should have won easily and the fact that he allowed it to be close enough to be stolen makes him a loser. If I had bet on Nixon in 1960, I wouldn't be looking to duck out on the bet whining about missing ballots in Cook County.

Jeff thinks media bias will win it for Bush. I think claims about media bias in the electoral sphere is overblown whether it comes from the Left or the Right. The media has a strong pro-corporate bias, but that favors the pro-corporate wing of both parties, even as the media dislikes the working class base of each side-- dissing the union base in the Dems and the Christian foot soldiers and gun nuts over at the GOP. If the Dems ever nominated a real anti-capitalist candidate, the media would be a factor, but since that ain't going to happen in 2004, the media is as likely to favor a "responsible reformer that can save capitalism from its own greed" (a likely media headline at some point). If media bias explained much, we wouldn't have had such dead heat elections for the last decade. If the media has any consistent bias, it's in favor of scandal. And the Right has been far more united in recent years in mouthing the same "talking points" that keep scandals going-- that was the brilliance of the attack on Clinton: they pounded dry hole after dry hole until they hit semen. It wasn't the media but Al Gore who essentially gave Bush a pass in the last election on all his slimy business deals.

Terror as Bush Campaign Asset? Both Yuval and Kos think another terrorist attack or some other way to extend the war on terrorism will save Bush. I don't buy it. A serious attack on the US may cost us some more civil liberties, but it will also just revive the questions over Bush's handling of the first attack and this one couldn't even be subtly blamed on anyone else. And it would raise the harsh issue that we fought a war that failed to catch or kill the prime targets, Bin Laden or mullah Omar.
...War is not a guaranteed winner for incumbents. There is a short rally around the flag period, especially if things go well, but prolonged conflict can be very bad. Lincoln almost lost reelection in 1864 and probably only won because of last minute victories just before election day. The Dems lost the Presidency in the middle of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. For Bush to really ride this thing to 2004, he needed a series of short, small invasions-- Iraq to Columbia to the Phillipines etc. Whether he would have gotten bogged down is an open issue, but he won't find out. His game plan should have had him in Bagdad this summer, but he so mishandled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he blew any potential regional support for invading Iraq. And his showdown with Europe over everything from Kyoto to the International Criminal Court means they are unlikely to support it. Bush may think he can go in cowboy style alone, but I don't think he can pull it off without a complete disaster, militarily and electorally.

And the bottom line is that Bush is a Political Liar and that is what kills candidates. He made too many cynical promises in 2000 with his "compassionate conservatism" talk that he had no intention of fulfilling--- and the voters will punish him for that as that becomes clearer. He has no intention (or money), despite promises, for really dealing with the health care crisis, decent funding for schools, or for maintaining social security stability. And despite nice rhetoric, he has been running a regulatory policy that is in many ways more anti-environment and anti-labor than Reagan.
...One of my contrarian views is that Clinton was one of the most honest politicians, when we mean the substantive honesty with the American people as opposed to the petty personal failings. As I've often observed, people hated Clinton for the promises he kept, liberals for keeping his promise to support welfare reform, NAFTA and the death penalty, conservatives for his taxing the wealthy and supporting abortion and gay rights. The reason he survived the Lewinsky scandal is to the end, people believed his main promise that politically he was trying to fight for their interests.
...If Bush can't get solid belief that he is looking out for them today -- by 63% to 34% they believe he is looking out for corporate interests over theirs - he will be toast by 2004. Unlike Reagan, who honestly (and sometimes effectively) made the rhetorical case for why tax cuts for the wealthy and why gutting environmental regulations was a good thing - Bush has just opportunistically lied about who benefits from his tax cuts and lied about the intent of his regulatory policies. Hypocrisy will catch up with him.

Posted by Nathan at July 5, 2002 12:48 PM

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Your formal offer is what, "make me an offer"? I'm starting to fume here. Although maybe it's just the heat.

It's early in the season. Let's say even money, $100 a side, I have Bush, you have a Dem to be named later. Charities of choice to be named later. The charity has to be something you genuinely support, not some weird group that puts the loser on a ghastly donor list.

C'mon, money talks. OK, $100 whispers. But we both know what walks.


Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 5, 2002 10:57 AM

With a friend visiting, not much to engage in substance, but I will provide a link re a tangent: EVEN ignoring the likely pro-GOP fraud in Southern Illinois, Nixon was NOT robbed in 1960. Read http://slate.msn.com/?id=91350 and realize that, as I understand it, all Illinois statewide elections used to be corrupt, with each party guilty in a rare victory for the "false symmetry" crowd.

Posted by: Jeff at July 5, 2002 11:05 AM

Just to clarify, I don't necessarily think that a new terrorist attack will help Bush. It would just muddy the situation. I have no clue how the American people would react. They could rally 'round the flag once again, or they could turn on Bush with a vengeance. A lot could depend on how the Democrats respond, as well. Thus, while I am confidently predicting a Bush loss, there are lots of intangibles that could swing the race one way or another. Eliminate those intangibles, and Bush is toast.

Posted by: Kos at July 5, 2002 11:36 AM

With my best friend departed and prompted by Nathan, I hope to get some work done on my 2004 analysis for my own site. But just to clarify -- Nathan misinterprets my claim re media bias.

As I see it, there are four types of political coverage: (1) socio-cultural, (2) economic, (3) personality and procedure, and (4) foreign policy. On (1), the mainstream national media opinion leaders tend to be left of center, as Nathan indicates viz Christian Coalition and gun nuts. On (2), Nathan rightly identifies the nat'l folk as right of center, but in a way that is merely marginally relevant to contests involving "fiscally responsible" Dems. And I'm not qualified to comment on (4), other than to say the media is to pro-DC CW.

It's on (3), however, that the media is biased. You can see it in the false "Gore lied" stories -- see http://commons.somewhere.com/rre/2000/RRE.The.New.Science.of.C.html , http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2000/0004.parry.html and http://www.rollingstone.com/news/newsarticle.asp?nid=14976&cf2=1 -- and you can see it in the disparate treatment of a) GOP claims that their judicial nominees are being bottled up, b) Harken treatment during 2000 vs. Whitewater in 1992, c) awol Bush http://www.awolbush.com/ vs. Clinton and the draft, d) evasive answers re cocaine, e) Monica vs. Bill Thomas' affair with a health care lobbyist as he chaired Ways and Means http://www.prospect.org/print/V12/13/dreyfuss-r.html, ETC. . . .

Why the disparate treatment? Nothing Marxist, just the fact that the GOP is more aggressive. See, e.g., http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/dont_quote_me/multi-page/documents/01649531.htm

And, since Americans believe that character is central to governing, and that they can judge character in a non-ideological manner, as long as Bush's character goes unquestioned and all sorts of spurious anti-Dem attacks whipped up by Grover Norquist's breakfast clatch and aided and abetted by talk radio, WaTimes/NYPost/Fox News, the evangelical networks, NRA, Heritage/Cato, etc. . . ., no Dem can beat Bush.

Posted by: Jeff at July 6, 2002 03:37 PM


Your point about the personality/process aspect of media coverage makes sense.

This is because politics in general have evolved into a branch of showbusiness, perhaps as an effect of the rise of talk radio and cable news and the demise of the fairness doctrine. It is now "reality based" instead of just reality, with all of it's attendant need for drama, suspense and readily identifiable characters. As much as political campaigns are "real," they are also scripted, often by big city print reporters who are being subtly manipulated by institutional political producers who know how to guide the storyline to advantage.

It is within this prism that we must view politics these days, and in that sense, the Republicans are just better showmen. They draw broad stroke characters who appeal to the masses, they pull the heartstrings without shame, they create controversy for effect, they understand the need for pathos, humor and villiany. They do not take themselves too seriously and are, therefore, not constrained by notions of integrity or hypocrisy. They understand that most Americans are watching politics as if it is a somewhat boring version of "Survivor."

The bias is in favor of the narrative and the Republicans are writing the better stories. Until the Democrats find a great plot, or a born star like Clinton comes along again, I'm afraid they are going to be out of luck.

Posted by: digby at July 7, 2002 12:06 AM

Great commentary and very informative website.

Many of us in Texas -- and throughout the country -- look forward to seeing the greatest defeat of all times when Bush/shrub goes down in flames in 2004.

Perhaps he will wear his pilot's jumpsuit as he waives to the crowd...on the way out the Whitehouse. He will be remembered in history as America's greatest nightmare.

Posted by: N. Ray at September 12, 2003 03:38 PM

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