In a recent diary, Howard Dean in 2016, the author gives a short list of candidates they would be supportive of ... and then, after a break, comes back to bring up Howard Dean.
The key line that caught my attention was:
"As to Dean, he is rather more conservative than his reputation, which derives in large part from his supporters in the 2004 primaries..."I'd like to address that claim briefly and hope to catalyze some stronger discourse and debate on this - as well as Dean's viability and/or desirability as a candidate.
This will be a short diary. At least its content (I can't speak for what may become of the comments - for all I know there my be none).
It is, however, also my first in a very long time. And not just here - but in general. After more than three decades of both educating myself about and engaging in the "Political" sphere (not to be confused with "politics" (or the competition for power via the contesting of offices)) - seeking to understand what has gone wrong in this country and how to address it in a meaningful manner. A manner that actually results in putting this nation back onto the path toward democracy - a path it has long ago wandered away from and toward which a large number of the population, especially those among the economic and political elite, have no desire to ever return.
But after all that education, all that effort, all that sacrifice, all the hardships - frankly - the situation around me has become so disheartening, the lack of real opportunities for change (even relatively simple ones - forget the necessary one) so disillusioning, I have had to do my best to withdraw from it all. Its against my nature - but along with the circumstances in my life I have by and large done just that. Not entirely - as my mind does not stop. But at least in terms of not watching, for example, day after day of news which I could predict without knowing a thing about the actual events and affairs in the world around me (especially the country). I won't know the particulars - but I could write the next month's headlines and stories today - and be fairly accurate needing only someone to at the time of publishing to "connect" it to some usually irrelevant event with its particular details.
But now on to what got me writing all of a sudden and quite beyond my original intentions or expectations when I came here tonight:
Having spent countless hours, days, months, years even involved with the Dean campaign and what became of the Dean "movement" in its aftermath I feel compelled to address the above statement - about Dean's "conservative" nature and about some allegation of his 2004 supporters distorting that image.
Because one half of this is true - but needs qualification. And the other half - is simply myth.
Dean, who the Democratic Party Elite [See note below] had no desire to see win the 2004 primary, and who openly violated the Party's rules, not to mention other very questionable acts and tactics, in order to destroy his primary campaign when it was only weeks away from being effectively won in Iowa with an unprecedented outpouring of support from the true grassroots, is in fact far more "conservative" than wild accusations tossed around repeatedly by the national armies of talking-heads. Pseudo-intellectuals who tend more and more to simply have shifted from internal campaign and PR roles with the Parties to "freelance experts" contracted as "contributors" to Fox, CNN, and MSNBC. Yet playing the exact same role as when serving formally with the campaigns or the parties - merely reading, like parrots, the talking-points of the day. Scripts consciously calculated to manipulate the gullible and generally passive masses. But in 2004 they faced a problem. A mass citizen army was forming - and they had power. At least in untapped potentiality.
Initially the ongoing mantra of the elites was to downplay all of this as meaningless. They had no respect for the ordinary citizens of the nation who forgot their place in the deferential hierarchy. And as if all reading the same cue-cards and talking points the "Mainstream" pseudo-journalists, the Republican shills, and their Democratic counterparts spared no airtime available to try and discredit Dean, his candidacy, his campaign, and his supporters. Truth had nothing to do with it - this was war. And in this war there was an unholy alliance, an axis formed by the media, having long before shed the pretense of ethical and professional journalism, along with an almost "team-like" camaraderie from both the Party Elites and the Party in Government of both Democrats and Republicans focused laser-like on one goal: defeat Dean. (And, truth be told, what was feared was not merely Dean - who listened to the grassroots citizens, but that grassroots movement itself.)
Thus the Democratic machine began trying to co-opt what were pejoratively labeled "Deaniacs" while trying to copy the online fundraising successes of the campaign - to no avail (even to this day). The reason for the continued failure: this was not a mere "tactic" from the campaign that "captured" an audience of passive consumers awaiting their instructions. This was a genuine UP-rising, from the people themselves, who spoke TO the candidate. And when that candidate LISTENED - the people responded. Strongly. Passionately. And with a commitment yet to be seen since.
That cannot be reduced to a formula, packaged, and sent out generically in any campaign. That kind of movement required two essential ingredients: a mass of people ready to speak their mind and act accordingly, including in defiance of the norms of their own party, crossing party lines, or registering for the first time with a party to vote in a primary (or even just registering for the first time to vote). The people created the Dean campaign. Because Dean was willing to work with - to follow as well as lead - the people. Not the other way around. To this day the Democratic Party has refused to recognize that fundamental fact about 2004.
So it was war. War of the elites against the ordinary people. And it was a ruthless war.
When I arrived in Iowa, a little more than a week before the caucus, Dean had been the recipient of an unprecedented wave of support in that traditionally conservative state. Matched only by a growing following emerging in all fifty states. Fueled by tens of thousands of ordinary people willing to drop their lives for weeks, even months, to go out on the campaign trail.
