Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The front of my mind has been occupied with setting up my Tivo and a couple of particularly thorny problems at work involving the turning of data into information, but in the back of my mind I've been pondering "electability". William Safire sort of started it, I guess, by writing in the NY Times that Howard Dean isn't "electable" because he's too much like McGovern. Naturally, my response to this is "Huh!?" It's not that I don't think Dean resembles McGovern, since I frankly don't know squat about McGovern. It's that Safire's talking about an election that happened 30 years ago as if the world hadn't changed since then, as if the demographics of the nation had been held in place, as if it election results were legal precedent, rather than a snapshot of the will of the people.

Enough about Safire. The fact that he's unhinged doesn't resolve the question of whether Dean can win a national election for President. Personally, I think he probably is. He's never lost an election and has an air of "I'm going to tell you the truth even if I know you won't like it" that I think will appeal to voters starved by a diet of paper-thin truisms that all too often aren't. Frankly, though, I don't care.

I like Dean because he seems to have the kind of honesty, intelligence, and compassion that I'd like to see in the oval office. I like him because he's surrounded himself with people who give every appearance of understanding that democracy starts with individual people, not back room deals. And, I'll admit, that I like him because the established power structure of the Democratic Party doesn't.

These are the morons who have erred on the side of "electability" again and again, focus-grouping every question to be sure that it passes muster with the right demographic groups and kowtowing to corporations that made their coin at the expense of the commonweal (I'm looking at you, Tyson) because it kept the party's coffers full. Based on their track record, they're the last people I'm going to trust to tell me who's electable and who isn't, because their track record stinks.

All this talk of "electability" smacks of a profound distrust of the democractic process, not to mention your fellow voters. As in, "I like Howard Dean because of blah, blah, blah, but once the GOP gets going, they'll put up so much bullshit that no one will be able to see through it." That may be true, and given the last couple of elections I'd be the last person to upbraid someone for distrusting the process. Spin may sometimes cancel spin, but the best antidote to being spun is to stand your ground and call bullshit. Dean does that better than any of the other candidates all of whom seem better at throwing spin than taking it. And, frankly, I'm tired of elections with two candidates throwing bullshit around like Lambert's rolls.

Democracy provides us with a great test of electability - elections. Here's how they work: You pick the candidate you like the best, and a whole bunch of other people do the same. The one whose ideas, personality and presentation most resonate with the electorate wins. At least, that's the ideal. In practice there are all kinds of people trying to game the system with money, emotional manipulations, etc., ad nauseum. But you can't game the system back into alignment any more than you can quiet the ripples on a pond by patting them down with your hands.

My point, I guess, is that Howard Dean is leading the money race and most of the polls precisely because his ideas, personality and presentation have caught on with more people than anyone else in the race. This is what democracy is supposed to look like, and it gives me hope, while listening to chatter about electability makes that hope shrivel up and hide under the kitchen table.

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