October 24, 2004

Who's better at losing?

Instead of thinking about whether John Kerry or George Bush would do more good (and less harm) as President, let's consider the longterm effects on of each candidate's party that would flow from a loss. Which party will do better if it does not hold the Presidency in the next four years? The NYT Week in Review has Adam Nagourney spin out the effects of a Kerry loss and Elisabeth Bumiller does the same with a Bush loss. Interesting set up, but my suspicions of NYT bias lead me to expect that the conclusion will be that the Republican party will greatly benefit from a power time-out, while the Democrats will only stew in a new round of recriminations if they lose again. Conclusion: please, people, give the Dems a turn!

Now, I've actually read the pieces.

Nagourney sees the Democrats plunging into the sort of struggle for self-definition that we saw during the primary season. He quotes an unnamed Democratic consultant:
"Democrats will go back to 'What does it take to win?' - except this time, it will be, 'Oh my God! What does it take to win?'

"There will be a push from the left saying we weren't left enough. And there will be a push from the center saying we weren't center enough."
The Republicans, on the other hand, will not take their loss as a cue to reexmine what they stand for, according to Bumiller, who quotes David Gergen:
"I don't think [great soul-searching within the party] is going to happen. Conservatives will argue that it's not because of our conservatism that we lost. They'll look for scapegoats on the national security team. They'll say the war was a good idea, it was just poorly executed.''

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would be blamed, Mr. Gergen said, although a victory on Nov. 2 would just as quickly make him a hero. "It's one of those things that you're only a bum if you lose,'' Mr. Gergen said. "Rather than blaming the ideas, they'll blame the people.''
She also quotes Bill Kristol: "We'll fight back. It'll be fun.''

So there you have it. The Republicans, unlike the Democrats, really know what they stand for and as a result, they will handle the loss much more positively. So vote for the Democrat! But knowing what you stand for could also make you better at shouldering the job that you have to take on if you do win. Where do we really want these handwringing, perennial self-redefiners? In power or out?

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