Whatever negatives you hear about the Iowa Storm - the tens of thousands of "orange hats" (official campaign staff were distinguished by "red hats") - scaring the poor Iowa farm folk with their blue spiked mohawks and multiple pierced faces - the truth is, before the "wave" of negativity orchestrated by all three sets of elites (the media in cooperation with both parties all seeming to be on the same "we are scared of Dean" page) set in strategically in the final two weeks, no one in Iowa was condemning the presence, or appearance, of the thousands of volunteers who traveled extreme distances to their state. Quite the opposite - they were openly welcomed and well-received.
When I left for Iowa I actually believed that I was not only working on, but was going to be able to vote for, a campaign/candidate that was going to win! For me - a true rarity (for most people - unless they are in the majority of the gerrymandered population - elections are the same each year - a guaranteed loss of an almost always uninspiring "opposing" candidate to the incumbent.) Whatever one may have to say to discourage this - one must first, if one is going to have any success convincing the skeptic, recognize and admit that the system is rigged and your vote more often than not counts for little more than a symbolic gesture. That gesture, wielded with some creative non-traditional thinking and welded to tactics to fit, could make at least some difference (and perhaps even highly significant ones). But to think merely voting - or getting out the vote - is going to change what is wrong is naive at best. Negligent at worst.
While in Iowa, however, I immediately began to get direct indications of the effectiveness of the orchestrated attack that had slowly been building in the recent weeks. A month prior it was just a fluke. Dean would be in the news for a week or so and then be replaced - by Kerry, the official pre-primary choice of the Party Elite, or perhaps by Gephart, given his senior statesman status and regional affiliation. But as the date of the caucus approached, the Party Eiite went into panic mode, Dean was going to win - and win it all - if he was not stopped now.
The hundreds of thousands who were mobilizing for Dean - including that core which was centered on the internet and provide a a hub from which "on the ground" groups emerged and grew - were, as tradition still has it today, mocked by the political elite (that is the Party elite plus the media elite and the (pseudo)intellectual elite of pundits and self-claimed "experts"). These were, after all, just PEOPLE. And the people didn't matter.
BUT ... when the reality of how much money these people were raising online with pocket change rather than corporate billions. the matter had to be taken seriously.
And as if all on the same team the nation's elites rallied together to tear down the Dean campaign and to destroy Dean, the candidate and the man. A crazy, wacko, lunatic. Ultimately proven a few weeks later at the Val-Air Ballroom where we were all told he screamed unnecessarily like a mad-man! Certainly the elites had been proven right. Dean was not fit for the nomination or the presidency.
All that was set up and set in motion in the few, desperate, weeks that the elites had once they recognized that Dean, shut out of the normal Party Elite controlled money loop, was matching them - and destined to set new records in fundraising - without ever having to pander to and promise away the nation to the backroom players and big-shots. This was not in the unwritten rules of either the Party or politics.
Thus the attacks began within the "mainstream" pseudo-media who don't actually report but repeat. They repeat their own version of talking points memos written by the Parties' elites and the PR spin doctors of the campaigns. And in this instance -they did not have only one (predictable) source of unsubstantiated rumor to spread around - but two.
In an absolutely unprecedented series of events, the Republican Party, while stating emphatically that Dean was a joke with no chance, had invested heavily, for the first time ever, in attempts to defeat a candidate in a Democratic primary. Certainly not the actions of a party hoping to face such an easily defeated foe. But they were not alone - in fact they were almost mirrored by a second set of actors, as if the two were flying in formation in an air show, whose home was in the Democratic Party.
The Party Elite, led most emphatically by Terry McAulliffe, were consciously distributed and flooded the airwaves. The spokespersons of the Elite and the officials from the Party in Congress (in coordination with the Party Elite) hit every Sunday talk show, and more, with the message: Dean is a danger. A danger to the party. And a danger to the country. Democrats, the Party Elite strategically spread the message across the country - but specifically throughout Iowa, needed to fear Dean and to fear the "cult-like" followers who were threatening the process.
Now while this would not be out of the ordinary for the opposing Party (except for the fact that this was the Primary and not yet the General election) - it was not only unprecedented, but unlawful, for the Democratic leadership and officials. The Democratic Party rules explicitly prohibit those officials from taking any side, for or against, any candidate during the primary season. They may not, according to the rules, support (or oppose) anyone until after the Convention has "formally" chosen the nominee.
But that, to them, was nonsense. Because they knew that despite the rules - the Party had been choosing the nominees in effective smoke-filled back rooms open to an exclusive list of members alone - and this year, above all, they were determined to undermine any and all impact of the Party in the Electorate. They specifically and unabashedly blamed the general weakness of the Democrats in Executive elections on the influence of the Rank-and-File voter. And in the years leading to the 2004 election worked tirelessly to ensure that they, not the voters/people, would make the choice. Their choice: Kerry.
