Voting 101
Ability To Win Is The Key
02.18.2004 8:57 PM EST

I am drawn to Howard Dean's platform for the presidency. I agree with him on the issues that are most important to me — the need to work closely with our allies to win the war of ideas in the Middle East and his plan to send every young American to college. In fact, Dean and I essentially share the same idealistic vision for America's future: A democracy respected by its citizens and the world alike, where each person has a powerful voice and is truly equal under the law. I even like Dean's brash and passionate public persona.

Nonetheless, I chose not to vote for him in Michigan's primary election.

I chose not to vote for Dean because, while I share his vision, I do not believe that the rest of the country shares our sense of urgency in arriving at that vision. With that in mind, I took what I thought was the first realistic step toward realizing that vision: voting the current administration out of the White House.

This takes strategy. It means voting in the primaries for who you think can win in the general election. That means putting yourself in other people's shoes. While I might be ready to have an unabashedly anti-war, pro-gay-marriage, Vermont governor as president, other people in our country are certainly not. We need another option for president with much broader appeal. At a time when the American public seems to be shying away from confrontation, Dean comes across as looking for a fight.

So I set out to find the most "electable" man or woman in the race.

Arkansas native and former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark certainly seemed to be up to the job, at least on paper. A former Rhodes scholar and four-star general with tons of foreign policy experience to boot, Clark might have been the best person in the post-September 11 militarized America. He could appeal to Southern Republicans and others concerned with securing the homeland. However, his candidacy never got off the ground. His inexperience in politics got the best of him.

Despite his wooden personality, cushy New England upbringing and reputation in the Senate as a compromiser, Vietnam veteran John Kerry seems more able to gain the trust of Americans in ways that neither Dean nor Clark could.

Don't get me wrong, the young people who have been instrumental in bringing Dean's candidacy to national prominence should be proud. They stood up and acted for what they believed. Young Americans should be thrilled, as I am, that thousands of Deaniacs crushed the myth that our generation is apolitical and apathetic.

I've realized, however, that it is time to use the same positive energy expended on Dean's candidacy in a more pragmatic way. We should use it to unite around John Kerry, the Democrat with the best chance of winning in November.

— Laurence Freedman, the University of Michigan

Back to 'Electability' — The Magic Factor For The Democrats"

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