Dean charmed nearly everyone in the boardroom. He came across as erudite, policy savvy, and, believe it or not, a friend of free markets--at least by the standards of the Tom Daschle-Dick Gephardt axis of the Democratic party. Even when challenged on issues like environmentalism, where he favored a large centralized mass of intrusive regulations, Dean remained affable.
He left--and I will never forget the nearly hypnotic reaction. The charismatic doctor had made believers of several hardened cynics. Nearly everyone agreed that we had finally found a Democrat we could work with. Since then, I've watched Dean's career with more than a little interest and we chat from time to time on the phone.
Dean is nothing if not a survivor--as well as an iconoclast. Even as he pursued wild-eyed social experiments, Dean carefully nurtured a reputation as a "business-friendly" governor. On numerous occasions he pragmatically swept aside onerous environmental regulations and last-use restrictions (this is the greenest state of all) to make room for business expansion and jobs, jobs, jobs. He supported electricity deregulation to take monopolistic pricing power away from big utilities. He even launched one of the nation's most progressive voucher programs for high school students.
Republicans are said to be salivating over the prospect of a Bush-Dean match-up. They shouldn't get carried away. Howard Dean, warns John McClaughry, has been "underestimated throughout his political career. He has an uncanny knack for finding where the political capital is stored and walking off with it." The trick for Dean is to ensure that the ultra-liberal positions he has taken in the primaries, which contradict his sometimes centrist record, don't cripple his ability to reach out to Middle American voters in a general election--should he make it that far. If he does, and then finds a way to zig-zag back toward the center, Howard Dean could be George W. Bush's worst nightmare. [emphasis mine]
folks, this is from the tip of the right wing--the man who reconstructed political advocacy for the republicans. it was moore's ad that declared "howard dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, volvo-driving, new york times-reading, hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to vermont, where it belongs."
stephen moore fought so hard, as he reveals here before fighting, precisely because he believed that howard dean was electable. and thus dangerous.
it strikes me that while the dem party's main issue with dean was supposedly his "electability"--the inner circle of republican decision-makers DID NOT AGREE that he was not electable.
so they spun us, and merrily, we spun.
did the democratic party do any of its own thinking this election season? did the leadership of the party do their homework? we heard "polls", and we saw them trying to construct someone palatable to swing voters as the dem leadership perceived them.
know thyself. does the dem party know itself?
or better: how do the republicans know us better then we know ourselves? how do they understand our visceral commitments and optimal strategies better than we do? was it the lack of dem leadership that blinded us for so long, or very effective dem leaders keeping us to their own desired agendas?
a few provocative questions that we are obligated to ask ourselves at this point:
· is the dlc/dnc playing us (pretending to represent our interests while they are actually presenting their own) the way republicans are playing the country? if not, what is your evidence?
· are they primarily focused on the financial rewards that come with corporate-washington marriages, maintaining establishment status quo and rolling over to the media? (if not explain hindery and gray davis to start with, please...)
· what has been our role in allowing this to happen? laziness, lack of political sophistication, weak commitment, bad prioritizing?
· what can we do about this today? tomorrow? in january? in july? what is our 12 step "we will not back down" plan to reclaim what we've given away through sloth and inattention?
the repubs knew, when dems turned on dean and the media fed the frenzy, they had used us to win the real washington war; afterwards it was just nailing home base.
doesn't that bite? I mean, it kicks the shit out of me.
the upper echelon conversations of the dem party leadership no longer match its "message", I suspect, just as with republicans. and we failed to keep the party from selling out our legacy. (much appreciated timoteo's diary on this earlier today.) I have no sympathy for those who are trying to make peace w/grassroots to save their own careers--regurgitating our own solutions back to us, ex post facto. carville is now interested in making dems "an aggressively reform, anti-washington, anti-business-as-usual party." but this is what carville had to say then about the reform candidate, in an 1/5/04 wsj opinion journal article:
wonder if carville ever said that about george bush.
think carefully, what do you most want to see in the leader paving the way for this party?
what are we going to do? as we opine that red states are simply fodder for the republican agenda, are we ourselves fodder for the personal agendas of dem leadership? so now that the dem leadership doesn't have "electability" to talk about anymore, it's "fundraising". are you kidding me? do we still believe that we have to sell out to corporate power after the grassroots success of this last year?
this is not the 1950's, and our success does not have to be contingent on starting up think tanks--but will involve heavy thinking (something that those on this site do very well, thank you for new things to ponder daily). and it will involve acting. we have a think tank, and it is us--so it also happens to be attached to the solution.
if we were willing to fight george bush like we did this summer, how hard will we fight the dem party right now? this fight is every bit as serious.
ready for a plan? I'm ready to hear one...
(aside, in chicago: starting a business group w/colinb and mjo called "a nation of shopkeepers". focus on electing candidates who run on a platform of business reform and small bus growth. if in/near chicago and interested, pls reply or email me, will send more info. let's fight.)