And if the Sunday talk shows and 24-hour pseudo-news-babble led by the officials sent by the party were not enough to kill the candidacy - they had a second line of attack in the wings waiting for the proper moment. It came in those closing weeks of Iowa. Speaking with the people in Iowa who had been for Dean for months but were pulling away in the days before the caucus - the ads these people saw incessently, reiterating the "dangers" warned by the Elites on the "news" channels, painting Dean as an extremist and his supporters as riff-raff were the primary cause of the retreat from Dean in Iowa in the few days prior to the caucus. [That alone was not sufficient. But it did lay a foundation for the second prong of the attack: and this came inside the caucus venues themselves. And here, if anywhere, it was the formal Dean campaign that can be blamed for overlooking this weakness. The Democratic Elites coordinated with the other candidates and, working together, with explicit quid pro quos between campaigns, pulled voters (using the rules of the caucus) from Dean to the others - but primarily to Kerry (each other candidate knew they could not win - but more than anything - had to ensure that Dean did not). So much for Democrats respecting the rules and the Rule of Law.
But that was not the end of it For all those absurd campaigns talking about tattoo-laden, pierced, blue haired rabble invading quaint Iowa were not just funded by Republican PACs and interest groups. No, the most damning and harmful, and most untruthful, it turned out were paid for by a "league" of Democrats. Of course no one knew this at the time because they hid behind the rules that allowed their contributions to remain anonymous during the primary. (So much for PRINCIPLE among Democratic elected officials). Several of the other candidates as well as a ring of national fundraisers such as Senator Torricelli (D-NJ) were behind these devastating attack ads.
By the end of the final day of canvassing on the frozen streets of Des Moines and Ames I knew that the campaign in Iowa had been "lost." I say this in quotes - because one of the most frustrating things of that year, and nearly every year, is to hear the endless "experts," officials, and anchors talking about who "won" or who "lost" a primary. Because the very nature of primaries and the primary system - is that there is NO winner or loser UNTIL the final state has cast its votes. And certainly to claim that someone who came in third among a plethora of candidates in the first one was now out of contention had absolutely no truth to it.
The way primaries/caucuses work is that each candidate gets a PERCENTAGE of the total votes. Yes, one may get the most of them, but that's not a winner/loser scenario. Any candidate who "won" electors - was a winner and not a loser. They all moved closer to potential victory in Boston (where the Convention was to be held - and the votes for the first time brought together as a whole). And Dean, with a relatively strong third position finish, obtained almost as many delegates as Kerry. Statistically neither was more or less likely to win in the end. But that was not what was reported on the news. And that is not what the Party Elite and its officials and spokespersons, in violation of Party Rules, immediately flooded the airwaves to spread across the country. "Dean and his band of radical kids have lost. Its time for Kerry!"
This was sabotaging the primary process. And it was a political lynching of the candidate. ... ... ... And it was the Democratic Party's open statement of outright contempt for the supporters who made the Dean campaign a historical first (even if it was stopped from reaching what would inevitably have been the outcome - had the process been allowed to play out by the rules).
The myth of Dean - and of the Dean grassroots support movement (never have we seen since, not even with Obama, that kind of mass movement and commitment to a candidate and campaign; and what there was in the Obama campaign - was rooted and built upon the remnants of the Dean movement) - these myths were effectively spread in 2004.
So effectively - that we get the quote I began with above. Dean, the defender today says, was actually much more "conservative" than the impression in 2004. And it was his "supporters" that gave the wrong impression of a "radical" fringe candidate who the American people would never accept.
I'll put the whole paragraph this quote comes from here again:
As to Dean, he is rather more conservative than his reputation, which derives in large part from his supporters in the 2004 primaries, though I will argue that his work as DNC chair, where he showed a willingness to devolve power back to state and local party apparatus with the amazing 2006 results, certainly shows his abilities as a strategist and an administrator.Let's just start with the beginning. The "more conservative than his reputation" claim. And lets analyze that statement in that context.
First what does the reader imply? The implication is that Americans generally want more conservative politicians. (The Republican position - here adopted by a Democrat. One reason the Democrats look more and more like the Republicans (they do - so don't try that knee-jerk reflexive "there IS a difference" line - because its irrelevant. A difference does not constitute a SUFFICIENT difference.)
The now forgotten fact, however, is that it was Dean's OPENLY CALLING THE DEMOCRATS OUT ON THIS, in the first days of the primary season, in California - that set his campaign in motion and fired up the core of what became a movement as of yet not replicated by the Democratic party - despite all the money and resources they have invested trying to "copy" that campaign.
[HINT to the Party Elite: You can't do it without (a) a candidate that (b) many DISAFFECTED people (including disaffected Democrats - who are larger in number today than in 2004) will passionately get behind. And such a candidate - is one who listens to and follows the people; rather than seeks to merely corral them in for election day while incessantly calling for them to empty their pockets. (Dean's campaign raised probably the bulk of its funds - without asking for them directly. The grassroots and particularly in conjunction with the web-based portion took the lead on this themselves. And they felt EMPOWERED in doing so - and so did it again (without solicitation).
