It wasn’t that long ago when the current Secretary of State was wandering aimlessly in the Iowa cornfields, getting nowhere in the Democratic presidential primary and watching his political obituary being written before his eyes. You think it’s sad that Jeb Bush is at 4 percent? Kerry was at 4 percent in a national CBS poll 27 days before the Iowa caucuses. Which he won.I can't dismiss this outright. There are certainly parallels:
The lesson: You can be an uninspiring establishment candidate and still win the nomination. How? By being the last candidate left standing.
Like Jeb Bush, John Kerry began the race in early 2003 in the top tier but without gangbuster numbers, low 10s in national polls and often trailing the 2000 vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joe Lieberman. Kerry’s support was tepid but stable as Howard Dean began to rise in the summer.But here's where Sher's argument starts to fall apart:
Then Kerry began to fade in September when Wesley Clark, running as the anti-Iraq War general, barreled into the race and briefly seized the lead. By November 2003 -- the point in the race where we are today -- Kerry sunk into single digits.
Recall that Democratic voters in 2003 were similarly disgusted with their party’s leadership, and their presidential candidates in Congress at the time, for rolling over on the Iraq War resolution.Yes, but:
Granted, the Democratic anger was not so unbridled that it led to the ousters of congressional leaders, as Republican anger has done.No -- and that's a huge difference. Democratic voters in 2003 and 2004 wanted their party to be forthright in opposition to the war. Republican voters now want to burn their party to the ground. They're angry because gay marriage is legal and Planned Parenthood is still funded and Obamacare still exists and the president hasn't been subjected to a drumhead trial on treason charges. They want all their leaders overthrown and they want every law passed since January 2009 repealed. They'd rather shut the government down than pay the country's debts. They're prepared to turn the country into a police state to evict every undocumented immigrant -- but they'll wave an AR-15 in your face if you dare to make them pay grazing fees on public land or want them to go through a background check at a gun show.
Democrats just wanted to stop a war.
Yes, relative to Kerry, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark were outsiders. But on paper, at least, they were plausible presidents -- before running, Dean had been a governor longer than Jimmy Carter before his run, and approximately as long as Bill Clinton before his. Dean was articulate and knowledgeable; he knew enough about national politics to be a successful chairman of the Democratic National Committee after his presidential run. And while Clark wasn't quite Dwight Eisenhower, he had an impressive C.V.:
During his 34 years of service in the United States Army, Clark rose to the rank of 4-star General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander....On a regular basis this year, we've been told that Bernie Sanders -- a seasoned, knowledgeable politician -- is the same sort of outsider as the clownish, ignorant favorites in the Republican race, Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Sher is making a similar mistake by comparing Dean and Clark to the Republican front-runners.
In 1994, Clark was named director for strategic plans and policy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with responsibilities for worldwide U.S. military strategic planning. It was there that General Clark insisted that the Pentagon develop an exit strategy for the 1994 invasion of Haiti. In 1995, General Clark traveled to the Balkans as the military negotiator in a U.S. effort to end the war in Bosnia, playing a vital role in the Dayton peace talks. As Supreme Allied Commander and Commander in Chief of the United States European Command, Clark commanded Operation Allied Force, NATO's first major combat action, which saved 1.5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
Democratic voters in 2003 and 2004 really didn't want to make an extreme break with conventional Democratic politics -- so it's not surprising that they were willing to turn to Kerry when Dean and Clark faltered. Republicans now seem genuinely determined to vote for a candidate who lacks basic knowledge about the American government and domestic and global politics. Sher says Dean and Clark fell victim to vetting. Trump and Carson are being vetted right now, and are being exposed as unfit to serve -- and GOP voters don't care.
And Kerry was willing to build his campaign around forthright opposition to the war -- the issue his party's voters were most passionate about. Jeb is stubbornly unwilling to do the same this year on any of the issues his party's voters care most about. And Kerry had history on his side: He'd made his name as an opponent of a previous foreign policy quagmire. Jeb? He's the brother of a guy who fought for immigration reform and the husband of an immigrant.
So no, the races aren't really comparable. Jeb is toast.