Getting Endorsed

In the US presidential elections the big news of the week must be the endorsement of Howard Dean by Al Gore. A somewhat smaller, but still interesting, development – although this isn’t exactly new, but simply new to my attention – is the fact that someone has created an Economists for Dean weblog. Finally, if you are really short on ‘breaking news’ and if you really want to go down to the fine print of the week, you might just notice that I seem to be included in the sidebar, in amongst a variety of other economists who undoubtedly have rather more public appeal than I do. I would like to say that as a European I consider it an honour to figure in such company: this does however present us with a number of questions worth thinking about, and it is to those that I would now like to turn.

The first question which reasonably arises is what place do we, as Europeans, have in a US presidential election? Normally my answer would be, precious little. I say this not simply because elections are not one of my strong points, but also because I think we have to respect due political process. The Americans choose their president, the British their Prime Minister and the Germans their Chancellor, and there the story ends. But at the moment something seems to be different.

It is different because the current US administration seems to see part of its function as ‘remodelling the world’ – and in this case we are all, each and every one of us, affected. It is also different because the Bush administration is fuelling a level of rhetorical abuse and international tension of the kind that I, for one, cannot remember having seen before. So if we want to live in a more peaceful world, one were each of us has a say, and one which has a much lower level of verbal pollution, then we’d better listen up and start thinking. In a global world you need to think globally.

So I am convinced, not of the need to endorse any specific candidate, but of the need to dis-endorse Bush. Having said that I have, in the past, come pretty close to endorsing Wesley Clark in this column. I have been tempted by Clark since he seems highly intelligent, knowledgeable in the key global strategic questions, and above all do-able, in the sense that he could win. This is the famous voice of pragmatism.

But what about Howard Dean? Actually he does seem quite attractive on the face of things. He is perhaps the most European of candidates. He is also the David going out to do battle with Goliath. Whatsmore he does seem to be the candidate of the new technologies, and his endorsement by Gore only serves to underline this. It is my firm opinion that one of the greatest lasting failings of the Bush administration, as far as the average American is concerned, will turn out to be the emphasis on old economy interests.

On the negative side, they tell me that Dean has been flirting with protectionism. Undoubtedly there are other weaknesses there of which I am not aware. So what I would like to do here is throw this open to debate, there seem to be a number of pertinent questions to ask:

– should we as Europeans involve ourselves in US elections?
– if we do, and going by the running field we have to date, is Dean our man?
– will it be better or worse for the candidate to have our support?
– and finally, to be consistent, should we mount an equivalent campaign against the French political class in its entirety?

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

23 thoughts on “Getting Endorsed

  1. will it be better or worse for the candidate to have our support?

    Worse.
    During the 2000 election cycle, the SCLM made it out to be a major scandal that Gore might have received money from foreign bhuddist monks.

    Interestingly enough, the news that a key californian GOP fundraiser at the time was actually a Chinese spy…was effectively suppressed.

    Besides, nobody likes outside interference in their elections.

    and finally, to be consistent, should we mount an equivalent campaign against the French political class in its entirety?

    Out of curiosity, what’s the alternative that you propose ?

  2. “Out of curiosity, what’s the alternative that you propose ?”

    I haven’t got one, that’s the problem.

    But what I am trying to say is that isn’t it about time we put some of this old nationalism to bed. We all live together in a globalised world, and somehow it seems strange to me that I shouldn’t have a say in something which affects me so much. Not a vote, but a say.

  3. In the first place I should mention that I am glad for the Democrats that there is a possibility they will have an undisputed candidate soon. Just this week I wrote something on my own site on this: beside the support from Gore there is also this interesting development that Dubya?s friends are already launching ads against Dean. (and the Dean-supporters response quickly!).