[That web-component, by the way, ought - properly - to be viewed as the origin of blog-politics. Because it waswhat put all the other blogs on the map - at least in the eyes of the mainstream "media" and on the agenda (to either co-opt or replicate) of the Party Elites.]
But why be defensive about this? Because Dean is indeed more "conservative" than he was portrayed in the media via the talking points supplied by both Parties (his own and his opponents). But we have to be very careful using words such as "conservative" (or "liberal") - because in general political usage in America - these are meaningless terms.
Dean is not an extremist. And Dean did not set out to lead a revolution - the revolution emerged around him. His merit - was that he was willing to follow it - rather than reject or distance himself from it. Dean did not fear the people; he embraced them. That was Dean's strongest selling point - and the primary reason for his massive support and their unprecedented investment in THEIR campaign. I heard this, articulated in a variety of ways, throughout the nation as I traveled with the campaign or as I communicated via the internet. It was not his policies per se. Many disagreed with several of his policy preferences. Most agreed with the bulk of those positions. But many of the disagreements were on issues often associated with "make-or-break" decisions or "wedge" issues (meant to divide people into two conflicting and irreconcilable groups).
But in the Dean MOVEMENT these policies disagreements were not as central as process and principle issues that shape the policy making process. (The movement as distinguished from the mere campaign - which fell, if you understand it properly, underneath the movement (to the eternal frustration of several of the "campaign elites" hired and stationed in Burlington or travelling with the campaign - persons who wanted - and often tried (unsuccessfully) - to control the masses of volunteers that arrived not just in Iowa - but afterwards in New Hampshire through Wisconsin (and even beyond that - after Dean, unfortunately, succumbed to the Party Elite pressure and bowed out of the race - before the Convention).
But in that MOVEMENT - it was the diversity of views, the fact that many could disagree, discuss that, and still find themselves agreeing on the majority of matters and the most important of issues - that was the STRENGTH of that movement. (Again - a phenomena never since able to be re-created - not even with the strongly Dean based Obama infrastructure (Obama the candidate who turned his back on that core once in office; whereas those who knew Dean were confident, with reasons based on his actions, that he would never do in the similar situation.)
So yes Dean is more "conservative" than he was portrayed. But if anyone was listening in 2004 - to either Dean or the Dean Movement - this would have been no secret. Because his words, deeds, and the very emphasis of his supporters - was that this was the case. Conservative, not in the sense of the blind followers of ideological nonsense who find their homes in the Republican Party, but conservative - with a lower case "c" - in being a very calm, rational, cautious thinker - willing to evaluate all sides of an issue - and capable of considering alternative options when determining the best course of action in any particular circumstance. He is not an ideologue. Neither of the "Conservative" nor the "Liberal" variety.
AND THAT is what brought millions into the Dean movement, supporting the campaign, and even beyond that remaining active in the years that have followed.
But the "conservative" non-revelation is but a part of that sentence. It is not controversial. But the second part is. And it is just plain false. It is, in fact, the continuation of that myth that was created and spread - by each of those cooperating elites in the 2004 primary seasons (media and both parties acting in concerted effort - as if they were one - and he were the common enemy (or his movement was - which was just as much, if not more, of their cause of concern and fears).
And it is disappointing to see how it is still naively and without any support repeated once again, a decade later, and without serious challenge.
Without, I must add, a single effort in that sentence - or the paragraph or diary - to back it up. [Please note: I am not attacking the author of that diary - I am criticizing his particular points here - and in particular - his uncritical parroting of the very meme that was spread by the opposition in 2004 to sway the gullible masses.]
How, exactly, did Dean's followers make him appear other than he actually was? We are left to assume that the author is simply accepting the whole litany of absurdities that were being spread (often with Democratic money and Democratic voices) ten years ago. Myths and lies. Nothing more.
One such myth was the incessant media harping on the "youth" of the movement. Yes - and proudly so - a large contingent of the youth of that generation was on board with that campaign and part of that movement. A valuable part thereof. But anyone who spent any time at a Dean rally or speech, a Dean event, or more - went with Dean on the road across the country - saw that the youth were mixed equally with those in the middle years (lets extend this from mid-twenties to say mid-forties), the next group (mid-forties to mid-sixties), and one of the most visible demographics out in force was the elder generation (if you were looking - and then if you reported the truth of what you saw (rarely happened - the pre-script for the reporters was to find the youth - especially with nose rings, face tatoos, and blue hair and mohawks) - those who would consider themselves the "seniors."
