Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Democratic Field Nothing To Sneeze At-Jeffery Collins pointed to this ScrappleFace piece on Sneezy joining the Democratic presidential field. For those of you who's memories don't go back to the late 80s, here's the metaphor he's after, via a James Fallows piece on Al Gore three years ago; here, Fallows is describing the 1988 nomination race-
Initially there were seven contenders -- "the seven dwarfs" to the press: Gore, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart, Paul Simon, Jesse Jackson, Bruce Babbitt, and Dick Gephardt. (In 1987 Gary Hart was briefly out of the race and Joe Biden was briefly in, still leaving a field of seven.) Each candidate struggled for time on camera while a debate was under way and for the even scarcer resource of recap coverage on the evening news.
OK, let's see if these are truly lightweights in this field worthy of comparison to the '88 field. Gephardt is back sixteen years later, a bit more of an elder statesman of the party. We can cast Howard Dean as this year's Bruce Babbit-a quirky small-state governor who the press corps loves. Al Sharpton gets to play Jesse. John Edwards gets to play the 1988 Gore, the young Southern senator on the make. However, casting/comparing the rest of the field's a bit harder. First, to John Kerry. The Massachusetts connection would beg for Dukakis, but a 1984 (pre-Donna Rice) Gary Hart would be a better fit. His tax breaks for tech firms would put him in the "Atari Democrat" (how archaic does that sound? Visions of Space Invaders or Pac Man) mold of Hart, as would a youthful telegenic persona. Speaking of archaic, I remember voting for Hart in the Democratic caucuses in '84. Lieberman doesn't fit into that cast either. On style, I'd have to go with Paul Simon (the Illinois senator, not Garfunkle's buddy), as both Simon and Lieberman have comparable low-key, avuncular speaking styles. However, Simon was running as an anti-idiotarian liberal (almost, but not quite an oxymoron) which doesn't mesh well with the hawkish DLC-style neoliberalism that Lieberman will run on. This field has more gravitas than the original Seven Dwarfs, and that would only increase if Bob Graham runs. One of these guys will be the nominee. For all the cracks about the Seven Dwarfs, Dukakis gave Bush 41 a run for his money, and so will one of these guys. Lieberman and Graham would be tough outs, and Kerry and Gephardt would not be pushovers. As Han Solo would say to the GOP, don't get cocky, kids.

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