    Then a reminder to “Rall’s rule of ideological balance”. It was on Yahoo?s news, not available there anymore: look for it here: http://thomasmc.com/0807b.htm
    Very, very interesting stuff. Last paragraph: ?As Democrats decide which approach to take against George W. Bush, a right-wing extremist whose agenda makes Barry Goldwater look tame by comparison, they should carefully consider recent history. A moderate nominee like Lieberman might have been a safe bet against Bush’s father, but he’s extremely unlikely to beat his radical son?

    From july on I wrote some posts
    (http://www.fransgroenendijk.nl/comments.php?id=P149_0_1_0_C and http://www.fransgroenendijk.nl/comments.php?id=P106_0_1_0_C in English, http://www.fransgroenendijk.nl/comments.php?id=P7_0_1_0_C in Dutch)
    on a subject very closely related to the one Edward brings forward.

    In the Netherlands some bloggers started an initiative to directly influence the next presidential elections in the USA. (www.theworldvotes.org).
    I agreed with them that ?The outcome of these elections directly influences the lives of citizens around the world.?
    but commented ?To some level you probably don?t like that. I suppose what you really want is that THE FACT THAT these elections influences our lives will become an issue in the US-presidential elections. But why not address this issue directly? Start up a dialogue on what people from outside the USA want to ask the US-voters!

    My appeal to the US-voters would be something like this: ?please choose a candidate who will sign the treaty on the International Criminal Court, who trusts us when we say we want to fight terrorism too (and who takes initiatives from that perspective), help us to better the UN, join the rest of the world in facing the environmental challenges together and start to debate with us a global ?Growth and Stability?-system to replace the IMF.?
    That?s my point on this question too.

    I agree with Patrick?s first comment: foreign support for a candidate from abroad for some of the candidates shall be used as argument against them.

    From outside we should try to formulate an appeal in such a way that the serious candidates feel obliged to response. This means: not formulating support for one candidate. If our appeal is strong (in quality and loudness) candidates can refer to the appeal to demonstrate that as a president he (no serious female candidates this time…) can count on better international relations.

    A very nice aspect of the ?economists for Dean? is that they criticize Dean too (“Dean is wrong on the Steel Tariffs”); of course featuring in the sidebar of such a site has a different meaning than on a pure Dean-site.

    BTW: what I remember as a very good feature of the first Clinton-years were his (successful) attempts to involve economists and other scientists with his politics.
    According to Brad deLong mr Rubin was a prominent person in this. I see Rubin is on the ?economists for Dean? too. (with an add for his book)

  4. “Frans, Sean LaFreniere’s idea is better”.

    Yep, but his idea is a bit old hat. he’s still thinking physical. What we want is in on the virtual level. Not as best foreign blogs, but as opinion leaders. Make the world a better place, all that old s***.

  5. Which reminds me Markku, last time you were round you were rooting for Dean. I was goin for Clark. How about a Dean-Clark ticket: would we sweep the field?

  6. “It is different because the current US administration seems to see part of its function as ‘remodelling the world’ – and in this case we are all, each and every one of us, affected.”
    I think this is right. But it is not different with previous US administrations. Wasn’t Clinton remodeling the world in Bosnia? In Ruanda (by not acting, actually)? By bombing Iraq (2.000 bombs and rockets in his last two years)? By bombing the only medical facility in the Soudan and afterwards blocking a UN investigation? The U.S. is the most powerfull nation in the world and every administrations tried to remodel the world (read Andrew Bacevitch’ American Empire), only this time most Europeans don’t agree with the current president’s model. That is what is different. The next president will also have powers to keep on remodeling the world. If that model is something like : free trade, support for globalization, not too much regulation (Dean…), a more sane approach to global warming then Kyoto, fighting terror and dictators, i will endorse that president. I’m not sure if i can find that model under the current Democratic candidates though.

  7. Sean LaFreniere is delusional if he thinks that the U.S. could annex Europe when it has so clearly botched the occupation of a single, marginal, third-rate military power.

