This is a response to an academic scholar speculating that the Democrats might be better off if Kerry loses and Bush has to face the consequences of his mistakes. Contrary to my usual practice, I didn’t become insulting, but I really should have.
I think that simple-minded Democratic partisans are in this case, as often, wiser than the sophisticated strategic thinkers. In fact, I think that sophisticated strategic thinking is one of the curses of the Democratic Party. When Enron was breaking I was told again and again that the wise Democratic strategists were waiting for the right moment to exploit the issue, but that moment never came. (The truth was that Lieberman and others were so implicated with Enron themselves that the issue was unexploitable for them. I often find it easy to understand why Nader went crazy).
The statistical distribution for political leaders is not a Bell curve. It’s thick at the bottom and middle and thin at the top, like graphs of any other difficult accomplishment. There are many more 1’s and 2’s than there are 9’s and 10’s, and mediocrity is a considerable achievement.
There’s also a disproportion between the good a good man can do (make significant finite improvements) and the bad a bad man can do (plunge the world into interminable war, destroy the world economy, exterminate a people, bring a civilization to an end). This is because there are lots of ways to do things wrong, and only a few ways to do things right, so a random or uninformed choice will normally be wrong. It’s not a 50-50 split.
So the choice between a mediocre candidate and a bad one is really pretty large. Probably Kerry’s a 5 or a 6, and Bush is a 3 at best, and (judging by Zell) more likely to move down than up. That’s an enormous difference, and not one to play games with.
Today the shrill and alarmist are much wiser than the urbane and crafty.
Academic life has a taboo against substantive, decisive, concrete, practical thinking in favor of toying with interesting and ingenious conceptual abstractions. This is one of the reasons that a lot of Americans hate Democrats and liberals, and smug explanations that they’re all just anti-intellectual Yahoos are nothing but self-serving denial.