.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

next time for sure...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Note: please excuse the capitalization herein. This post was composed in Word, and I didn't have time to fix it.



In the Democrats' rush to win the next Presidential election, it's probably important they don't spend any more time trying to win the last one.

The issues that were decisive in 2004 are not likely to be the issues next time. Some very smart people on the other side are already at work projecting countless possible scenarios in two years, three years, and so on; they’re busy formulating responses to myriad combinations of events and determining how to best take advantage of those scenarios. They’re compiling a menu of hot button topics, crafting messages, and sifting their database to facilitate maximum impact.

For us or anyone to suggest the Democrats’ first priority is to find a religious candidate to appeal to “Bush evangelicals” is short-sighted and probably self-defeating. It’s firing a once-in-four-years arrow at a target that won’t be there when the time comes. Even if the target is still in the vicinity, it still will have moved sufficiently to cause democrats to miss another crucial opportunity.

So, instead of expending a lot of energy identifying a candidate who would’ve won in 2004, I suggest we find someone best suited to win in a world we haven’t begun to get a handle on, in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

What will be the key drivers of events in the next two years? What will be the most significant weaknesses in the opposition during that time? What will be the Democrats’ emerging strengths? What wild card world events may crop up to throw all these assumptions into the scrap heap?

What will the world look like during the campaign for the 2008 election, and who is (or will be) most prepared to define, control and seize the advantage at that time?

Below, by way of illustration only, is a simplistic exploration of just a few possibilities. Six examples (Global and Domestic) of four strategic categories, and (later) a few combinations and permutations of each. Obviously the categories and examples are potentially limitless. The combinations, therefore, are exponentially greater.

Key Drivers

• Iraq war
Due to U.S. failure to win the peace, the “Iraqi situation” continues to deteriorate. Proposed elections in January, 2005 are postponed due to instability and escalating violence across the country. The interim government collapses and the U.S. is drawn more deeply into the conflict. Meanwhile, the “Coalition of the Willing” continues to shrink, placing more burden on U.S. forces.

• Growing terrorist threat
In Iraq and around the world, incidents of Al Qaeda and “copycat” Muslim extremist terror attacks continue to rise. From Europe to Southeast Asia, kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and other atrocities become commonplace.

• Iran war
“I’ve got political capital and I’m going to spend it” on Operation Iran Freedom. Freedom is on the march in Iran as the President goes looking for more nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

• Weak economy/unemployment
The failure of the U.S. economy to right itself, due in large part to Bush administration fiscal policy, has Congress in turmoil and the President on the defensive. Consumer confidence is down, spending is down, interest rates are up.

• Growing terrorist threat
Mismanagement in the Department of Homeland Security fails to secure U.S. ports. Terrorist sleeper cells and wide open borders to the north and south combine to demonstrate that the American people are not safer, nor less likely to be attacked on the Bush watch.

• Unrest over Iraq war
Once-sporadic protests over the deepening (and broadening) war in the Middle East lead to widespread and vocal protests on college campuses and in major metropolitan areas. The divide between blue and red voters grows wider.

Opposition Weaknesses

• Unilateral foreign policy
The difficulty of fighting a global war on terror without the aid and assistance of allies becomes apparent. The administration’s “my way or the highway” stance leaves the U.S. and its assets vulnerable on multiple fronts.

• Iraq war
The uproar at home and abroad grows louder with each passing day. U.S. casualty figures rise and military successes become more difficult to sustain. While U.S. forces nominally control most major metropolitan areas, insurgent guerrilla attacks escalate country-wide. Meaningful control proves elusive.

• Deteriorating U.S. influence
Cooperation and engagement with erstwhile U.S. allies is at a post-WWII low. The U.N. routinely condemns U.S. actions and the administration continues to call that world body “irrelevant.” U.S.-based businesses find it more difficult and less manageable to operate abroad.

• Economy
The U.S. economy continues to meander, despite Bush administration protests that things are getting better every day. Key economic indicators continue to flounder, and the stock market responds with characteristic volatility.

• Tax cuts/runaway spending
The one-time party of fiscal responsibility does not attempt to reconnect with its roots as spending for the administration’s aggressive agenda ramps up in earnest. Deficits continue their record climb.

• Religious backlash
The “conservative” social agenda against stem cell research, abortion rights, public schools, and gay marriage galvanizes liberal and moderate voters.

Dem. Party Strengths

• Counterweight to Republican extremism
World leaders begin to view Democrats as the voices of reason in American politics, on issues ranging from global trade to scientific research to cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

• Rebuilding global partnerships
Weary of the disdain they receive from the Bush administration, world leaders cultivate productive working relationships with Democratic leaders at national and local levels.

• Antiwar in Iraq
After years of ebb and flow without resolution in Iraq, the Democrats benefit by defining themselves as the alternative to failed Bush policies in the Middle East.

• Education/social issues
Advocates for science and research in public life respond dramatically to the rise of “faith-driven” initiatives in public schools and elsewhere. Democrats are instrumental in promoting the value of reason over ideology in this arena.

• Fiscal responsibility
Once the party of “tax & spend liberals,” Democrats now are viewed as the party offering responsible budget plans to offset sprawling Bush deficits and spending.

• Defenders of constitution
“Conservatives” seek to expand the scope of the Patriot Act and the power of the Department of Homeland Security; they propose Christian fundamentalist-driven amendments to the U.S. constitution. Democrats (along with moderate Republicans and libertarians) ally themselves to prevent these actions.

Wild Cards

• Iraq civil war
The insurgency in Iraq gains momentum beyond the ability of Coalition forces to contain it. Order in the major cities breaks down and anarchy reigns over much of the country. Dozens of factions fight for local control, leading inexorably to chaos.

• Terrorist attack(s)
Acts of terrorism in London, Tokyo and Melbourne shake worldwide confidence in government ability to provide security. Radical candidates in local and national elections gain widespread support, though how they will improve on the performance of their predecessors remains unclear.

• China gambit
Seizing the opportunity to control and influence events on a global scale, China arrays its considerable resources against U.S. interests. It funds and arms insurgents in the Middle East; it militarily overruns Taiwan on “national security” pretexts; and it leads the call for UN sanction against the U.S.

• Terrorist attack(s)
After fours years of quiet on the domestic front, Al Qaeda resurfaces with a dirty nuclear device detonated in Miami. Three thousand are killed outright, and thousands more face associated morbidity and mortality in the years ahead. The Bush legacy is dealt a devastating blow, and the landscape of American politics changes dramatically.

• Recession/Stock Crash
Due to events at home and overseas, stocks in the U.S. and worldwide suffer steep and sudden declines. Millions of investors are wiped out and financial markets face months of slow recovery.

• Iraq backlash
As the situation in Iraq deteriorates, Americans become increasingly vocal and demonstrative in their opposition to the war. Protests and unrest not seen since the height of the Viet Nam war are commonplace. The President calls the backlash a threat to national security and declares martial law.

In our next episode we’ll cobble together a few of these scenarios into one big Polaroid of the world, circa 2006.5. In the meantime, feel free to play along. Create your own scenario with these vignettes, or make up your own. Amaze your friends with your perspicacity and prescience. It’s fun, it’s free, and what the hey…you just might win.