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8/25/03


 

A REASON FOR HOPE

By David Podvin

Democrats are feeling the rage and despair that accompany having been repeatedly violated. First, we were abandoned by Al Gore, who promised to fight for us but choked in the clutch. Next, we were waylaid by the United States Supreme Court, which demonstrated that partisanship transcends law. Then, we were betrayed by our congressional leaders, who opted for capitulation over principle.

We have been cut adrift by the institutions that were supposed to confront this renegade administration – the Democratic Party, the labor movement, civil rights groups, and the religious left. There was a time when these forces would have ferociously opposed a politician who advocated corporate looting at home and imperial conquest abroad, but there has been only nominal opposition as George W. Bush has implemented his regressive agenda.

For those Americans who regard democracy as something more than a trite cliché, the frustration has often become overwhelming. We have watched in horror as the nation we love has been debased by the sanctimonious barbarians of the Republican Party. Worst of all has been the intense feeling of futility, the sense that no one even cares and therefore things can only get worse.

Now, there is a reason for hope. His name is Howard Dean.

Calling himself a member of the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party”, Dean is fighting on behalf of those who have been forsaken by the party hierarchy. He is setting himself apart, not just from his rivals, but also from the other presidential candidates of the last half-century. He is talking in a way that is reminiscent of Harry Truman’s 1948 acceptance speech, which is the textbook example of how to confront the amoral profiteers of the GOP.

The experts scorned Truman as a sure loser, but he defied the skeptics by using a tactic that this country’s political class has never considered to be a viable option – he told the truth. Instead of conforming to the consensus, he challenged the electorate to deal with reality. Truman began the campaign as a long shot, yet he ultimately persuaded voters to select fact over fiction.

Like Truman, Dean is telling the unvarnished truth. Like Truman, he is steadfast in his refusal to be intimidated into lockstep with the power elite. Just as everything about George W. Bush seems counterfeit, everything about Howard Dean has the feel of authenticity.

There are many challenges ahead, but Dean has already crossed the Rubicon by ignoring the conventional wisdom of the political establishment. This is crucial, because it will be impossible for any Democrat to win while heeding the advice of the people who want Bush to retain power. By opposing the war with Iraq in favor of intensifying the battle against al Qaida - and by rejecting all the Bush tax cuts in favor of fiscal sanity - Dean is the only major candidate who has totally repudiated the right wing approach. He has decided to give citizens a real choice, the chance to vote for their own interests rather than the wish list of the corporate aristocracy.

The actor Ossie Davis has spoken about the concept of “ooftah”, which he defines as a black person who embarrassingly grins and shuffles in order to ingratiate himself to white people. For a long time, the Democratic Party has suffered from a similar form of self-contempt, constantly genuflecting towards the conservative political machine in the name of bipartisanship. It has been truly nauseating to witness ooftah as practiced by the elected representatives of rank and file Democrats.

Thus far, Howard Dean has shown himself to be oofta-intolerant. Most notably, he has broken the taboo against calling Bush incompetent and corrupt. He has been scathing in his attacks on both the Republicans who are screwing the American people and the Democrats who are their passive accomplices. Not only has he vowed to send Bush back to Texas, he has promised to replace the gerbils on the Democratic National Committee with piranhas.

As a result, he has incurred the wrath of the defenders of the status quo. The mainstream media has lambasted Dean, who has a moderately left of center record, for being an “extremist”. The nation’s buffoonish pundits and talk radio lemmings have echoed the chant that he is a dangerous fringe candidate. Dean has also been ceaselessly bashed by the reactionary Democratic Leadership Council, which is attempting to rescue the faltering candidacy of Bush-wannabe Joseph Lieberman.

Meanwhile, sneering Republicans are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of facing Dean. They haven’t been this excited about running against a Democrat since 1992, when they were drooling over the inevitability of crushing an unelectable hillbilly with a zipper problem.

Howard Dean has reached an essential benchmark on the way to becoming a truly great President of the United States - he is despised by all the right people. This fact should be exploding like a roman candle in front of discouraged liberals who have been waiting for a true leader to arrive: Dean is hated by the same folks who hate you. He is anathema to those in both parties who believe that the American military exists to conquer defenseless countries and steal their wealth on behalf of multi-national corporations. He is loathed by those in both parties who think that it is class warfare to govern for the benefit of the average taxpayer. He is Public Enemy Number One of the dregs of political high society.

The Democratic establishment is especially contemptuous. >From the perspective of the party Brahmins, Dean is “too far to the left” (Lieberman), “not sufficiently progressive” (John Kerry), “an anachronism” (Evan Bayh), and “a neophyte” (Joe Biden). According to these insiders who spend their time yielding to Bush, uppity Howard Dean is too liberal and too conservative and too old and too new.

This guy must be gooooooood!

Certainly, Dean is the only one of the leading Democratic candidates who understands which party he is supposed to represent. On major votes involving civil liberties and the war in Iraq, Lieberman and Dick Gephardt decided to desert their constituents and embrace “our president”. So did John Kerry, who recently responded to a question about whether Dean has been using the Internet more effectively than the other contenders by saying, “Well, the last person I heard who claimed he had invented the Internet didn't do so well.” In one brief sentence, the senator managed to parrot three Republican lies: Dean never claimed to have invented the Internet. Neither did Al Gore. And Gore did quite well in 2000 – he won, although Kerry chastises Democrats who acknowledge that forbidden fact.