I can tell you for certain - that I canvassed, and partied, and bar-canvassed (a practice I taught many I met) throughout the days and nights of states like frozen Iowa, equally frozen Wisconsin (I could not get to New Hampshire - because the Cessna I flew up in from Florida to Iowa was grounded when about twenty minutes out from the airport the windshield cracked open), or the more temperate South Carolina with people twenty years younger than me, twenty years older than me, my age, and every age in between and beyond. There was no single dominant demographic. And if I were to compare the youth to the elderly (excluding the middle) - I'd have said they were approximately equal (and equally committed and fired-up). As for the youth with the "looks" so quickly disparaged - certainly they were there. They were everywhere. And they were great. But even in their age demographic - they perhaps constituted, at best (and this requires casting this net wide to include even the "mildest" of those categorized as "weird" or "extreme"), a third of the "youth" you would have encountered.
One more observation - from Iowa - of great significance. Even with the onslaught of attacks, and the once committed masses backing away each day (although - as they admitted - reluctantly (they wanted someone like Dean; but they didn't think he could win if he was going to be portrayed that way (not that he WAS as he was portrayed)). But you could not go anywhere in the capital, Des Moines, without seeing Dean supporters everywhere. The campaign headquarters took up two buildings - and was abuzz from dawn to dusk. Dean events - were packed beyond capacity - with throngs gathered outside the buildings to participate.
Yet if one traveled around - the other campaigns were barely visible. Yes we saw a number of Kucinich supporters. Several Edwards crews. Some Gephardt people. Etc. But you know what we NEVER saw? We never saw Kerry support.
Literally. I walked by Kerry's headquarters daily - and the massive rooms were mostly filled with empty desks and chairs. The pace of business inside was, well, extreme casual. Certainly beyond the paid interns - you could not find more than a handful (if that many) volunteers.
I went by a Kerry rally at a school auditorium. Four rows (of about a hundred) had people sitting in them (and not the full row). Their heads were down - some looked as if they were about to fall asleep. And Kerry monotonically droned on about things that even his supporters were not getting excited about. So how did this, of all the candidates, win that battle and ultimately the primary?
Simple: the process was rigged. It was rigged by the Party Elite. They chose the candidate and were not going to allow the "rabble" - the "masses" - the people - to override their expert opinion (and we see what that produced). How did Iowa turn out that way - and how has that final few days in that first primary battle shaped the image of Dean to this day - that even the author of the diary in question feels that the distortion was a result of the SUPPORTERS among the RANK-AND-FILE (rather than the Party Elite)?
Well what about the culmination in the infamous "scream"! Clearly Dean was a madman. A crazy person. Someone unfit for the presidency. He screamed in a speech.
Well, let me set the record straight. It was finally partially revealed for what it really was - although a week too late - with his interview on television with Dianne Sawyer. The sound used to portray this fiction was "altered" both through a unidirectional mike and the other sound equipment used by the television crew (it was CNN who was set up in the Ballroom) to filter out the sound of the crowd. (And it was the sound of the crowd, far more than Dean's words, which were THE TRUE STORY that was never told about that night - and which would have "framed" that moment so significantly differently that the story would have been about whether Dean and his fired up movement would improve in the weeks to come (instead of a story that was two-fold: the campaign is now dead; and it ought to be - because the candidate is a whacko).
But I knew this all along. Because I was friends with the guy whose video was used in that ABC interview - he was standing about thirty feet behind me at the time of the speech. And he captured what was an unprecedented and unexpected (and thus did not fit the pre-written script of the CNN anchors - particularly Paul Begala - who set off the wave of the "scream story" that night) uproar that began twenty minutes before Dean entered the stage and only increased the deafening din continuously through to the end.
Those of us in the Ballroom; those of us on the floor; those of us at the front of the stage - WE could barely hear Dean speak at all. The room was so unexpectedly, unprecedentedly, and uncontrollably raucous. The media wanted a "concession speech." (Dean: "I admit defeat tonight in Iowa.") Instead the people there, in the ballroom, demanded a rekindled fire to continue on building momentum till the Convention - where we were certain we could eventually win. And that was entirely possible - if it were not for the myth created by the combined elites and swallowed hook, line, and sinker - even by Democrats. Sheepish behavior that ensures that no matter who gets in office - if its a Democrat - the Democratic Rank-and-File will go silent for the next four years waiting their turn to participate once again in a "democracy" (of one day). And be deferentially led for the rest of the four years - including to places they don't want to go - and often to places the Republicans had not themselves been able to reach when the Democrats were in opposition. For all of the extreme and even idiotic legislative efforts Republicans have sought when in the majority - it has been Democratic presidencies and majorities that have actually enacted the more substantive Republican policies.
And I have an "admission" to make (although somewhere here on DailyKos a woman (I can't recall her name) wrote a diary, in the months shortly after that event, believing she was partly responsible for the downfall of Dean and the movement - because she participated in what led to the scream. But she was wrong.) The downfall was coming - and to get there - they had to turn an unprecedented and powerful showing of support into a myth of an unstable candidate.
