Thursday, June 09, 2005

Playing "What if. . .?" Election 2004 Edition

George Bush won reelection out of a combination of convincing voters he was keeping them safer against terrorism, a campaign based upon distorting Kerry's views and record, voter suppression, and mobilizing new voters from the religious right to offset the new Democratic voters.

There's also been speculation from the usual gang of Kerry bashers that if other things were different he would have won. This week there are the claims that if Kerry had signed Form 180 earlier the results would have been different. As we've discussed here, that would have changed nothing. The right wing noise machine did not care about the facts and would have continued the attack--as they are now doing despite the release of the military records. After all, if they had any concern for the truth there was already plenty of evidence released to prove that the charges were lies.

Another claim I've seen multiple times is that Kerry would have won if he had voted against the Iraq War Resolution. That is also unlikely to be the case.

The one thing which would have been different is that Kerry probably would have been the front runner for months and won the nomination with even less difficulty than he had, and Howard Dean would probably be an obscure former Governor of Vermont.

While voting yes on the IWR would have made it easier to win the nomination, it would have hurt rather than helped Kerry in the general election. Most voters, in contrast to bloggers, did not hold the vote against him. After all, most opponents of the war voted for Kerry, not Dean, once they had a clear look at both. Fortunately the majority of Democratic voters did not fall for the claims that a vote for the IWR was a vote for the war. More voters agreed with Wesley Clark's interpretation that the vote was a poor litmus test than agreed with Howard Dean.

The IWR was a typical Rove trap which Kerry tried to avoid. Rove loves to place opponents in positions where they must chose between two bad options. We saw how they campaigned against a candidate who voted yes in falsely claiming Kerry had supported their decision to go to war.

It would have been even more to Bush's advantage if Kerry had voted no. At the time of the IWR vote, the resolution was not presented by Republicans as a vote to go to war. Just four days before the vote, George Bush stated in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002 that "war was not inevitable." He portrayed the vote not as one to go to war, but a vote which meant that "America speaks with one voice" against a foreign enemy who may have had weapons of mass destruction. (Of course we now know that Bush had intended to go to war regardless of what occured, but he would have never admitted this.)

A no vote would have been taken as not only a rejection of Bush's ultimate Iraq policy, but that the voter would not agree to defend American under any condition, even if threatened by WMD. The result would likely have been more like the last time a Democrat was seen as too far to the left during a controversial war, when Richard Nixon beat George McGovern in a landslide.

John Kerry attempted to avoid Rove's trap by both voting yes but fully explaining his vote in his Senate floor statement. Kerry had many similar anti-war statements such as a New York Times op ed piece, his Georgetown speech, and his call for regime change in Washington at the onset of the war. John Kerry made his opposition to George Bush's policies clear. This strategy probably would have worked even better if not for having been falsely attacked by some in his own party for having voted for the war. While this undoubtedly did hurt, the consequences of voting no would have been far worse.


Blogger IFK Editor said...

All convincing and very well reasoned arguments, Ron. Unfortunately there's a small contingent of extremists on both the left and the right who will never be happy and will always find fault, rather than real solutions to the problems facing America.

5:46 PM  

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