Tuesday, August 05, 2003

I'm starting to have a vision of what 2004 is going to look like. And it looks like chaos. Open warfare: between political partisans, between ideologies, between movements; between groups that believe that there is literally nothing more important than winning the election in November.

This article is one reason why. It shows the growing anger (if not hatred) that many Democratic partisans have towards the president, and their hunger for a party and a candidate that is willing to fight him.

While Democratic leaders in Washington debate strategy and demographics for the 2004 election — the wisdom of campaigning from the left, right or center — something far more visceral is at work in the first caucus state, and in other Democratic redoubts.

There is a powerful disdain for the Bush administration, stoked by the aftermath of the war in Iraq and the continuing lag in the economy...

Gordon Fischer, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said this week that he saw "an incredible amount of antipathy toward the Bush administration" in the party, much more than the Democratic hostility toward the first President Bush.

Geoff Garin, a pollster who is working for Senator Bob Graham of Florida, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, said the Democratic anger toward Mr. Bush was "as strong as anything I've experienced in 25 years now of polling," and perhaps comes closest to the way many Democrats felt about President Richard M. Nixon.
Nixon. Probably the most divisive figure in politics, a politician easily the most hated by liberals than anybody else in the 20th century... and she's saying that the anger against the sitting president is greater than that against Nixon.

Then, of course, they coalesced around McGovern. Now it seems that the "angry democrats" are attaching themselves to Howard Dean. Whether or not he's as liberal as some believe (he isn't), and whether or not he's as much of an attack dog as people claim (he isn't that either), it's pretty clear by now that the Dean campaign is being propelled by a combination of the American interest in the "insurgent" candidate and this absolute desire to remove Bush.

It's not that this is Howard Dean's invention. Both Dean and Joe Trippi, his campaign manager, have claimed that they were both unprepared and shocked by the response. Dean himself was quoted as saying that he thought the website had been "hacked" when he found out that over four million dollars had been quickly raised through internet sources. The blogger interest in Dean, too, seems propelled partially by this underlying anger and resentment of the president. Dean is the voice of their discontent, and the focus of it. He's also not stupid; he and Trippi are planning to channel this energy into the creation of an army of volunteers and donors that the Republic has never seen before. Four hundred and fifty THOUSAND people is the target by this fall. While many of these may be those who are simply interested in getting involved with what may become a social event, there will be a large proportion that are fanatical supporters; as I had mentioned above, turning activists into zealots is part of Trippi's gameplan. If it works, there will be nothing else like it, ever. Remember, these people will likely be the same people that believe that Bush was illegitimate in the first place; as one conservative magazine put it, they won't be fighting an election, they'll be "overthrowing a tyrant". One that, they believe, threatens the safety and security both American and the world.

Actually, I was wrong. There is one other group like it: the Movementarians, Wurlitzer, whatever. Their fortune depends almost entirely on Bush's continued success, as does the success of their foreign and domestic policy. If Bush gets thrown out in 2004, everything crashes to the ground. The new president will see little need to follow Bush's policies, and absolutely no need to listen to those that propped him up previously. There will almost certainly be a purge of neo-conservatives within the government, and it will happen relatively quickly. (The Department of Homeland Security will be turned upside down practically overnight.) The Republicans' entire plan for remaking the world will not just be in jeopardy; it will be doomed. Whether one agrees or not with Bush's policies is immaterial here: all will agree that Bush's backers will believe that they cannot let this happen, at any cost.

Thus, 2004. If Dean gets the nomination, or even if he doesn't, there will be an army of politically activated, angry, and nearly fanatical Democrats with a single goal: get the pretender off the throne. There will also be an army of political activated, desperate, and nearly fanatical Republicans with a single goal: keep their man around for that all-important second term. They already loathe each other: the former believes the latter to be psychotic and megalomanaical warmongers and profiteers, and the latter believes the former to be treasonous socialists who want America to die in flames. Appeals to bi-partisan consensus will likely be offered by the Republicans, who will have both 2002 and Grover Norquist's "Bi-partisanship is date rape" line thrown back in their faces. The media will focus less on the rhetoric, and more on the war. Civility is out the window; Republican calls for it will likely be quickly rebutted as well by the "Bourgeous riot" of 2000, where the Republicans proved that they have little taste for civility where it doesn't benefit them. Dirty tricks are out of bound only insofar as they might be found out.

The media is also going to be the home of a nasty fight as well, as the mechanism of the Wurlitzer goes up against an army of email writers, bloggers, and the reality that there will be people devoting all their free time to ensuring that anything Bush or his supporters say will be "fact-checked" by google and Lexis/Nexis and responded to within minutes.Even if Dean doesn't have his own oppo research (which is unlikely), he will barely need it.

(Indeed, the very mechanism of election is in question; the controversy over the voting machines isn't going away, and Democrats aren't going to forget that it is quite possible a Republican temporarily switched parties in order to alter the ballots in Florida to benefit Bush; even if that wasn't the case, truth is of very little importance nowadays.)

So we get a war. The Republican base against the Democrat base. The Wurlitzer against Dean's army. (I would not be overly surprised if we hear that term first being used in the mainstream media before the year is out.) The immovable object against the irresistable force, with no concept of civility, fairness, or restraint accepted, let alone followed. All of this, too, against a backdrop of an American populace that is newly re-engaged with politics, which understands how important this is, and which will likely be as evenly divided as it was in the past. I have a vision of the most brutal election campaign that the Republic has ever seen, and I don't think I like it, and even less like that it may be necessary.

And that's not even getting into what the anti-globo types will do. Or, God forbid, Al Qaeda.

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