    Otherwise, as Atrios pointed out today, all of the other Democratic contenders removed themselves for contention as possible Dean vice presidents by failing to raise their hands when Ted Koppel asked them “is Dean electable?”

  8. “If that model is something like : free trade, support for globalization, not too much regulation (Dean…), a more sane approach to global warming than Kyoto, fighting terror and dictators”

    I could buy this Ivan. On Kyoto I’d like to see what you mean, but as long as it’s more sane and not non existent shouldn’t be a problem.

    I would add: trying to be inclusive and open to dialogue – recognising that we all live on the planet together, and in that sense share common interests. And, having a coherent and consistent policy on dictatorship.

    I would also add a contsructive attitude to reforming the financial architecture, since the system we have right now is going into malfunction, and sending the euro through the roof isn’t what I’d call a responsible approach to a problem that could ultimately come back and hit us all.

    “But it is not different with previous US administrations”

    Obviously this is partly true: Kissinger and Latin America immediately comes to mind, but the difference now is the extent of globalisation means that we are actually all much closer – not six, but four degrees of separation – and that means we all have much more interest in what each other is doing. If we get this one wrong we’re gonna know about it.

  9. “I’m not sure if i can find that model under the current Democratic candidates though”

    It is curious though Ivan how the Democrats seem to have a better record on small government and deregulation than the republicans. I mean whatever the failings you see on this score among the Democratic candidates, they pale into insignificance surely when contrasted with what we have right now.

    Then again, this is why I would normally stay out of politics, since the whole idea of having an entity which you agree with about so many diffuse topics is probably a contradiction in terms.

    I think I’m just reduced to feeling that (virtually) anything has to be better than this.

  10. Edward, If you make a historical comparison i’m not sure that republicans have a worse record on small government and deregulation than the Democrats. And is still don’t like the sounds i here from many democratic contenders for the presidency, not from Dean and please spare us from richard gephardt.
    Having said that, you’re right about the current administration, and a lot of libertarians are criticizing Bush for that, and they are right too. Maybe an explanation is that House, Senate and presidency are controlled by the same party. Clinton was restrained by the Republicans in his policies. Don’t forget that in the early years his record (i’m still talking about big government and deregulation) was not that good.
    So the best thing is probably that the next president is not from the same party that controls congres. But i’m not sure if i prefer a Democratic president and a republican congress or the other way around.

  11. Netscape ate a long comment last night on this theme, so I will see what I can do to reprise.

    First, a lot of vocal Bush-bashing can easily backfire on whoever the Democratic nominee turns out to be. Having foreigners attack your leader increases the marginal tendency to rally around that leader; Americans aren’t any different from the rest of the world in this aspect. That means if you want to help Dean, you’ve got to be both positive and subtle. I’m told that Europeans are particularly good at the latter.

    Second, to echo what some of the other posters have said, the one thing you absolutely positively cannot do is send money. It’ll get sent back and could cause negative publicity all around. Please, don’t even think about it. (If you want the details about the rules, start at http://www.fec.gov.)

    Third, here are where the positive contributions begin. I know the Dean campaign has been coordinating actions to write to caucus-goers in Iowa and potential Democratic voters in New Hampshire. I don’t know why this should be limited to American citizens. Check out the campaign site — http://www.deanforamerica.com — for details.

    If you write, please don’t complain about Bush. Democratic primary voters are ready to boot Bush; they’re just deciding who they want to do the booting. Take advantage of your international perspective, tell them that Howard Dean reminds you of what you like about America. Tell them that you see the best of America’s traditions in Dean. Tell them that President Dean would boost America’s standing in the world. Tens of thousands of people are writing letters, but because each is individual and personal, it can make a difference. Iowa and New Hampshire are both smallish states, where individual action can tip the balance.

