What's John Kerry's biggest obstacle to winning: A biased media, a meek campaign strategy or lifeless Democratic voters? Readers have more to say about "They knew how to win. Does John Kerry?"

Published September 3, 2004 10:17PM (EDT)

[Read "They Knew How to Win. Does John Kerry?" by Eric Boehlert, and the first round of reader responses here.]

The third night of the Republican convention has made it clear that the Swifties' anti-Kerry ads were no fluke -- the Republicans' strategy is to define Kerry as an overly intellectual wimp who can't even protect himself from attack, much less the American people.

I can already hear the voices of good Democrats complaining that these tactics are uncivilized, baseless, unfair or corrupt, and they may be. But we must acknowledge that Kerry attempted to reinvent himself at our convention, defining himself by his experience as a "decorated soldier" in Vietnam. In fact his Senate record is more consistent with his "war protester" persona. As much as it may disappoint us Democrats, all this is fair game for political attack, and all our whining about it will not make this strategy any less effective. If our freedoms are worth fighting for -- which certainly seemed to be the view presented at the DNC -- aren't our political aspirations, such as economic and civil justice, worth it as well?

The truth is that a good proportion of the American people feel that if you spit in the face of an honorable man, he has the right to punch you in the throat -- or at least have his vice presidential candidate do so. Kerry is clearly in the middle of being "Dukakis-ized" -- derisively defined by his opponent as a passionless intellectual with whom Middle America cannot relate. Unless his campaign can get a spine transplant very quickly, he will certainly lose this election.

-- Paul Minot

After reading the response letters to Eric Boehlert's article, one would think that with supporters like these, Kerry doesn't need Republicans. One poll shows Kerry two points behind Bush and Democrats are ready to surrender.

This election has two months to go, and we knew from the start that the media was not on our side. The worst thing about Democrats/liberals as a group is their tendency to so easily become disheartened and then turn on their own candidate, finishing the job of their opponents.

People need to smarten up, steel themselves against meaningless media diatribes, and tune out the minute-by-minute polling. Someone who never gave to Kerry's campaign in the first place has no right to then blame Kerry for failing to sew up the election two months ahead.

-- Nicole Pierre

One of the letters written in response to the Boehlert piece mentions the competency of the electorate, with a notation that it is anti-intellectual.

In my current despair, it seems to me it's more than that. Those "good citizens," the claque who buy the lies, who engorge themselves on the Republican red meat, are as scary as were the equally frightening "good citizens" who responded to the blandishments of other bully politicos in times gone by. And, as usual, abetted by the corporate media.

Of course, it doesn't help matters that the Democrats are totally unhinged, and have no legitimate base other than all of us who would elect anyone other than the Republican horror crew. It begins to seem like we will get what we deserve with Bush again.

If the Democrats are inclined to continue their vapid approach to dealing with thuggery, I think the best alternative would be to drop out of the contest. Maybe the crisis caused by no longer perpetuating the myth of two different parties, along with the reality that the Republicans are incapable of governing, would set the stage for change. Such a prospect seems no more tumultuous than four more years of ravaging by the current administration.

-- Harvey Chess

Recently, I went to a John Kerry MeetUp, and it gave me a chance to see John Kerry's problem a little differently. Kerry supporters passionately hate the Bush administration to such a degree that they are ignoring the potential that John Kerry has to be a great president. Most people at the MeetUp knew more about the awful things the president has done during his term than what John Kerry's solutions are to fix them.

While "Anybody but Bush" might sound good to committed Democrats, for the majority of undecided voters, this logic won't work. What they are rightly looking for is information. Who are these two men? Can Kerry stand up for the U.S. in an international crisis? How will voting for either candidate make their lives better or worse? Most of the Kerry supporters I met at the MeetUp couldn't answer those questions.

Many of us, myself included, run to Salon.com, MoveOn, American Progress Report, etc., in order to be fully aware of how George W. is screwing up our society and abusing his office. We focus the majority of our political time and energy working ourselves into a righteous rage that when asked who we will vote for, it's: "Anybody but Bush."

The question posed in the title of Boehlert's article should be rephrased and posed to John Kerry supporters in this fashion: Republicans know how to support a candidate and win. Do Democrats?

To change the direction of this campaign, we have to stop being "Anybody but Bush" supporters and truly become "John Kerry" supporters. Those of us committed to getting Bush out of office should devote as much time reading articles about who Kerry really is and the amazing opportunity we have to change this country as we have to hating Bush.

-- Derek Janu-Chossek

Kerry and Edwards have been out campaigning day after day, speaking across the country to huge crowds. However, as Eric points out, the national media is not interested. The good news is, the local media is interested, and the coverage in each local newspaper was great!

Kerry's campaign has already won when it comes to the issues, which is why at the RNC the Republicans had to bring out all their "moderates" in an effort to show the "compassionate" side of their party.

But if you actually listened to their speeches, their desire to show the public the Bush administration's record on the "improving" economy, healthcare, environment and security issues was totally usurped by their hate fest of Kerry. Unfortunately, the national media would rather spend their time, and our time, reporting the dirt coming from the Bush campaign.

So, my response to all you hand-wringing people who fear Bush will win the media war is get up and start fighting. To borrow a quote from MoveOn.org, one of the best online political action sources going: "Democracy is not a spectator sport." Write letters to the editor, call in to talk radio, or put a bumper sticker on your car. If you want democracy to work, take action!

-- Becky Redington

By Salon Staff

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