Instead of exhibiting disdain for Democratic voters, Dean has behaved respectfully by leveling with them. He has been candid in refusing to be all things to all people. Just as he is persona non grata to the Zell Miller wing of the party, Dean has taken positions that will disqualify him from gaining the support of some on the left. He is in favor of leaving gun control up to the states, a position that is viewed with understandable concern among Democrats who live in the heart of NRA country. He insists on a balanced budget, which will severely limit the introduction of massive new social programs to help Americans who are suffering. And he is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist, which is the kiss of death for his chances among the peace activists who march while waving Israeli flags they have defaced with swastikas.

But this cannot be an election about ideological obeisance to the Great Socialist In The Sky. The Democrats must win the presidency in 2004 for one basic reason – so that George W. Bush loses. And this time, he must not just lose the election, but also control of the executive branch of government.

The alternative is daunting. More tax cuts for the rich resulting in a much larger deficit that leads to economic paralysis…a brutal foreign policy based on the diplomatic style of Genghis Kahn…federal courts brimming with Scalia clones, and all the consequences to civil and human rights that will entail…an end to all environmental protection that is meaningful…the culmination of the longstanding right wing goal of destroying Social Security…and on and on will go the savagery.

Prominent conservatives are saying that they want to eliminate the federal government, except for the Pentagon. Choosing to pretend that they aren’t serious won’t prevent them from accomplishing their stated objective. The only thing that has stopped them so far is that they haven’t had enough time to fully implement their agenda. Four more years should do the trick.

They must be defeated in 2004.

Dean is the Democrat who can beat them, which explains why the mantra of the chattering class is that he has absolutely no chance. For David Broder and Tim Russert, the ideal Democratic nominee would be George W. Bush. Alternatively, they advocate that the party should select an obedient victim who will “not alienate voters by attacking Bush”. They assert that Democrats must nominate someone who has the “strength of character” that empowers him to  “refuse to pander” to the Democratic base and to “adhere to a common sense moderate course”.

In other words, the corporate media demands to see a lamb sleepwalking to the slaughter.

Dean isn’t a lamb, and he definitely isn’t sleepwalking anywhere. He is aggressively revving up the Democratic core constituency, which is where a huge number of votes can be gained simply by convincing disenchanted Democrats that this time their candidate really is going to fight for them. He is also targeting the votes of the Mindless Middle, the twenty percent of the electorate known as “swing voters” who cast their ballots despite having absolutely no idea of what is happening. He is communicating with them using simple English and presenting his ideas with easily understandable explanations. Dean is one Democrat who recognizes the importance of connecting with Americans on a gut level. He gets it.

Of course, he is also going to get slimed. In all likelihood, Dean will endure an even more severe sliming than President Clinton and Vice President Gore received, because the corporate press now has much more to lose. Bush has given billions of dollars of taxpayer largesse to the media companies, a gift that produces thank you notes like this one:

“Howard Dean was angry. Ropy veins popped out of his neck, blood rushed to his cheeks, and his eyes, normally blue-gray, flashed black, all dilated pupils…” Washington Post July 6, 2003

So now we know the storyline. Clinton was a draft dodging womanizer, a pot-smoking womanizer, and a womanizing womanizer. Gore was a habitual liar, a pathetic liar, and a lying liar. Dean is a rage-crazed maniac, a vein-popping maniac, and a maniacal maniac.

Any Democratic standard bearer is going to be trashed by America’s highly partisan media – the key is to fight back. The actions of the candidates clearly indicate that Dean is by far the most likely of the major contenders to counterattack. The criticism that he is “overly aggressive” should be sweet music to the ears of Democrats who, during the Florida recount, would have considered “merely breathing” to be an improvement on the performance of their nominee.

George W. Bush has a massive advantage in campaign funds, and he has the communications conglomerates to run interference for him. Any time his poll numbers start looking bad, Bush can declare an international crisis that obligates Americans to rally behind the commander-in-chief. Most of all, he has a proven willingness to tell any lie and break any law to get his way.  For these reasons, two thirds of Democrats polled by Zogby say they are pessimistic about retaking the White House.

But Bush is going to need all of that leverage - and more. Keeping the election close enough to steal will require having an opponent who lets him get away with another campaign spree of lying and cheating. Even after three years of nonexistent opposition, Bush stands at just 53% approval in the Pew Research Poll. Almost half of Americans have cut through the ubiquitous propaganda and figured out for themselves that Bush is a train wreck. Aided by a forceful presentation from an articulate Democratic nominee, more people will reach the same conclusion.

There is only one major Democratic candidate who is willing to make the case. Howard Dean is not perfect, but liberals cannot afford to seek perfection – the imperative is to oust Bush. A series of debates between Dean and Bush is likely to produce the outcome that should have occurred in 2000, with a decisive majority of Americans realizing that Mr. Bush is totally out of his depth when discussing anything other than baseball or cocaine. During a time of economic decline and perpetual war, the voters will be provided with a clear choice between a brighter future and a continued descent into oblivion.

There is an old saying in the stock market, “Buy low and sell high”. Howard Dean is at 15% in the most recent Gallup Poll. I am now buying with the expectation of seeing my investment rise to 55% on November 4, 2004.

And if you like Howard Dean, you will LOVE Nancy Skinner.


 

More David Podvin

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