BLUE, GRAY, GREEN
NASHUA, N.H. -- For three years, the ubiquitous Red and Blue map of 2000 (red for Republican states; blue for Democratic ones) has been the political landscape; however, a more interesting, and complex color code is emerging in this election. Blue and gray may become very important factors in deciding who gets the Democratic Partys nomination, with camouflage green dominating the background.
The elements of that new color chart emerged from the past weeks campaigning in New Hampshire, as some obvious contrasts have evolved.
Ex-Vermont governor Howard Dean began a campaign built on a passionate opposition to the wrongheaded, go-it-alone, invasion of Iraq. In New Hampshire, the message has changed to themes conveying solid values of frugality, balanced budgets, and concern for the loss of community . Fiscal conservatism and social progressivism are the cornerstones of this unique candidacy. Dean appears to be the embodiment of old fashioned Yankee pragmatism and idealism. In a state where people prefer to live free or die, it plays well. Color him Yankee blue.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is formal and less approachable; however, when he affectionately hugged fellow Vietnam veteran, and former Georgia Congressman, Max Cleland, at one campaign appearance, he evinced surprising compassion. Throughout this last week, war hero Kerry directly challenged George W. Bush on national security issues and the Iraq war by using the mantra Bring It On in mocking parody of Bushs deadly bravado towards both issues. Like Dean, Kerry tells stories and lays out plans without much reference to geography or personal religious beliefs. Put this veteran in camouflage green.
In states north of the Mason-Dixon line, stories of regional geography, family history and religious faith are considered somewhat inappropriate for those campaigning for elected office. Certainly, in the South, things are glaringly different. Southerners have a primal desire for personal narratives from politicians. Perhaps the history of story-telling and religious testimony makes it requisite for candidates to share upbringings, heritage, transgressions, and conversions. Only time will tell whether Governor Dean and Senator Kerry can resonate with Southern voters without benefit of such touchstones.
It wont be so with General Wesley Clark. On the stump this past week, Arkansan Clark puncutuated his themes of patriotism, faith, family values, and leadership not only with nostalgic stories of childhood, but with a Cooks tour of his religious history and church affiliations. While he gave due attention to issues of Iraq, jobs, inclusiveness, healthcare, and the environment, the very real substance of his rousing speeches was overshadowed by matters of style and personality. Soldierly green is a striking background for Clarks distinguished shade of gray.
Although Senator John Edwards lacks military experience, he exudes understanding and concern for the plight of the common man -- the underdog. Waxing nostalgic, this son of a small-town mill worker raised bashed George W. Bush for dividing the country into two different Americas -- while highlighting every speech with a reminder that his warm honeyed North Carolina drawl can garner votes in the South. Color him in down-home colors, yall.
Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Yankee raised by Russian immigrant parents, talked openly on the campaign trail about his values and Orthodox-Jewish religious beliefs. He defended the Iraq war and mixed talk of deficit reduction and small-business tax incentives with references to his reputation as the soul of the Democratic Party. Although too conservative for many party stalwarts, the genial Liberman could prove to have a chameleon-like appeal.
The last time Democrats in New Hampshire went to the polls, Al Gore, Son of the South and Vietnam veteran, narrowly defeated Bill Bradley, a Northerner who did not serve in the military. Even back then, the color palette was somewhat mixed; but this year Democrats are more busily scrambling the right shades of blue, gray, and camouflage green to find a color code that can paint George W. Bush out of the White House.