Sunday, January 4, 2004

Winning the Rest of The Games

Michael Tomasky in The American Prospect:

I’m on record as writing that the Deanophobic Washington establishment ought to give some thought to trying to understand the Dean phenomenon instead of reflexively rejecting it, and should start thinking about making its peace with Dean, who after all stands a strong chance of being the nominee. I stand by those assertions. But traffic on these political streets flows two ways: It’s also incumbent upon Dean to give the Washington Democratic establishment some reasons to believe in him and in his electability.

It’s just three weeks now until the caucus-goers of Iowa assemble to send forth a candidate, and for Dean they will be three crucial, delicate weeks. He has his core supporters; of that there’s no doubt. But now arrives the moment when Dean, if he is indeed going to secure the nomination and become a credible general-election candidate, has to start thinking more about the voters who aren’t already part of his movement than the ones who are. He needs to start brandishing his centrist credentials, and he should think a little more before he opens his mouth sometimes. Most of all, he must refuse to get dragged down to his opponents’ level by responding to their attacks.

The Bush campaign plans to paint Dean as angry and pessimistic. There’s a very simple way for him to appear sanguine and optimistic — and, by the way, presidential. He needs to start today.

What with the NFL playoffs in full blast and the Dolphins out of the picture, I can indulge in a little gridiron metaphor. Tomasky’s essay reminds me of the stories I heard back when John Elway was in his rookie year as the new quarterback of the Denver Broncos. The toughest hits he took came when his own teammates, who resented this new kid on the block, would let the defensive line of the other team get through the line and sack him, throwing him to the ground like he was a trashbag. It was only when Elway proved that he was a winner did they give him the support and protection from the opposition. No one ever said the Broncos lost a game because of this hazing, but in Dean’s case, why take the chance?