More on Compromise, Elections, and the Lessons of Clinton

The Decembrist: The Many Presidencies of Bill Clinton contains further thoughts on my tactical disagreement with Brad DeLong.

There are many points, but the most interesting of all is this one:

I agree that I don't want to concede all of this in July of the election year. That's why making McCain the VP probably wouldn't have made sense. A candidate cannot put forth a persuasive agenda for renewal and simultaneously acknowledge how much of it he will have to compromise on. But, by the same token, I want to avoid the cycle of disappointment when Kerry faces the recognition that his power to implement an agenda depends on his finding a working relationship with Congress.

To which I replied in the comments,

As for the danger of raising expectations, there is simply no choice. You don't get elected dogcatcher by beeing gloomy and without offering a vision that makes people hopeful.

It's no accident that he word the Bush campaign most uses about Kerry these days, even more than flip-flop, is “pessimistic”. I bet the focus groups tested wild in favor of “optimism”—and it's so easy to claim that any suggestion that the administration is incompetent and things are going badly as “pessimism”. The reporters write it right down…

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One Response to More on Compromise, Elections, and the Lessons of Clinton

  1. SW says:

    It depends to a large degree on how big Kerry’s win is. If it is a squeaker and we are left with an essentially 50-50 breakdown, yes he’ll have a really tough time. On the other hand, if the defections from the ranks of the adult republicans and republican leaning independents continues, it could be a rout. And if he wins big, he is going to be perceived to have a mandate. Additionally, I’m convinced that at least among our traditional allies there is going to be a major effort to rebuild the relationship that will make for good theatre. So I think a statesman would have a chance to capitalize on that sort of dynamic. There are plenty of things that the executive could do alone that would generate pressure for a new agenda. So, I think that the biggest thing to enhance Kerry’s chances will be the margin of victory.

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