Friday, May 30, 2003

Oliver Willis has a Great Essay on Dean and the Democratic Party

Oliver Willis - Say "Howard Dean" to your local conservative and his eyes are likely to light up in glee. And how could you blame him (or her)? Here's a candidate who publicly announced his opposition to the war with Iraq, hails from a small northern state, and is most known for the law he signed allowing homosexual couples to essentially marry. In an era that has been painted by the media as a return to Reaganism, a candidate like this should be dead in the water going up against the Bush-media alliance. As far as electoral gamesmanship goes, they could quite possibly be right. But for the long term policies of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean could be precisely what the doctor ordered - presidential win or not.

Yes, we live in a one-party state (executive, judiciary, and legislative) but that is more a byproduct of apathy and incompetence than a clear desire for right wing politics in every pot. The presidency was "won" only through the slightest of margins, the judiciary essentially swinging on one vote, and the legislature produced through gerrymandering (the House) or weak candidacies (the Senate). If anything, the amount of voters who stayed away from Election 2002 said to the Democrats: For The Love Of God, Stand For Something. When you line up many of the issues (Economic Security, Diversity, Education, Personal Freedom) the Democrats are on the plus side - they just do a horrible job of selling that to Joe Average Voter.

So where does Dean come in? As a little-known politician, it has been smart of Dr. Dean to embrace the liberal wing of the party. His support is genuinely from the grassroots and extends to many of the alienated Nader voters who were blind to the more media-savvy ways Clinton represented their ideals. But when you look at the Dean record it looks more like a centrist Democrat from the Clinton wing than the radical leftist that the right would like to portray him as. What Dean has that the other candidates haven't demonstrated so far (including the one I support) is the ability to mobilize the base of the party like Clinton did in 1992. While his appeal to the left may turn off moderate voters down the line (and lose a national election), it may get the left to wake up and put the spats that seem to rule the day on the backburner. Dean would be able to get progressive ideas on the stage, and his brand of rhetoric that I have seen so far excels at making these Democratic ideals and not "reactions to Bush". That is critical.

and more excellent stuff with links

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