February 27, 2004 | Peter

‘Electability’ and US Politics

John Kerry looks all set to win the Democrat nomination for presidential candidate, but some problems are emerging for him. Indeed, he may have already peaked. Kerry did it so easily, especially in upsetting the early favourite Howard Dean, that some commentators think he is getting it too easy and will flounder when Karl Rove, Bush’s Chief of Staff, main political adviser (and according to some unkind people, Bush’s brain) opens fire on him.
Furthermore, the essential quality that has supposedly got Kerry the front spot, ‘electability’, is now the same concept that some argue is behind the growing support for the only real alternative, John Edwards.
One of Kerry’s problems is that despite being in the Senate for 19 years people still wonder who he really is. One trait he has exhibited is a definite tendency to try to play both sides of an issue. The most famous example of this is his being both a Vietnam war hero and critic. Similarly, he voted for the invasion of Iraq in the senate but now criticises it strongly. He is apparently not, as we would put in here in Oz, a ‘conviction’ politician.
Another problem is that in this mass media dominated world, Kerry is a pretty ordinary communicator. He comes across as distant and his speech is dull – even with the obligatory scripted catch phrases. This criticism sounds funny given Bush’s trouble with articulate speech, but the media will not let Kerry off like they have Bush. Kerry is supposed to be intelligent and competent in his own right, so he has to be able to do it all.
John Edwards is reputed to be a brilliant public speaker who can reach out to many different constituencies. He is not nearly as rich as Kerry (the richest man in the race, largely thanks to his wife’s fortune) and actually has working class roots. Both Bush and Kerry went to Yale and were in the secretive Skill and Bones club, and were generally privileged establishment boys. Edwards’ life experience and commitment to certain definite ideals enables him to attract more varied support than Kerry.
And of course Edwards comes from the South. The Democrats’ abiding dilemma is how to get the innately conservative (some might say innately reactionary) South to vote liberal. Speaking with a southern accent – like Carter’s and Clinton’s – evidently helps.
So, somewhat ironically, the ‘electability’ factor seems to be swinging over to Edwards’ side. Perhaps, in being so early exposed due to his success, Kerry has become too exposed. And rumour has it that the Bush camp wants Kerry to win – which is more good news for Edwards since beating Bush is what this election is all about.
Maybe it will be an interesting Democratic Convention after all.

Posted by Peter at 12:40 pm | Comments Off on ‘Electability’ and US Politics |
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