I had posted that Dean losing the nomination would marginalize the left and make it easier to enact conservative legislation in 2005. Jonah responds that if Dean loses the nomination now it will be taken as a rejection of the man rather than of his ideas. A good point. But there is some reason for thinking otherwise. The flame-out of the Republican revolution was taken as a rejection both of Gingrich personally and of small-government conservatism; neither explanation crowded out the other. I know the media doesn’t play these things symmetrically, but the rejection of Dean might be taken as an embrace of centrism. Also, Dean’s “personal” traits–especially the alleged “anger”–are tied up with leftism and obstruction of the Bush agenda.
But here’s another point. If Dean loses the nomination, we may get to do this whole thing over in 2008. Republicans are unlikely to be as well positioned for victory in 2008 as they are this year. Let’s face a leftist that year, instead of a party that has decided that Dean failed in 2004 and it needs to move to the center. Even better: Let’s have four years of intra-Democratic feuds and leftist seething brought on by Dean’s rejection. Then the general-election defeat of Gephardt or whoever the nominee is will be attributed by Democrats to insufficient leftism, just as 2002 was, setting them up to make future mistakes when they will come in more handy.