Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Single Purpose Candidate

So, at least one thing stopped being an issue in this year's US presidential election. With John Edwards giving up, John Kerry has practically secured Democratic nomination.

This process is one of more spectacular success stories of US politics which shows its volatility. It took less than two months for Kerry to transform from hopeless loser to formidable unstoppable vote-winning machine.

The reasons for that are simple and incredibly prosaic. Kerry didn't win because voters paid much attention to his record in Senate. He didn't win because of his principled stance on some important issues. He didn't win because of his Vietnam War past. He didn't resemble JFK nor he had particularly charming or charismatic image.

The key to Kerry's nomination is simple word – "electability".

In other words, Democratic primary and caucus voters paid very little attention to anything except the answer to a very simple question – "Can a Democratic candidate beat President Bush in November". Because of establishment-friendly media and other candidates making few more mistakes than he did, Kerry was the most likely to get "yes" answer to this question.

So, those voters who are going to cast their ballots for Kerry in November are not going to care much about body bags from Iraq, Bin Laden receiving death penalty, gays marrying each other, jobless rate, economic growth, education reform and budget deficits. Instead their only motivations would be image of President Bush leaving White House in January 2005 or unthinkable horror of such infernal abomination staying there for another four years.

There is nothing wrong with politics being simplified if that simplicity reflects in quality of politics. Having American system of two parties and individual candidates makes simple and clear choices for the voters, at least compared with European system of multitude of twin-like parties and faceless coalition politics. But this simplicity often can backfire when personality takes precedence over the issues or when saying "no" becomes more important than saying "yes".

Croatia in recent history, for example, had two elections in which voters went to polls motivated with the idea of saying "no" to certain political options without bothering what would come instead. In 1990 they said "no" to Communism and Yugoslavia by adopting Franjo Tudjman. In 2000 they said "no" to Tudjmanism by adopting Ivica Račan (Ivica Racan). Regular readers of this blog are probably aware that long-term consequences for Croatia in both cases weren't particularly fortunate.

If Kerry wins this election, one thing is going to become very clear in January 2005 when his takes office. With Bush out, his mission would be accomplished and Kerry's presidency would immediately become pointless.

Or not. Perhaps some of the people who voted for Kerry would learn the same sad truths Croatians did. If you think that nothing could be worse than incumbent in office, there are always some alternatives to prove you wrong.


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