Dean will not get to test his theory in November, because the future is like the past only up to the time when it isn't. In the last five presidential elections, since 1984, the candidate with the most money in the year before the election won the nomination. Last year that was Dean. But the Edsel was backed by all the marketing muscle of the Ford Motor Co.
Iowa severely damaged the angriest candidate, Dean, who led there almost until the moment it mattered. Iowa destroyed the oldest candidate, Dick Gephardt, 62, winner of the 1988 caucuses.
Gephardt, the last practitioner of Franklin Roosevelt's politics, is a good man and gallant campaigner. But because of the expansion of the middle class and social security -- the condition, not the program -- that FDR accelerated by means of broadened unionization, home ownership and Social Security, the blue-collar core of Gephardt's support is too small a lever to move an election.
The growing, aggressive portion of organized labor consists of white-collar government workers -- government as interest group, another New Deal legacy. They never warmed to Gephardt, but will have no trouble shifting to Kerry, or to the sunniest candidate -- John Edwards, the unDean, all smiles and no snarl.
Wesley Clark, who did not discover his Democratic allegiance until last September, is another matter. Clark awaits in New Hampshire. But with two real Democrats, Kerry and Edwards, showing strength -- one of them with serious foreign policy and military experience -- what rationale remains for Clark's candidacy?
Kerry and Edwards, two of the Washington ``cockroaches'' that Dean disdains, together won nearly four times Dean's vote. His anti-Washington rhetoric would seem stale and puerile even among mainstream conservatives, who have long since come to terms with the fact that Americans want to augment Washington's power to assuage two of life's great fears -- illness and old age.
Because Americans of all political persuasions demand vital and complex
services from Washington, Clark, the next novelty to receive tardy scrutiny, will face doubts of the wisdom of treating the presidency as an entry-level political job. Now he has most to fear from the fact that the market generating and disseminating political information is working efficiently.