Sunday, November 16, 2003

P2004 Battleground

Electability is the buzzword permeating all conversations about P2004 Democratic hopefuls. Each candidate claims to be the only one who can beat Bush. Despite my own love for all things quantitative, this argument will be more about gut feeling and hunch. ( those of you who want statistics to illustrate can find them at either Polling Report or PollKatz)

We live in a country that, even three years after the 2000 election, is very nearly divided 40-40-20. There is no doubt that whomever is the Democratic nominee, he will receive pretty close to his 40% base (as will Bush). The question is who can garner the majority of the 20% up for grabs. A further question is just who that 20% is, or will be as of November 2004.

I would argue that if we allow that uncommitted group to remain as is we increase the likelihood of our defeat. We must transform that bloc by bringing new voters into the system. I am not talking merely of those young people who do not vote, but also of the middle aged folks who have not voted in years, or anyone else for that matter.

We must understand why it is that these non-voters chose not to participate in their democracy. The two main causes are apathy and ignorance. The system, as it now stands, turns off a great number of people who feel as though their voices and their votes do not matter. There are another group of folks who simply do not fathom the relationship between their government and their quality of life.

The Democratic Party needs to reach out to these people and show them that they matter and that the government matters to them. These are people who are largely disenfranchised and without voice. We must give them hope, show them opportunity and provide them with the means of changing America.

Yet, not just any candidate will be able to do this. Why would someone put their hope and trust in someone who is a part of the system? Someone who has been around the block a few times and knows how the play the game? What passion can an insider elicit from the uninvolved? Not very much. For, if this person was capable of inspiring and leading new people into the system, he would have already done so.

This leads to only one conclusion as to who is electable- someone who is outside of the Washington elite, such as Howard Dean (or maybe Wes Clark). Dean has (and Clark had been) attracting broad support from those who have not been a part of the political process before this year. These are the people we MUST have in that 20% bloc if we are to have any chance at winning.

Candidates like John Kerry and Joe Lieberman are content with playing a parlor game of who might be able to pick off a percentage of the unaligned, and maybe (especially with Lieberman) some Republicans. It takes politics as a zero sum game, which does not have to be the case. We have a unique opportunity to expand the democratic franchise to millions of formerly uninvolved Americans. Even if we should go down in flames in November, we will be a stronger country for having increased citizen participation. Turning the apathetic and the ignorant into the knowledgable and engaged is good not only for the Democratic party, but for America and her future well being.

( Corrections in bold. Thanks to R.E. for noticing my mistake)


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