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The Tentacle


July 15, 2004

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

John P. Snyder

Democrats hate the analogy, but this year's presidential election has the smell and feel of the one held 16 years ago. Recall 1988 when another arrogant snob from Massachusetts, then Gov. Michael Dukakis, was the Democratic standard bearer.

For high-minded condescension, Governor Dukakis had no peers. His former Lt. Governor, John Kerry, is no slouch when it comes to talking down to the electorate, either. A lot of their similarities are, as Yogi Berra would say, the same.

An old adage says it succinctly. "If you are young and not a liberal you have no heart. If you are older and not a conservative, you have no brain!" For probably a good number of reasons, Americans have shied away from allowing an avowed liberal to run the country in modern times. George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Ted Kennedy will attest to that.

Because of this, liberals hate to be called liberals. No, no, they are progressives. Or moderates. Or fiscal conservative and social liberals (whatever that means).

John Kerry is part and parcel of that unique blend of liberalism referred to as a Massachusetts' liberal. His voting record reflects it at every turn. He is Ted Kennedy without the extra weight.

Michael Dukakis was a classic Massachusetts' liberal, proud to carry his ACLU card. Because he lived in Massachusetts all his life, he assumed the majority of the people in the country thought like he did. So he didn't deny his true feelings by trying to cover it up.

After his nominating convention, he was up by 17 points over Vice President George H. W. Bush. Democrats were ecstatic.

They called George H. W. Bush a wimp. They were sizing up the windows in the White House for new drapes.

He lost going away by eight points. It wasn't even close.

Senator Kerry is a liberal. How so? He flunks the Shakespeare "he doth protest too much" test on a daily basis.

He deflects his liberal past by forever mentioning his four months in Vietnam, his friendship with Sen. John McCain, that he likes to hunt and windsurf. He'll mention his qualms about affirmative action. He'll disavow his redistributionist past.

It all comes down to a classic Massachusetts liberalism. Governor Dukakis was, at least, honest. Senator Kerry will not be as forthcoming.

To be a liberal in California, New York and Illinois is to have plenty of like-minded company. But in large pockets of this country, particularly battleground states, to be assigned the liberal label is the kiss of death.

It will be interesting to watch Senator Kerry deny his past. Watch the base of the Democratic Party look the other way as he tries to appeal to voters as a moderate. He already said life begins at conception: heresy to liberals. We've seen him wrap himself in his war veteran garb continually: unpalatable to the peaceniks who comprise his base. Michael Dukakis showed how to be liberal and lose. Mr. Kerry is trying to buck tradition and be a liberal and win.

So alike in every way. Only the outcome is in doubt.



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