    Fourth, speaking of letter writing, a coordinated action to write to the political reporters in regional newspapers might result in positive coverage. Take the Nashville Tennessean as an example: main paper of a swing region in a swing state. Their political reporters receive dozens of letters from Europe talking about Dean. Possible outcome, a story or two along the lines of “World Wants to Know: Who’s Howard Dean?” That’s the kind of thing that can multiply, especially because it’s a new angle, and it’s aimed at local media and not the national heavyweights.

    (Fourth-and-a-half, get your local media positive on Dean. Connect them with local supporters, see if they will cover the Dean movement as a global phenomenon.)

    Fifth, go to your local Meetup. I don’t see that these are limited to US citizens (although anything involving contributions obviously has to be). Support your local activists. Help them find more Americans who will vote for Dean. Stay with it through the spring and summer, when attention will flag, and the Bush machine will carpet-bomb American (and international) media with negative campaiging. It’s a long road to November 2, but the pace inside a campaign doesn’t slacken. There’s also good info at http://www.dean04worldwide.com/ so check in from time to time.

    Sixth, think about what a Howard Dean European Tour 2004 would look like, and what kind of advance work will have to be done. Bush will be Over Here for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings in the first week of June. We want a way for Dean to upstage Bush. Think good locations, cheering throngs, meetings with friendly citizens, openness, excitement. GWB will be meeting governments and hiding behind security. We want the American public (and the global public) to see Dean happily welcomed.

    Ok, I think that’s a start.

  12. Interesting post Doug, especially the point about using our subtlety. I’m thinking about it.

    Meanwhile: I think Juan – informed comment – Cole just put his finger on the problem I’m having:

    “I have concluded that the Bush team lacks Emotional Intelligence as defined by psychologists such as Daniel Goleman. Emotional Intelligence consists of the following:

    “Self-awareness: Observing yourself and recognizing a feeling as it happens.

    Managing emotions: Handling feelings so that they are appropriate; realizing what is behind a feeling; finding ways to handle fears and anxieties, anger, and sadness.

    Motivating oneself: Channeling emotions in the service of a goal; emotional self control; delaying gratification and stifling impulses.

    Empathy: Sensitivity to others’ feelings and concerns and taking their perspective; appreciating the differences in how people feel about things.

    Handling relationships: Managing emotions in others; social competence and social skills.”

    This is what we – and the world – need in the next US president, some emotional intelligence. Everything else is a detail.

  13. Edward, this might be a good example of many of those traits & how they apply to a practical political problem:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/10/politics/campaigns/10TOCK.html

    “Dr. Dean had sent Mr. Gore a draft of a foreign policy speech that Dr. Dean was to deliver next week in California, and Mr. Gore was calling with a few suggestions. Then, at the end of their chat, Mr. Gore dropped the bombshell: ‘I’ve decided I want to endorse you,’ he told Dr. Dean.

    “As impulsive as Mr. Gore’s move appeared, the reality is that behind the scenes, Dr. Dean had aggressively courted the former vice president for more than a year, people close to the men said Monday and Tuesday. He complimented him on speeches, sought out his advice, chewed over ideas and even stopped once in Nashville, where he spent 90 minutes with Mr. Gore and his wife, Tipper, to talk about the campaign.”

  14. “This is what we – and the world – need in the next US president, some emotional intelligence. Everything else is a detail.”

    A bit of an exaggeration there. All the emotional intelligence in the world will amount to little if Howard Dean lives up to his promises to completely disavow free-trade and to regulate to death large swathes of the American economy.

    Frankly, I see absolutely nothing worth liking in the man, and believe his presidency would be a disaster for both America and the rest of the world. Thankfully, his odds of winning office are slim, and will get slimmer still as the American economy continues to pick up.

  15. Abiola,
    Howard Dean “promised” to “regulate to death large swathes of the American economy” ?!?!

    Care to share where you got this ludicrously melodramatic piece of disinformation from ?

