Saturday, June 16, 2007


Jamison Foser over at Media Matters offered up a great discussion of "electability" yesterday evening, set in the context of Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency. He correctly points out that it is "little more than a catch-all that allows the speaker to express his or her approval for, or disapproval of, a candidate in seemingly definitive terms, based on ... anything at all."

While I enjoyed the discussion, I wonder about its applicability to state and local politics, and the role of a political club like the CCP in endorsing candidates. "Electability" is a short-hand way of conveying a host of related ideas. Sometimes it's a way of avoiding stating something ugly - people argued that Alan Wheat lacked statewide electability when he ran for Senate, because they didn't want to state flat out that Missouri wouldn't elect a black man to statewide office.

Sometimes the term is used more positively - Nixon is "electable" because he appeals to rural voters, and has sufficient urban support to mount a successful campaign for governor against anyone the Republicans may choose to run. Even Democrats who hoped for other candidates to emerge have to admit that he's our best chance to put the Governor's Mansion back into Democratic hands. And that's what we need.

"Electability" can also mean that a candidate has that charisma and smoothness that makes voters feel like he or she's a winner. Looking across the aisle, I think Matt Bartle is a good example of good appearances making him electable where his far-right views would make a less attractive candidate a fringe candidate, at best. Matt is probably one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Missouri, because his appeal is based solely on "electability" - he doesn't represent the values of his moderate suburban district. A solid Democrat with the ability to pull back the curtain and allow the voters to see the real Matt Bartle will win.

When people talk about "electability", they're talking about something else. As we choose our candidates, we need to think about the myriad issues behind the word, and look at them honestly. Let's make sure we know what we're really talking about.

1 comment:

Stephen Bough said...

Electability is just a nice way of saying "I don't like your candidate." We know "electability" matters, just ask Sen. Claire McCaskill. Women swing voters (read "don't vote on the single issue of abortion") in suburban districts didn't vote for her in 2004, but did in 2006. Why, because she focused her campaign - NOT her positions - to become more electable.

How does "electibility" fit into the Republicans demonizing Hillary Clinton? Is Hillary electable in to women swing voters in suburban districts in Missouri (which is alot like Ohio)? Has Missouri changed much since Wheat ran? Is Obama electable to women swing voters in suburban districts in Missouri (or Florida)? How about Edwards - do women swing voters in suburban Missouri (or South Carolina) hate trial lawyers as much as the Chamber of Commerce?

I want to win the presidential election in 2008. We are all on the D team and I don't care who we elect as the captain. We have to be smart and understand that we can't win with just the states that voted for Kerry. We don't need many more states - pick any 2 of the following: Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee. As my friend Joe Serviss wisely pointed out, the current Gov. of Kansas could be our current president if she had carried Kerry's states, plus her native state of Ohio and her home state of Kansas.

Let's nominate someone who can be elected.