Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2003 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764
The activist primary
THE Democratic presidential races usually feature a thematic
competition that foreshadows the earliest of primaries and determines the eventual
nominee. The tough part is figuring out what this pivotal contest is about. Often, it is
only apparent after one candidate has won it.
For example, Mike Dukakis won the 1988 nomination because he proved that he could raise more money than
any of his rivals. By beating Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson and the others in the financial primary, he
was able to pile up victories in the various key states and secure the nomination.
In 1992, Bill Clinton won the image primary. A party adrift, lacking confidence in its ideas, found the "new"
Democratic Party heralded by the moderate governor from the Democratic Leadership Council most attractive.
By offering a way out of the liberal dogma that had doomed Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Dukakis, the
three previous nominees, Clinton turned on the party's thinkers, writers, and movers with his pledges to "end
welfare as we know it," to support a "middle-class tax cut" and to back capital punishment.
In 2000, Al Gore defeated former Sen. Bill Bradley in the audition primary, waged largely in their debates, where
the two competed to see who could be more aggressive and forceful in attacking the Republicans. Bradley's
diffidence and restraint, contrasted with Gore's tough attacks, made the former athlete seem too weak to take on
In 2004, it appears that the activist primary is the key. By using the Internet to mobilize hundreds of thousands
of cyber-roots volunteers and donors, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has staked out an early lead that is
likely to hold up and give him the nomination. Using his 500,000 online supporters to raise $15 million in the past
quarter (three times his nearest rival's take), Dean has built up a substantial national base while challenging
Gephardt in Iowa and John Kerry in New Hampshire.
Dean realizes that four years of GOP rule have left Democrats angry, frustrated and determined to lash back. By
opening his Internet portal to these militants, he has offered a living, interactive campaign where ordinary men
and women can make a difference.
In the Gephardt or Kerry campaigns, you are invited to write a check. In the Wes Clark campaign, one can tune
in and watch the candidate on television. But Dean urges activists to bring in their family and friends, clicking on
the Web as they migrate to his candidacy. As a result, the Dean campaign is just larger than anybody else's -
more donors, more workers, more activists.
Clark thinks he is still back in 1992, using the Clinton
playbook to win the image primary. He hopes that by
tapping into the historical paradigm of the
general-as-a-man-of-peace, he can score where past
He's read his history. Ulysses S. Grant was elected
president not only for his military prowess, but for his
words at Appomattox: "Let us have peace." Dwight D.
Eisenhower surged to victory in 1952 not only by
summoning the memories of D-Day, but also by pledging
"I shall go to Korea" to end the sanguinary stalemate that
drained more than 40,000 American lives.
Clark has won his image primary and Dean has won the
activist primary. No candidate can match the attractive
image Clark has created as the
general-as-a-man-of-peace, nor can any come close to equaling the swelling ranks of the Dean campaign.
Kerry, Gephardt, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards have lost out on both counts - their images attract no
coverage and their campaigns get few volunteers.
In a sense, Clark vs. Dean is the classic confrontation of the TV-image candidate vs. the party activists' choice.
It's either the first battle of the post-TV era or the last hurrah of media power. My bet is that it is the herald of the
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10/22/03: Clark's Achille's heel
10/16/03: The raging fury against the political establishment
10/08/03: Barbarians at the gates
10/03/03: Get ready for Iran's drive to be national suicide bomber
10/01/03: Dean's E-reform
09/26/03: An open letter to Karl Rove
09/24/03: Why Clark will fade
09/18/03: Terror fears fade too fast
09/10/03: As Dubya sinks, Al & Hill scheme
08/25/03: Bias-mongers on rocks as viewers taste straight news
08/14/03: Arnold & Dean's political revolution
08/08/03: Hillary Clinton might not want to wait until 2008
07/24/03: As Bush falters, watch Hil run
07/21/03: Peace dominoes begin to fall
07/17/03: Let's hear the good news
07/14/03: Sending troops to Liberia could be a bridge too far
07/10/03: McGovern II
07/07/03: French: Toast
07/03/03: At moment of truth, Hillary turns backwards
06/27/03: And now the dominos begin to fall
06/25/03: W's triangulation
06/23/03: Presidents often fall victim to their own success: Some advice for the president
06/18/03: Times not a-changing
06/13/03: Why did Hillary write the book?
06/11/03: Will the Rev go rogue?
06/05/03: Napoleon's maneuvers at Austerlitz have nothing on prez's
06/02/03: Prez's tax-cut catch-22 for Dems
05/29/03: Liberal author documents Clinton's wasted second term
05/16/03: Early Democrat handicapping for 2004
05/14/03: Gephardt: AWOL
04/30/03: Prez can lose
04/25/03: My message to Putin: Call President Bush
04/23/03: NO OIL FOR BLOOD
04/21/03: The war that network news lost in Iraq
04/15/03: Media meltdown
04/10/03: Giving government a good name
04/03/03: Polls' message to Bush: Relax and win the war
03/31/03: Bomb as you need
03/28/03: The strong grow weak through inhibition
03/26/03: Carping pessimism of TV anchors and interviewers fails to give Americans a sense of defeatism
03/17/03: Poll: Get on with it
03/13/03: It's time for U.S. to play hardball at U.N.
03/10/03: The whole (Hispanic) world is watching
03/07/03: Anti-war errors
03/05/03: Domino theory II: Toppling Mideast despots
03/03/03: Europe's triangulators: Chirac and Blair
02/27/03: Invasion? More like a coup
02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
01/13/03: The new swing voter
01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine
01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history
© 2003, Dick Morris