Campaigns are embarrassing to every candidate. Everyone says
something blisteringly stupid at some point. You spend all day talking,
and your mouth is moving while your brain is off wondering when you
might flee this damp, hot hall and find the restroom.
President Bush won't have this problem. He isn't trying to fight his way
out of a pack; he doesn't have a glib nervy guy from his own party
knocking him. It's scripted appearances from here on, with a dull debate
at the end. No more misspeakerating.
The Democrats are another story. They have to say something, all the
time, and they have to stand out.
Dennis Kucinich stands out by being just plain weird; any day you
expect him to announce he will institute a Department of Aromatherapy,
or put the entire military on a vegan diet. John Kerry is sonorous and
dull, and his lemon-sucking persona doesn't make you hang on every
Howard Dean, however, is fun. He's like Tigger. Always bouncing.
Always something to say. And that's the problem.
Perhaps the biggest news Dean made in recent weeks wasn't for a Bold
Policy Initiative, but his declaration that he is a metrosexual.
It's a trendy term, already long dead in the hipster circles that produced
it. A metrosexual is a straight guy who moisturizes and accessorizes.
You can imagine his brain's reaction when his mouth let that one go: I
step away for six seconds and you lose the entire NASCAR dad vote.
So he backpedaled, confessed he is actually a square. No big deal, but
1. What would Bush have said if anyone asked if he was a metrosexual?
You might have gotten a blank look, which would totally lose him that
Upper West Side vote he's been assiduously courting. If you caught him
in a chipper mood, he might simply have said, "Ask Laura." The
Bush-As-Tart-Quipster whom some conservatives long to hear might
have said, "You've seen my ranch. I'm more of a ruralsexual." But the
issue probably wouldn't have come up at all; we are a nation at war and
it would be a silly, frilly thing to waste time upon. Right?
2. More interesting was Dean's comment that he wanted to bring back to
the Democratic Party all those Southern men who have Confederate
flags in their pickup trucks. Hoo-boy. If Bush said that, the editorial
cartoonists would have him in white sheets and pointy hats for the rest
of his term.
But Dean has hit on something. Why don't those guys want to vote for
Well: If you're going to cater to the pickup demographic, it doesn't help
to run guys like Al Gore, who wished he could go back in time and
throttle the inventor of the internal combustion engine in his crib. It
doesn't help when the ACLU gets its undies in a bundle every time
someone recites the Ten Commandments on the same block as a
courthouse. It doesn't help when some people appear to regard the
gay-unfriendly Boy Scouts as a greater threat to Western Civ than
To many swing voters, that's the baggage the Dems carry right now.
Wobbly on foreign policy, dependably pro-government benefits for
anyone who can show up and sign a form with an X, pro-religion if the
church supports abortion and euthanasia. In other words: liberals!
Unfair? Broad? Crude? Sure. But not entirely inaccurate. Just as the
Republicans gradually purged the Buchananite strain after Pickaxe Pat's
spittle-flecked speech at the '92 convention, so must the Dems cast off
their angry fringe. When it comes to the swing voters, you have two
groups: Social Moderates Who Don't Want Their Daughters to Wear
Burqas for Bush, and Dixie Pedicure Enthusiasts for Dean.
Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote? Time will tell.
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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.