If you’re going to vote Democrat, don’t vote Kerry

By Barney Keller

If you’re intent on voting for one of the Democratic presidential candidates—and if you are, you have my condolences—I hope that the one you will vote for is not John Kerry.

There’s a reason why Kerry, once the establishment pick to win the nomination, is now getting trounced by Howard Dean in New Hampshire, running third in Iowa, and trailing Reverend Al Sharpton in South Carolina. How could this former frontrunner fail to register with Democrats as a real option to defeat the hated President Bush?

Kerry claims to care about a liberal vision of America, about working-class people, and about stopping the supposed imperialist foreign policy of the current White House. Yet Dean and Dick Gephardt are splitting union endorsements, and most of the far left seem to be throwing themselves behind Dean. How Kerry lost his edge is a story that deserves more analysis.

This week, Kerry fired his campaign manager, Jim Jordan, in order to “change the dynamic” of his campaign. Tellingly, the Associated Press is reporting that when Kerry announced the firing during a campaign conference call, he mispronounced a top aide’s name at least once, and could be heard eating on the other end of the telephone. Imagine President Kerry on the hotline to possible Secretary of Defense Wesley Clark: “Yeah, (munch, munch), Wes, we should pull back (munch, munch) our troops (munch, crinkle) or something, Theresa. THERESA! Is that it on the Fritos? Yeah, Wes (slurp, swallow), did you know that my initials are JFK?” Two more top aides subsequently quit in reaction to the abrupt announcement. The Associated Press reported democratic strategists commenting that “the problems were caused by the candidate himself, that he has campaigned as if the nomination was his entitlement while allowing former Vermont Governor Howard Dean to catapult ahead.” Democrats, what does it say about his campaign that these details were leaked to the press?

Then there’s his stance on the war, which is virtually impossible to define. Most of us respect and admire a candidate who sticks to his principles and thinks through his decisions. Maybe that’s why Kerry, who voted for the resolution to go to war in Iraq while still voicing his opposition to it, has lost support. At least the other candidates are sticking by their views and thinking about the issues.

Kerry supporters want to discuss his war credentials, how he fought valiantly in Vietnam and then became a rabid activist for peace when he returned. Since Democrats are historically less trusted on national security than Republicans, why not nominate a man who has actual combat experience! It’s true; Kerry is a decorated war hero. However, his campaign staff is not quick to tell the story of how Kerry threw his war medals over the fence of the White House during an antiwar protest. Actually, they were another veteran’s medals, but don’t worry, Kerry’s medals are safely tucked away in one of his many luxurious homes.

Is John Kerry really representative of the Democratic Party these days? Probably not. Whatever else you might say about the fractious bunch running for the nomination, most seem to be rather personable and active. And you’ve got to credit the liberal base for rejecting Kerry’s aloofness and entitled attitude for Dean’s passion and drive

But the truth is, Kerry-esque politics do exist in the Democratic Party, and that’s bad news. Republican candidates running for governorships and seats in Congress keep winning because they articulate clear, appealing messages about health care, education reform, and economic growth, and stick to their beliefs when things looked bleak. Kerry “bandwagon” Democrats keep losing because they are unsure what they believe, are torn by competing special interests, and wind up with a message that doesn’t resonate with voters. Witness that Republicans control both houses of Congress now.

Kerry, when asked how his campaign would change with the firing, said, “Watch over the next few weeks and you’ll see it. You guys watch, we’re doing great.” Sure you will, John. While Dean continues to represent the “Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” Kerry continues to carry the torch for the Out-of-touch-with-America wing of the Democratic party. Let’s hope the Democratic voters are smart enough to put him out of his misery this winter.