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Hullabaloo


Monday, October 13, 2003

 
Clarkism

Ray Teixeira analyses the gallup poll data and evaluates how Clark might appeal to some of the very people we need to win the election. (His site, btw, is invaluable and should be read with regularity by anybody interested in serious scholarly analysis.)

It tracks nicely with my instinctive feeling about the guy, so naturally I'm impressed.

The Demographics of Clarkism

In the latest Gallup poll, Wesley Clark once again is the top choice of Democratic registered voters around the nation. Clark garners 22 percent support, compared to Dean at 15 percent, Kerry and Lieberman at 12 percent and Gephardt at 10 percent.

These results are similar to an earlier Gallup poll of September 19-21, so Gallup was able to combine the data from the two polls and run demographic analyses of the different candidates’ bases of support. These analyses are quite revealing, especially when comparing Clark and Dean.

While Clark receives more support than Dean among both men and women, his margin over Dean among women is just 3 points (16 percent to 13 percent), but an impressive 12 points among men (29 percent to 17 percent). He also beats Dean in every region of the country, but especially in the south (25 percent to 8 percent). Also intriguing is how well he does among low income voters (less than $20,000), clobbering Dean by 26 percent to 5 percent. In fact, Clark bests Dean in every income group up to $75,000. Above $75,000, Dean edges Clark, 26 percent to 25 percent.

In terms of ideology, Dean beats Clark among liberals, 24 percent to 18 percent, but Clark wins moderates by 24 percent to 11 percent and conservatives by 23 percent to 7 percent. The general picture, then, is that Clark does especially well, relative to Dean, among the very groups where Democrats have been having the most problems. That suggests to DR that the emerging Clark candidacy deserves very serious consideration indeed.

And there are other reasons, too, of course. Like Clark’s ability to raise a large amount of money in a short time period. Or his increasing success in connecting with voters on the retail level. Or that he may be able to generate considerable support from blacks, the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency. Or, counter-intuitively, the very thing that has led to so much criticism of Clark from his Democratic rivals: he’s not a “regular” Democrat. He says he voted for Nixon and Reagan. He only recently registered as a Democrat. He’s said nice things about Republicans in the past.

The fact of the matter is that in today’s anti-establishment, pro-outsider mood–witness the destruction of Gray Davis and election of Arnold Schwarzenegger–these are probably all good things to have on a Democratic candidate’s resume. Swing voters who are dissatisfied with Bush and therefore inclined to look closely at the Democratic candidate will not be put off by Clark’s partisan heterodoxy; on the contrary, it will make it easier for them to see the Democratic candidate as an agent of change, not of the Democratic party’s establishment (as, say, Gephardt or Kerry) or of the liberal faction of the party (Dean).


This last is big, particularly in the South. Clark being a "Manchurian Republican" is primary campaign hype. His narrative "journey" to the Democratic Party is a powerful invitation to many who have been brainwashed by the dittohead crapola but are feeling the cognitive dissonence of Republican triumphalism/failure. Combined with the natural affinity of the cavalier culture with a succesful military man, Clark is the best positioned to edge out Bush in a few critical southern swing states.

On a grander scale I think he can win because he's got a look, a biography, a confidence and a story overall that serves as a metaphor for manly achievement and leadership --- the current obsession of the entertainment zeitgeist. If we can't get George Clooney or Michael Douglas to play the role, I'd say Wesley Clark has got the best chance of winning the hearts and minds of the giant studio audience we call the American public. And, as an extra added bonus, he can actually do the job.

Before everyone starts calling me a shallow-piece-of-shit-Clintonite-DLC-pig, please be advised that I'm a pissed off Democrat of the highest order, so Dean is da man for me as far as that's concerned. I love what he's saying and in a perfect world he'd be my guy. Indeed, according to the poll, he already is -- he wins with liberals in Democratic states who make more than 75k a year (or used to ...)

But, I am rather desperate that we keep these right wing zealots from doing any more harm and that means taking back the presidency in 2004 and immediately working on taking back the congress shortly thereafter. I believe that Clark has the best chance of doing that and these demographics illustrate why.

But, lest anyone think that I don't care about substance, I do support Clark for one major substantive reason beyond what I think is his electability. He's a rare foreign policy expert/intellectual with long military and diplomatic experience who's willing to enter the public sphere and do it as a Democrat. His thinking on the subject is completely correct, in my view, and that is one area in which the president of the United States (as we are seeing) really wields power and must exert control. This guy has the goods on this subject over any candidate in the race. He could re-shape the relationsip of the US with the rest of the world during a very challenging period and finally put to rest the left-over GOP red-baiting about the Democrats at long last.

And, if people are worried about Clark being too inexperienced on domestic politics, they should take heart that this is his weak point. When it comes to domestic policy, I just have a feeling that the Democratic Party can provide more than enough expertise. As an institution, we've forgotten more about successful economics and social programs than the GOP has blond fascist pundettes. I don't worry that he won't get the right kind of advice.

And, unlike our current president, he's actually smart enough to understand it and make a decision all by himself.





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