Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Harold Meyerson has an astounding track record of poor predictions. He's constantly claiming that a labor/minority/populist/whatever coalition is remaking American politics in a more progressive tradition. As events of the last decade show (and Meyerson's been making this claim for at least that long), this hasn't happened. Just last month, Meyerson breathlessly sang the praises of Howard Dean and his insurgent campaign. According to him:

Howard Dean's initial appeal has been to those Americans who always knew they were on the margins of George Bush's America. Not the socioeconomic margins, not the African American and Latino communities, but the political, cultural and existential margins -- the young, urban, white middle class in particular. Dean's are the people who were bowling alone -- not churchgoers, not union members. They shared a set of beliefs on which they'd never before had an opportunity to act collectively.

The secret of Dean's success has been twofold. Alone among the serious Democratic candidates he understood that the party was shirking its obligation to oppose -- indeed, that the grass roots was furious at the failure of its leaders to realize this. Second, his campaign became the real Meetup for millions of Americans who'd had no place to go to affect politics in the age of Bush. Dean's edge is that his campaign has provided thousands of young Deaniacs with a dimension of meaning that their hitherto disaggregated lives may have lacked. No other candidate is within light-years of offering that.

But wait, how does he square that with the Iowa results? Unfortunately, the Iowa entrance polls didn't survey those on "existential margins," but Meyerson has an answer nonetheless:

Iowa voters see the candidates up close -- a level of scrutiny that neither Dean nor Gephardt was able to withstand. The lesson of the past half-decade is that the more adept union political programs can still move votes when they have an attractive candidate. When saddled with a Gray Davis or the Gephardt and Dean who assailed Iowan ears and sensibilities for the past month, there isn't a lot they can do.

There you have it, despite Meyerson's earlier praise, it's Dean's fault. It can't possibly be that there just aren't that many people on the existential margins or that campaigns that tap into the anger and cyncism of those that are end up alienating more moderate and sensible voters.

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