(And who, in their right mind in America, makes that same judgement in ordinary life: If you see a person "scream" - do you automatically say - "crazy person"? Of course not. And of course - how you turn that scream into an ANGRY one - when you listen to the words and look at the faces (including Dean's) is really beyond explanation - other than the mass gullibility of a Nation who genetic testing may just find are more akin to a cross between sheep (who follow "leaders" to the slaughter willfully and happily) and parrots (who repeat whatever "leaders" say - no matter how stupid or ridiculous).
Because I know that moment of the scream like only a handful of others. (Also like several hundred others - but I mean the handful standing right in the front of the stage, at Dean's feet, who took that position an hour before hand - and began to fire up an otherwise exhausted and clearly devastatingly disappointed crowd.).
For when I arrived at the Val-Air that night, one of the first to get there, I knew Dean did not meet the expected landslide that was still possible a week before. I knew people were totally exhausted. But not just exhausted - the kind of extreme exhaustion that comes when you not only gave your heart and soul but you believed so positively that, finally, something real, something different, something fresh was about to happen - and had that suddenly ripped from under your feet in a split second. I knew it was in the air. And I knew, as the night went on (Dean would not arrive for a few hours) it would get worse.
I too felt it. But I was not going to allow myself to fixate on it So I grabbed a few people and headed to the bar. We got several pitchers of beer and went straight to center stage. And we shared that beer with all around us - inviting more to come up, out of their seats in the far corners of the giant ballroom, and into the spotlight. To the back of the room was a second "stage" where CNN had set up its cameras and set. I went over there with a pitcher - engaged in a spirited debate with that night's co-host Tucker Carlson, which was fun and enlightening, and he was both a good sport, a good spirit, and an intelligent conversationalist. Then entered Paul Begala - the Democratic consultant from the Clinton era turned pop-pundit. He was a bore. Not much else to say about that. At least not until I get to the end of the night.
So I returned to the stage - where we now had a small gathering - almost a critical mass. With me was one of the people I canvassed with the first day I arrived in Iowa - his name was Tres - and he came with the multiple busloads of Texas supporters. Many of whom, in those weeks and the months to come, I became good friends with. Joining us, as I began leading a chant - my own reformulation of the most important of Dean's lines heard ever since that California attack on the weakness and the Republican leaning nature of the party by Dean nearly a year before, where he stressed the power of ordinary citizens - and continued throughout the campaign ... my version: "We Have The Power."
And for twenty minutes, as one of the ever growing crowd massing up with us would go for refills to our pitchers, the chant grew louder, and louder, and LOUDER. Faces were glowing. Mouths were smiling. People were partying.
The funeral dirge the media expected, and wanted, which looked as if it were to be delivered an hour before was nixed. And the party began. A party that had a message: On to New Hampshire ... and then ... Because WE (the people) were not defeated. We were ready for the next battle. And the next. And, very consciously, for the LONG HAUL (after all - that was what the original Fifty State Strategy meant (before the absolutely unexpected prediction and close realization of a landslide in Iowa - three months before and a third place Dean showing would have been the headline - and would have been a victory to our campaign and movement. What real significance lay in the fact that we got two or three less delegates than two others in the pack - all the candidates still needed several hundred more. And we knew we could get them. And we knew that being ahead by two or three was in effect no different than being tied with us on that day. We were ready for tomorrow. We were not even going to rest - but we were going to storm New Hampshire - and every other state in the nation. And we were going to win.
On and on I continued the chant: "WE HAVE THE POWER." And I turned around to face backwards - towards CNN's setup - and the crowd was an endless sea of people, chanting, talking, animated, and alive. And I could see Paul Begala with a puzzled look on his face. He did not know what to make of this. And it was clear to me - he did not LIKE what he saw.
For twenty more minutes that chant grew louder and stronger. And then Dean entered the stage - and pandemonium ensued. Dean was visibly shocked. He was not prepared for such a scene. He paused toward the back to take it all in for a brief moment - before heading up to the microphone. I was standing with Tres and the woman I mentioned above (the diary back then lamenting that she may have helped cause the scream and thus the end of the campaign [I wish I could remember her name]). We were right at the front - right where Dean stood. If anyone could have heard him - we could. But to a great extent even we struggled to make out the words over the din of the crowd.
By this time - I had pushed that chant to the crowd for so long, and so loudly myself, that I lost my voice almost completely. Short squeaks were all that I could emit. If you watch carefully - early on - Dean bends down to pick up and wave one of the American flags in the audience. It came from the woman I mentioned and I helped get it up to him.
And then came the speech. And I saw many speeches by Dean, live, in that campaign. But nothing compared to this. It was empowering. It was invigorating. It was inspiring. And if anyone in the crowd was tired when they arrived (most were exhausted - from weeks even months on the ground there day in and day out) - it was re-animating. No momentum was lost in that campaign that day - in fact - more had been gained.
