Man Without Qualities

Friday, April 30, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose XXXIII: Another Day At The Races

A prior post noted that John Kerry has no minorities in his true inner campaign organization and that he is not faring well compared to other recent Democratic candidates among Hispanics in national polls. Even more strangely, to my knowledge Senator Kerry has no close advisors, friends or personal acquaintances who are racial minorities.

Of course, Senator Kerry's having no close friends who are minorities may be explainable if Senator Kerry has no close friends whatsoever. Word from the Senate leaves the "no close friends whatsoever" explanation a distinct possibility. Other Senators privately suggest that the closer one gets to Senator Kerry the more unlikeable he cares to be. Of course, that can't be generally true - the rule could not hold for available, with respect to ultra-rich, single, white women, for example.

But putting aside such digressions and whatever his lack of close friends who are racial minorities may say about him as a person, Senator Kerry's apparent lack of close advisors and personal acquaintances who are racial minorities is surely just rank political incompetence - whatever one may think of "identity politics." This is a candidate who will probably rely on African-Americans and Hispanics for one in four of his general election votes and the crucial margin of difference in battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. The problems failure to attend to such matters will cause any candidate, but especially a liberal Democratic candidate, are completely predictable - and it is nothing short of astonishing incompetence to leave such matters unresolved.

And those problems are in fact emerging. For example, according to the Associated Press (thanks to California Yankee for the link):

A lack of minority representation at the upper levels of John Kerry's presidential campaign threatens to weaken enthusiasm among black and Hispanic voters, two core constituencies, some Democrats and advocacy groups say. Kerry's inner circle - the dozen or so advisers who participate in the campaign's most important decisions - is mostly white. Senior political adviser Paul Rivera said a core group of seven high-ranking staffers participate in a daily, morning conference call to talk strategy and make key decisions. The group includes campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill; deputy campaign managers Steve Elmendorf and Marcus Jardotte; communications director Stephanie Cutter; general election strategist Jill Alper; and senior advisers Art Collins and Rivera. Jardotte and Collins are black; Rivera is Hispanic. Campaign officials say media consultants, pollsters and other top aides are often on the call, including chief speechwriter Bob Shrum, and Tad Devine, an architect of Kerry's general election planning.

Bob Shrum, and Tad Devine are well-known to completely dominate the Kerry campaign. The tone and structure of this article - naming people who participate in the high-level, daily, morning conference calls while pointing out that knowledgeable observers view the campaign as bereft of minority influence - strongly suggests that the minorities in the campaign are without real influence and may even be there mostly for appearances. Did all the really potent Democratic minority campaign advisors (Donna Brazile, for example) demur? - or are they all unacceptable for one reason or another to the Kerry campaign? Maybe Bob Shrum and Tad Devine ego displacement? Perhaps a kind of campaign-staff Pauli exclusion principle? Whatever it is, it's strange.

But even stranger is the quote at the end of the AP article:

"The Kerry campaign certainly at the top definitely needs some African-Americans, needs Hispanics, it needs to be more diverse," said David Bositis, a political scientist at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank focused on black issues. "But he's got plenty of time to address this."

Let's see. Virtually every political commenter in the country is alarmed that at this very moment Senator Kerry is being "defined" in a way thoroughly to his disadvantage. Yet his standing with groups on which he is expects to rely for one in four of his general election votes is something he's got plenty of time to address? Ah-so. As top-notch political advisor Donna Brazile tells it, apparently to nobody at the Kerry campaign who's listening:

"No question, it's a rerun of 2000," said Donna Brazile, campaign manager for the former vice president's 2000 race. "Every Sunday, Team Bush goes in overdrive by outlining the upcoming week's attacks on Kerry. It's followed by paid advertisements and assigning top-notch surrogates," Brazile said. "This is the exact moment in 2000 when Gore was seriously damaged as the Bush team painted the former vice president as a `serial exaggerator.'"

Ms. Brazile's quote above, of course, is not directed narrowly at the Kerry campaign's failures with minorities - but to it's general misperception of the urgency of the moment. Within the Kerry campaign and its immediately adjacent territories, signs of political incompetence keep popping up. There's a stink brewing about minority contracts at the Boston convention, for example:

Organizers of the Democratic National Convention are again being accused of not sending enough business to Boston's minority communities, and activists are threatening to find ways to embarrass Mayor Thomas M. Menino and national Democrats in the run-up to the convention if they don't see the situation turn around.

And inviting known loon and loose cannon Al Sharptonto speak at the Democratic convention doesn't suggest the highest order of political competence in racial matters, either.

George Bush will receive only a small percentage of the African-American vote regardless of how incompetent Senator Kerry and his people prove to be - but even a slight uptick in Republican performance with this constituency will be enough. Mr. Bush's position with Hispanic voters is much stronger. Although he is extremely unlikely to carry a majority of such voters, carrying a good minority of them would be more than enough to put him back in the White House - almost by itself. Of course, what is an even bigger problem for Senator Kerry is that a low turnout of minority Democratic voters will allow Mr. Bush to win in a walk.

At this moment, Senator Kerry seems to be doing everything he can to give Mr. Bush that walk:

"The reality is that we're entering May and the Kerry campaign has no message out there to the Hispanic community nor has there been any inkling of any reach-out effort in any state to the Hispanic electorate, at least with any perceivable sustainable strategy in mind," Alvaro Cifuentes, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Caucus, said in an e-mail message to party leaders provided by a recipient who insisted on anonymity. "It is no secret that the word of mouth in the Beltway and beyond is not that he does not get it, it is that he does not care." Separately, in a letter addressed to Mr. Kerry, Raul Yzaguirre, the president of the National Council of La Raza, denounced the "remarkable and unacceptable absence of Latinos in your campaign." .... Much of the hubbub began with Ms. Cahill's listing, in a newspaper article this month, five white men as Mr. Kerry's closest advisers, and an announcement of new staff members in which only a handful of the 30 names belonged to blacks and Hispanics. A follow-up naming the outreach team, filled with a rainbow of races, only seemed to make it worse.

Ball two!

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