  16. Patrick, from what I’ve read from him, Abiola subscribe to libertarian theories. I think that explain anything.

    DSW

  17. “Care to share where you got this ludicrously melodramatic piece of disinformation from ?”
    during an interview
    From Howard Dean’s own mouth; tell me that the following articles

    Dean Calls for New Controls on Business
    and
    Democratic Reaction to Dean’s Proposals

    are “ludicrously melodramatic piece[s] of disinformation.” The only misinformed people on here are you and Antoni Jaume, who seem never to have met some socialistic boondoggle you haven’t liked. Howard Dean is a fool and a menace to the prosperity of America and the rest of the world.

  18. Here, for anyone lacking the initiative to follow Abiola’s link, is the core of Dean’s dystopic economic vision:

    “In an interview around midnight Monday on his campaign plane with a small group of reporters, Dean listed likely targets for what he dubbed as his “re-regulation” campaign: utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Dean did not rule out “re-regulating” the telecommunications industry, too.

    “He also said a Dean administration would require new workers’ standards, a much broader right to unionize and new “transparency” requirements for corporations that go beyond the recently enacted Sarbanes-Oxley law.”

    – Can a confiscatory wealth tax and suppression of the Kulaks be far behind?

    It may not happen in 2004, but if the US persists with a Republican approach to business regulation – which is far more corporatist than libertarian – there will eventually be a strong backlash.

  19. Abiola,
    Claiming that overwrought phrase came from “Howard Dean’s own mouth” by linking to an article which doesn’t contain a single quote from Howard Dean…seems rather foolishly dishonest on your part.

    More to the point, Howard Dean is less a menace to the prosperity of America and the rest of the world than George W. Bush is.

    Redressing the imbalances visited on us by that miserable failure is hardly a socialistic boondoggle.

  20. “In an interview around midnight Monday on his campaign plane with a small group of reporters, Dean listed likely targets for what he dubbed as his “re-regulation” campaign: utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Dean did not rule out “re-regulating” the telecommunications industry, too.”

    Looking through the washington post article it’s hard to see what is going to come out in terms of concrete policy here. You have to strip out the rhetoric to see what is actually being proposed, and this is true of both Bush and Dean.

    My feeling is that this looks like a rerun of the Heath-Thatcher problem. I always was with Heath on this. I’m in favour of deregulation within a coherent structure of regulations, not simply deregulation for it’s own sake. I’m in favour of a free market economy, but without the Tiny Rolands and the Enrons.

    So curiously enough ‘deregulation’ is all about getting the right regulatory framework. Let’s see what the concrete proposals are first.

    Dangerous seems a stong word. It depends what your yardstick is.

    I just read this:

    “Democratic presidential front-runner Howard Dean, signaling his intention to continue criticizing the Bush administration’s war policies, said Monday the capture of Saddam Hussein “has not made America safer” because the White House had taken a “radical and dangerous direction” that left the nation isolated and vulnerable to threats of global terror.”

    I don’t belong to any party, but I thoroughly endorse this. Saddam’s capture, however welcome, doesn’t change anything important. I doubt it means the end of Arab nationalism, I doubt it will calm the ardour of the Shiites, and I doubt it will help the Turks accept the reality of an increasingly higher profile and more confident Kurdish community. Anti-americanism will, unfortunately, continue to be a large unifying force in the post Saddam Iraq.

    Now Lieberman says this:

    “If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a more dangerous place,” Lieberman said. “If we Democrats want to win back the White House and take this country forward, we have to show the American people that we’re prepared to keep them safe. I consistently supported Saddam’s removal for the past decade, and am prepared to do what it takes to win the war on terrorism at home and abroad.”

    Simply put: I don’t know whether the world is a more dangerous place or not post Iraq war. That remains to be seen. The most disturbing thing is not that L says he supported Saddam’s removal, every thinking person did. The important point is that this was not the reason given for the war. If it had been the debate would have been different, and maybe we wouldn’t have been facing the problems we are facing now.

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