Can Clark or Dean beat Bush?
After some arguing over at DailyKos, I thought I would take this content and make blog post out of it. The perception that both Wesley Clark and Howard Dean are not beholden to special interests is a speculative one. Both are - in their own ways - political beholden to and supportive of the corporate rulers and for these reasons, will not be able to gain the populist support needed to beat Bush, a wartime president, in the current political dynamic of the nation.
First, both Clark and Dean [as well as John Kerry and Joe Lieberman], are free traders. "Free trade" is the biggest corporate position a presidential - or any - candidate can take. Basically, these candidates are continuing to support the deconstruction of America by allowing corporations to do anything they want and ignoring Constitutional safeguards set up to keep corporations in line, as well as raise taxes without an income tax. By siding with the "free trade" cultists, these candidates throw out almost 200 years of American history where the nation - for the most part - was completely self-sufficient for its manufacturing and natural resources. It is clear from everything that I have read and study that our nation started to decline after the think tanks, Kissinger/CFR-types, the New York banking crowd, and the financial elites, decided to change the financial structure of the county during the early 1970s. They all believed - and you can see it from the writings of the time period - that the American middle class was too affluent and powerful. This is fact and has been studied to the nth degree by both liberal and conservative scholars [Read Holly Schlar's "Trilateralism" on the left; James Perloff's "The Shadow of Power," from the right, for a good does of reality].
The free trade cult mantra has basically been accepted as gospel even though it doesn't work. Free trade is an unconstitutional policy and has changed the economy from a three section economy - poor, middle class, and rich - to a four section: very poor, poor, rich, and very rich. So long as Democratic candidates continue to support this policy, they will not be able to rally the votes they need to win in the poorer areas of the nation, like the Midwest and South, where honest laborers need protection from the free trade slave states like Brazil, China, and Mexico.
Also, the current stable of candidates are ignoring the social conservative vote - writing it completely off - even though these votes have been traditionally Democratic but have swung to Republicans in the last few election cycles. How do the Democrats get these votes back and at the same time not alienate the abortion crowd? Simple - you appeal to these voters on economic issues which means you abandon the free trade cultish policies and you talk about building up the nation and using trade tariffs to not only thwart enslavement of the third world, but protect - yes, protect - American families and workers. It really is that simple.
Also, "the war on terror" or the invasion of Iraq, depending on how you look at it, seems to be popular with the American people right now. I wish this wasn't so but it seems to be. While there is a large segment of the population that was against the invasion - a million or so protesters - the majority of people weren't against the invasion. This doesn't mean that an anti-war candidate can't win. But, they will be in a weaker political position, which means they will have to galvanize the voters on other issues.
Many of us out here in the real world have been taking about this, promoting this, and have been ignored. Jim Hightower has been talking about working with the Christian Coalition on issues that we agree on and trying to get those votes from the Republicans. Dean's comments about going after the Confederate flag and pickup truck crowd was right on, albeit misguided in his verbal delivery of the idea. As well, Dean's glowing support of NAFTA and Clark's preaching of "I'm a free trader," in the first debate, is enough for me to question their ability to get these votes. Neither Clark nor Dean are going to be able to get the lunch bucket, Reagan Democrats to come back home and that is what the Democrats need to win. As well, when both Democrats and Republicans accept the positions of the free trade cult, the Reagan Democrats fall back to their second issues - lower personal income taxes and socially conservative positions - something neither Clark nor Dean will be able to compete with Bush on.
As an aside, I believe if Dennis Kucinich had stayed pro-life and not flipped on his long-standing position, he could have rallied social conservatives like a liberal Pat Buchanan-type candidate in the primaries, he could be in second or third place right now. Would he win the nomination? Probably not. But Kucinich isn't going to win the nomination anyway, so why flip-flop on such an important religious and personal position such as abortion? Had he not done that, Kucinich would be in a different position, would be standing by his beliefs, and would be able more Reagan Democrats away from the war position. It is also about timing: Had Kucinich changed his abortion position but got into the race earlier, Dean's mo' wouldn't be what it is - Kucinich would have taken a good chunk of it.
Progressives and liberals won't and don't accept this analysis but over 20 years of political experience says otherwise. I can tell you that this is how it is and how it will be. Democrats cannot rely on "the great unwashed" - the nonvoters, the young voters, the people who have been so burned by public policy and politics that they don't participate - to actually come out and vote Democratic. So long as the masses can still afford to pay their cable television bills and dream about celebrities and home improvements, they will remain sheep and stay home.
If anything, the manipulation of greed could actually brainwash these voters into going to the polls and voting Republican because taxes are lower and the economy is supposedly improving. The only way the Democrats can win is to get back some of those economic populists back into the fold. Clark and Dean, as well as the others, will never be able to do it and are doomed to lose.