This seems like as good a time as any to explain why I personally support Howard Dean.
Howard Dean attracted my attention back in May, while he was vigorously opposing the war. As I told a friend of mine at the time, I'd never heard a politician whose ideas I agreed with so thoroughly.
I thought Dean was right about the war. I thought he was right on gun control, and taxes. And if his health care proposal wasn't exactly what I wanted, I realized that it was the most likely of the major candidates' proposals to actually be enacted. Dean and I lined up, ideologically, very well. But policy isn't the main reason I support Dean.
We have a problem in this country. A crisis. A crisis of political thought.
You don't run for elected office in this country on policy. You could, for example, lay out your own and your opponents economic policies; you could show voters the numbers, and explain in exacting detail why your plan was better. You could be right in every way.
And you'd lose the election. Because your opponent would've spent the time knocking on doors, shaking hands, and attacking you with push polls and direct mailings.
The fundamental problem with democracy in this country is that it has ceased to be deliberative. Democracy, these days, means that you get out to the polls on election day and vote for whatever candidate unloaded the best one-liners in the debates. Rather than debate policy, today's candidates (if they're smart) attack, obfuscate, and waffle. The game of American politics today is won, essentially, by fooling as many people as you can into voting for you. Joe Kennedy, Sr., famously told his son John to shake as many hands as he could, because Joe wouldn't "buy one vote more than you need." The more money you have, the more you can overwhelm your opponent with your name and your rheotoric. You use media like a club, to beat the idea that you are the best into the electorates collective skull, so that by the time they get to the polls they punch your chad based on pure, unadulterated reflex. It's the ultimate triumph of the S-Factor.
A lot of people will tell you that Democrats can't win that game. That we're no good at it. They're wrong; I've seen the proof firsthand. We're just as capable of putting people on the ground as the Republicans are; we're just as good at using language. I would contend that because the Democratic base is so energized this year, we stand a very good chance of winning this round of the game.
Lost in that mess of the canvassing, letter writing, mailing, and phonebanking, is the idea that the American political game might not be the one we want to be playing. That instead of, as engaged citizens, plotting new ways to fool the less politically conscious into voting the way we want them to, we ought to be teaching them. We ought to be lifting them up, so that at some point, a national election will be decided by the mathematical merits of a tax proposal. We get so wrapped up (and understandably so) in the short term goal of improving policy that we forget why bad policy was made in the first place.
Maybe this cynical, politically radical, twenty year old college student has been fooled as thoroughly as the rest of the electorate, but I believe Howard Dean understands these things. I believe that when Howard Dean talks about "taking back America," he's talking about more than getting himself into the White House. I honestly believe that, if you asked Howard Dean if he would rather win the 2004 election, or give the American populace his level of political understanding, he would choose the latter.
As I said, we've gotten pretty good at this game of politics. And this year, I think the odds are in our favor. But in playing the game, we can't lose sight of why we're playing it. At the end of the day, it's not about moving this country to the left. It's not about moving the coutry right. It's about moving the United States of America forward.
And Howard Dean is the man to do it.