Dean came to the moment just before the infamous non-scream "scream." Listing state after state that we were heading to - and we were going to win. And WE knew it. Pathetically, with my non-voice, all I could do is to keep nudging the woman next to me to try and yell to Dean to mention Florida (he never did). Two or three times he looked at me directly, as I mouthed the word, but with no sound emitted - especially in that thunderous room - I couldn't expect him to get my point. And then at the end of this list there was a brief finish - an emotive expression - a "yeah." (Not even, really, a "Yeah!"; let alone a "YEEAAH!" or even a "YEE-AWW" (how any of those could be construed as "angry" - especially in that context of extreme joy - is just beyond me). We barely heard it. And Tom Harkin, standing directly behind him, hardly a "radical" or some "angry psychopath" - mirrored the sentiment - and even added a fist pump with it (never mentioned to this day in the media. Would he have been "angry" and "unworthy of office" then too?)
No one in that room thought twice, at that time, about that speech. It was an appropriate speech. It was the right speech. It was the PERFECT speech for the moment.
And the result of the speech was to put most everyone in that room back into the fighting spirit - to continue on tomorrow and into New Hampshire. That is - until people got home - and turned on the TV.
I actually didn't know for a few days - for as I said - when we were forced to land our Cessna after snow began hitting our face through a crack that grew first from a spot then inch by inch to nearly the whole windshield - I was grounded in Iowa for a few days until a commercial flight was available. (Its not that big of a city or airport - but when the caucus is there - its the biggest).
But I did leave the ballroom with a bad taste in my mouth. I thought it was reserved for one person - Paul Begala. But I had no idea what had spread from what he said to me after the speech.
Although with little voice to communicate - I made my way around "the party" after the speech. At one point Tres and I re-engaged with Tucker Carlson. He was impressed, sincerely, by the genuine spirit and dedication of the people in the crowd. This was not your typical political event. And he knew it. It was a one of a kind. And that should have been the story.
During this Begala was busy "flirting" with a woman who was clearly trying to pick him up. (She was about as annoying as he was). But at one point he butted in - and said directly to me, as if I were in charge of the campaign:
You need to have a long talk with "your man" (Dean). He needs to know (pointing back to CNN's cameras) that he is not here to perform to the room, but to the cameras.Not much could have set me off stronger than a statement as absurd and arrogant as that. That the media is the important actor - to be pandered to. And that the campaign and movement were to be mere props in the show! Well I am no one's prop. And despite my cracking squeak of a voice - I got my point through to Begala. He then returned to his pick-up game with the woman next to me. But I was able to continue a short lecture on how the news media has gotten the whole thing backwards - and it was political hacks like him that were a large part of the cause. His wanna be "companion" did not appreciate that very much - and gave me a dirty look and indicated I should leave. I stayed - and finished the conversation I had left Tres in with Carlson. Unlike that with Begala, Carlson had meritorious points to contribute, was pleasant and gregarious, and listened intently to what we were saying - engaging in a quality initial autopsy of the past two weeks.
So I have rambled on farther than I intended. Again - I have not written much, here or anywhere, in many, many months. And I have refused to turn on the TV, read the news, or engage in political discourse. For some reason I stopped by - and I saw the referenced diary and that paragraph - and had to chime in.
In conclusion - yes, Dean is far more "conservative" than he is portrayed by his opponents. But he is not a "Conservative". He is, however, as a result of what he really is - attractive to a wide spectrum of the population - if they listen to what he says rather than what is said about him. And it was one of the greatest outrages I have ever witnessed in politics to see the Democratic party lynch Dean in the 2004 primaries. I will never, ever, support that organization again. (And I have far more reasons than just that one). What I want is a candidate - not a party hack.
The author states a truism in the above, but a mythical falsity in claiming that was an effect of which his supporters were the cause. It was the product of the Elites - including, and most prominently, the Democratic Party Elite - the very small group who actually control the party. And who keep the party off-track from where it ought to be. The ones who refused to consider a true national health care system, would not even allow consideration of Dean's single payer middle path (even telling Dean he could take the HHS Cabinet Position - but on the one condition that he would not advocate anything but "Obamacare." (And for not playing the fool - like most in DC who want the position and power and care little for the principle - I only earned greater respect for the man).)
As for Dean's performance afterwards - which this author approves of - as DNC chair, I agree, if it were not for Dean in that position - and what remained of Dean's movement (no longer a full movement once Dean let the infrastructure erode so as not to "threaten" the Party Elite - a big mistake in my view), Obama never would have won in that fashion - and likely would never have been the candidate. The problem is - the issue is NOT getting them INTO office (the campaign) - but what they do WITHIN the office. And on that score - Obama is doing poorly in my mind. He has served, by and large, indistinguishable from the bunch called out in California at the start of the 2004 primary season - when Dean said he was searching for the DEMOCRATIC wing of the Democratic party - but couldn't find it.
Since Dean - I have still yet to see it.
