Thursday, December 09, 2004

Dean is ready for prime time, round two

Some crystal-ballers are wanting to take names for 2008, but we've got to get through 2005 and 2006 first. And to do that we've got to shore up the rotting rhetoric of the Democratic Party and make it spritely and spirited again. That means getting a new Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairperson who can really lead, not just pander and follow. Terry McAuliffe is at last on his way out, and good riddance.

Howard Dean is the best known and most controversial of all the candidates mentioned thus far. To keep his profile high, whether for a DNC power play or for his possible bid for the presidential nomination in '08, Dean gave a catalizing speech Wednesday at George Washington University in Washington.

Dr. Dean said, in part:

"Over 50 years ago, Harry Truman said, 'We are not going to get anywhere by trimming or appeasing, and we don't need to try it,' " Dr. Dean told students at George Washington University. "Yet here we are making the same mistakes. Let me tell you something: there's only one thing Republican power brokers want more than for us to lurch to the left - and that's for us to lurch to the right....

"Here in Washington, it seems that after every losing election, there's a consensus reached among decision makers in the Democratic Party that the way to win is to be more like Republicans.... If we accept that philosophy this time around, another Democrat will be standing here in four years giving this same speech. We cannot win by being Republican-lite."

I was somewhat of a Deaniac in the fall and winter of last year. I went to Iowa and New Hampshire to volunteer for him in the final days before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. I was in the room in Des Moines that night when he made the infamous "scream speech." I saw it in context: he was inspired by and shouting over the roar we were making for him. He knew he had to pump us up to make up some momentum for New Hampshire, from a shakey third place on the plains.

In Iowa, I learned that what Iowans like, what they feel comfortable with, is not necessarily what is good for the country at large or the world as a whole (just as what the religious right wants is not good for much of anybody). Kerry and Edwards put Iowans more at ease, but that doesn't mean that what's easy - or neighborly or even most popular in Iowa - is best for the big picture, what's best for us.

I've seen Dr. Dean speak four times. The guy is not the tallest candidate, but he is the most like a raptor; he could pick at the bones of the crusty Republicans (who will inevitably seem even older and more obsolete in a few years). And Dr. Dean has the uncanny ability to inspire rapturous passions not only in a few hundred thousand Deaniacs but in a much wider audience. Hence his phenomenal media-driven "rock star" popularity leading up to Iowa and New Hampshire (our irresponsible media set him up as comet of the year and fall guy). I bet if Dr. Dean were president, we could turn "West Wing" into a "reality tv" show. He'd have fewer enemies at home and abroad than most presidents because, like Truman and John McCain, even his enemies would respect his straight shooting and his principled cussedness. We'd have access, not secrecy, and we'd see a man in office who's popular values speak louder than his bark and his bite (again, see Mr. Bush for bark and bite - bring Bush back in as dog catcher, a la "Wag the Dog").

Rush, FOX and others might better think about Bush's bullying anger and frequent belligerence before calling the contest for Dean. Bush gets mad wanting to cover up the truth and empower corporations, while Dean gets mad wanting the uncover the truth and empower the people. is asking its listserve to send in comments supporting a DNC chair who will not move the party any farther to the middle - meaning farther to the right. Current chair McAuliffe and outgoing Senate minority leader Tom Daschle are seen as moderate, mediocre, muddling voices in the party - partly to blame for the party's coming up short. And as Dean said yesterday, we don't really have to move to the left or the right if we can get really good at holding our ground. We need Dean in the mix somewhere, and from the looks of things, he's not going away.

I sent these comments to the DNC via MoveOn:

"I do not want the Democratic Party to move any farther to the right. We need blue shift, not red shift. I might prefer to have Howard Dean run again in 2008, but we certainly need someone with his guts, passion and vision to lead the party now. If not him, then PLEASE, someone who will be brave enough to hold the party line and get our strength back from the populist, progressives side of things. We can't afford to move any closer to the neocon darkness. The country can't afford it. The world can't afford it."


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