Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is Karl Dean in Trouble?

Hard to say, I suppose, since early voting is just underway, but it seems like the gaffe's just keep on coming. I am frustrated by Dean's apparent inability to engage Clement seriously on the PR side of things. He seems under prepared to meet a challenger who, at this point, has successfully captured the invincibly popular (although realistically at odds) positions of no new taxes combined with promises for everyone. Maybe a television-saturation campaign will ultimately work, but I don't watch much TV, so I'm not sure why the ads seem to work so well. While Clement's overall position lacks credibility, Dean seems unable to score any significant blows against it.

That bothers me because the choice for mayor now seems more difficult than ever. Do I vote for the man who promises everything I hope to see the city do, but whose no new tax pledge will require him to pass the bill to future generations through creative financing strategies (at best) or simply go back on his promises (at worst), OR do I vote for the man who seems unable to expose the flaws in that campaign by educating people about specific policy solutions that could serve to show him to be more realistic and capable?

One problem seems to be that Dean seems to be running an incredibly insider-driven campaign. The campaign seems confident that it is smarter and better than Clement. Despite a clearly broader-based, more visible, and more popular public campaign by Clement, the Dean camp seems to believe that being smarter will be enough to win.

I love smarter. I want competent, realistic leaders, but anyone who has followed my opinions for very long knows that I sincerely believe that genuine and effective leadership requires more than just smarts and competence. Leadership ALSO requires the ability to convince people to follow you in the smarter course of action. It is true that the smarter course is not always more popular, and I agree with the historical reality that no new tax pledges almost ALWAYS force unnecessary choices between courses of action that are truly better for the community and those we can actually afford. But, effective leadership means being able to convince the people in the community who are asked to sacrifice for the community's greater good to understand and accept (even if grudgingly) the need for that sacrifice. This is the most important leadership quality that a strong mayor must have, and neither of these two has convinced me he has that quality yet.

Lining up endorsements is just a dressed up public opinion poll. (And BTW - The latest apparent SNAFU from the Dean camp regarding endorsements calls into question the general competence of the campaign if nothing else). I still haven't made up my mind. Let's hear some specifics. Mr. Dean: Find a clear way to call Clement out on the basic credibility gap that most already suspect; Mr. Clement: describe specific courses of action that you will take which Dean will not. September 11th is approaching, and many of us still need help to make up our minds....At least I do.


Scottj said...

I'm sorry Alan, but I have no idea what you are talking about. For someone who spends so much time posing questions of others and requesting specificity, your post is made up almost entirely of vagueries and baseless conclusions. What "gaffes keep on coming"? How has Dean failed to engage Clement on the "PR side of things"?

Clement's attacks have not been successful. Every new version of "the public defender attack" has failed and made Clement look silly, both in news coverage and in Monday night's debate. Furthermore, the taxes argument has not gained significant traction either. In addition, the initial reaction to Clement's negative attacks was so bad that it will stick with him for the remainder of this campaign.

As for Dean's campaign being too "insider-driven", please explain what you mean. I know for a fact that the Briley campaign was circulating this line to try to attack Dean during the general election campaign, even though there was no other explanation provided. And if Dean's campaign is "insider driven", then what on earth is Clement's?

As for the current status of the race, Dean was the hands down winner in the debate Monday night, a debate which got decent ratings for the summertime. Dean made it clear that Clement proposes ideas with no substance or financial backing, and he brushed aside Clement's weak attempt to attack Dean based upon where he was born.

By all accounts the race is a dead heat, which is pretty remarkable considering Clement's name recognition and the "conventional wisdom", presumptive front-runner status. With that in mind, I would say Clement is the one in trouble. With all due respect Alan, you were dead wrong on your conclusions about the general election and you are dead wrong here.

Compassioninpolitics said...

I seem to be in the middle ground between of you. I think Dean won the debate based on what Scott J outlines and I'm leaning toward Dean seriously in terms of a vote. Alternatively, I have no ideas what the polls say absent the multi-colored map in the Tennessean and it seems to lean heavily Clement if memory serves.

Word up Cov!
Nathan Ketsdever

Alan Coverstone said...

Fair points. I did not link back to my earlier posts or to the news stories on specifics, so it does look like I am sucking this post out of my thumb a bit. I should have, and I appreciate the corrective.

I agree that the public defender attack is ridiculous. I hope you are right about the taxes argument, but I'll admit being nervous because of being out in the community in grocery stores, churches, restaurants, etc. and just hearing people talk. I don't think all these things sound the same to an anayltical group or a person like you or me as they do to people who spend more time doing other things. That really isn't meant to comment on either is only to say that different voters react differently to different arguments.

I don't use insider-driven to attack Dean, and I didn't really take the phrase from anywhere. I never heard David Briley use it, but I wasn't that close to the campaign. I simply said that when I go to a forum with so much visibility from one candidate and so little from another, I have often found the less visible campaign to be a bit off concerning the degree to which it needs to convince people outside of the insider strategy sessions. I admit speculating here, but I think the Gore 2000 campaign is somewhat susceptible to that charge in retrospect, and I simply wonder if that is a concern here.

I still worry about getting a mayor who can convince Nashville citizens to pull together and make sacrifices for the good of the community, especially in education. However, I think an honest assessment of my efforts will conclude that I found significant signs of hope in a few of Dean's responses about education in the last debate. (I can't link that post here, but I encourage people to read all of my thinking before concluding that I can't think at all.);)

I appreciate your thoughts. I asked the question; you clearly think the answer is no. I'm fine with that. I am not in this to make predictions. I am in this to talk to people I might not otherwise meet. I don't feel like I know all of anything, and I need to hear what others think to make informed decisions. I think that's a good way to build a community and live togeter even though we will all disagre from time to time.

I hope I'm not dead wrong about that.

GoldnI said...

Mr. Coverstone, I know you're a teacher. Wouldn't you want to elect someone who at the very least has a basic understanding of the Constitution? Bob Clement seems to want to throw out the Sixth Amendment.

Alan Coverstone said...

Another good point in part. I don't think Bob Clement wants to "throw out the 6th Amendment," but playing fast and loose with the public defender argument and alluding to Willie Horton behind the scenes does smack of a certain level of intellectual dishonesty at best.

I appreciate anyone who can help me make a good decision. I have seen Karl Dean seem to grow toward the job a bit in recent days, and I have said that when I have seen it.

You are right, I am a teacher, and that means I am first a learner. I am disinclined to pronounce a conclusion without soliciting input from all sides. That way, I hope my conclusions and decisions will be stronger. I just think, in the process, that false assertions are unhelpfully polarizing.

This blog is devoted to the political landscape in Tennessee. I am an observer as well as participant in that landscape. Even if the answer to the question, "Is Karl Dean in Trouble," were Yes, that might say far more about "What's the Matter with Tennessee," than it does about what's the matter with Karl. And anyone with whom I share so much common ground as I do with you, GoldnI, will want to be part of that discussion because if we ignore the possibility that campaign strategies like Bob Clement's actually win elections here, we will all have a very difficult time achieveing our larger goals.