As for Hillary - who the above author "gladly" supports. There is not a thing in this world imaginable that could bring me to support her - even in the weakest of senses. I was never a fan or supporter of her husband - who was the most successful President in two decades in helping enact Republican legislation (successfully blocked by Democratic efforts prior). And she, even more than he, is what I would refer to as a "political hack." And I know that kind of person/personality all too well - having been in politics with them (although I fought - rather than joined - them). They do and say whatever it takes to win. Yes - I have no problem believing that we would share many of the same beliefs and passions and even principles. The difference: I stand by those principles - and I don't negotiate away those passions and beliefs - to get ahead. And the one thing I will not support - is that kind of actor for any political office.
I won't get into my personal analysis of the rest of the list this author reviews as their possible choices. Primarily because, although a few of them are "good" people (even relatively "good" in office), in truth these are certainly not the best and the brightest America has to offer. Perhaps Elizabeth Warren makes it into that category - but I don't think she realizes just how "radical" the changes that are necessary to put this nation back on a sound - and democratic - footing really are. But at least she understands a number of the problems to a degree that no more than a handful in elected office can approach. A sad statement of a nation this large.
But - within the enormous population - there are good, quality, individuals who have the right attitude, approach and "character" (I don't mean how they engage in private relations of members of the opposite - or same - sex; I mean their public persona's ethical foundation, their private lives are exactly that - private - and thus generally none of our concern and certainly not a concern relevant to the job).
But until we begin drawing into politics the true "moral minds" this country has - and this is not going to come from the political or the business arena - we have no hope of expecting electoral politics, especially presidential politics, to make any SIGNIFICANT and LONG-LASTING changes - especially to the PROCESS - which is the aspect of government that is fundamentally broken. Fix the process - and you have a chance at wise policy making. Don't - and at best you get "good" policies by accident.
And now for my promised "footnote":
Political Science 101: Party Mythology A:
It is generally believed by the general public that the Parties are means to enhance democracy and in particular to better and more directly speak as and act on behalf of the full party membership (all those "registered" with the party).
Nothing, however, could be farther from the truth. It was not that long ago that Party machinations took place in the proverbial "smoke-filled" room, literally, clogged with the cigar smoke of the "fat cats" (many fitting the description well) as they jockeyed amongst themselves, trading favors and promises, so as to agree - once a sufficient number of them "got" what they wanted in the "deal" - to who would be the nominees for the Executive ticket.
Primaries and conventions were originally created as attempted reforms to take the power away from these elite fat cats running the parties for themselves. But the Party Elite never fully acquiesced to the pressures of the "democratic" actions of the Rank-and-File (the voters). The culminating period of reforms came in the wake of the turmoil surrounding the 1968 campaigns. And by 1972 a series of substantial reforms were proposed, and mostly adopted, with the specific intention of eliminating the back-room deals and transferring the power of the party to the people themselves. Yet these reforms were never allowed to be truly realized. Those in power, as those in power throughout history have proven, do not willingly give up that power. And the people were not prepared to stand their ground for their democratic advances (Particularly those within the Democratic Party). And the Party Elite, who had been in near total charge of the party for a century, were backed in their opposition of the idea of a "democratic" Democratic party with academic/intellectual elites like E. E. Schattschneider, who in his highly influental book Party Government openly condemned ideas that the parties, especially the Democratic, should democratize the process witihin. His views, and that of the Party Elite to this day, are summed up in his famous maxim:Democracy is not found in the parties but between the parties.There was no place for the rank-and-file, the voter, the ordinary citizen registered with the party - to have an actual say. They did not count. They ought not to count. They simply were not knowledgeable enough to direct a party. (Thus, taking this the next step, the people had no real direct role in government either. And Schattschneider, like most of the other prominent Political Scientists of the mid-20th century, explicitly let out a call for a redefinition of democracy. One that would eliminate the role of the people as well as the moral end of the common good, traditionally the two corner stones of the concepts, and substitute it with a myth of democracy. Where the mere vote between Column A or Column B (and absolutely no further choices allowed), of candidates chosen by two sets of elites controlling the two parties, was all the "democracy" that was meant to be left. "Democracy," one day every four years. That became the "check" on government (because these Political Scientists and Political Elites, together, also rejected - openly - the concept of the Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances that were the cornerstones of the Constitution. And sought to strengthen not just the two parties - but the two party system - to eliminate those Constitutional provisions in practice but without formal amendment.
To try and draw this brief Poli Sci lesson to a conclusion - we all must begin to recognize, as Political Science today does not even try and hide yet the average citizen finds it hard to believe, that there are - in fact - three Democratic Parties and three Republican Parties: There are the Party Elite - who really call the shots and control the party. There is the Party in Congress - the collection of elected Democratic officials. And last - and least - there is the Party in the Electorate. The Rank-and-File. You and me. And there is a conscious and highly defended hierarchy in that order in actual practice - not just in the Republican party, but equally if not far more so, in the Democratic.
Thus I here, and all should become accustomed to doing, make a conscious effort to identify "which" Democratic party I am referring to - rather than to conflate the three into one and ignore and cover over the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the institution.