Sunday, August 17, 2003

Random Thoughts On Attacks And Some Brave Handicapping

I get a kick out of all the DLC-types and other so-called centrists who are trying to label and typecast Howard Dean. What these folks are trying to do is judge this campaign through the lenses of conventional wisdom while conveniently ignoring the fact that the most stupendous attribute of the Dean effort is how he has flouted the conventional wisdom and rewritten the rule book. The '04 race for the Democratic nomination is quickly being recast by the innovations coming out of Burlington and these folks just don't see that...and neither does Karl Rove, last seen rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect of his boy facing ours in November. Remember that when he is circulating his resume among right-wing think tanks in January, 2005!

Take, for example, the oft-repeated prediction that Dean's opposition to unilateral action in Iraq will allow the Bushies to slam Dean as weak on defense. This ignores the fact that Bush's Iraq policy (assuming he has one!) unravels more each day as the postwar situation deteriorates and there are more revelations of the outright lies told to rally the country behind the war in the first place. Dean is no dove and said in Tucson that he understands that American military power must sometimes be used for just and proper ends. He was very clear about the circumstances under which he would have authorized military action in Iraq. Moreover, the American people also respect consistency and adherence to principle. Dean can lay claim to the mantle of integrity on this issue, as can Lieberman, whereas Kerry, Edwards and Gephardt, who voted with Lieberman to authorize unilateral action in Iraq are now trying to parse their positions.

The DLC also claims that Dean can not win in the South, conveniently forgetting that populism and advocacy for the common man are traits that Southern voters have sought in candidates for some time. Huey Long and George Wallace tapped into this vein and although many Southern populists also played the race card to a shameful degree, I think Dean has a winning strategy when he says that he will ask Southern voters to consider the economic hand the plutocratic GOP has dealt them. His positions on health care and his rational Jeffersonian position regarding the Second Amendment should make him competitive with middle and working class voters in Dixie. Some Southern states (Mississippi and South Carolina, for example) are so solidly Republican that we may not have a chance there, but I think Dean will play well in states lost by Gore, such as Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, as well as border state West Virginia. Throw in a Southern running mate like Edwards, Graham or John Breaux and that improves the odds even more.

The only thing more amusing than the carping coming from the right of our party is adolescent rants from the Left about Dean lacking true progressive credentials. Sanctimony and self-piety are the hallmarks of these criticisms, but these folks ought to remember something Ronald Reagan said when he was advising the hard right in the GOP to lay off the moderates, "Someone who agrees with you 80% of the time is your friend and ally, not some 20% traitor!" I think those to the left of Dean probably agree with him more than 80% of the time and when the lights go out in the Kucinich offices, I hope we will find them at our door!

The lefties are primarily after Dean for his environmental record and budgetary policies. There is also some criticism of his position on civil unions, which some claim he supported only after the Legislature and courts played the clear leading role. Dean wasn't Bernie Sanders and that upset them, especially after he took over from a Republican governor and largely carried out that man's fiscal plan.

A zeal for ideological purity is emblematic of those on the left and the right. Just ask Bush's dad, who was viewed so suspiciously by conservatives that they sent Pat Buchanan to bloody him and soften him up for Clinton. Zealots, however, are usually spoilers. They don't win elections...unless they run in certain Arizona legislative districts!

I leave for Las Vegas tomorrow to celebrate my pending 40th birthday with some buds, so I guess I'm in the mood to do some prognosticating about what the primaries hold. All of you can remember these bold predictions later if I'm wrong, but try to do so if I'm correct, too. OK?

My hunch is that this race is going to boil down to a contest between Dean and Dick Gephardt. Dean is corralling the support of progressives and college-educated Democrats and Gephardt is courting union and other blue-collar voters. Both can lay claim to supporters in all segments of the party, but that's the basic breakdown. A big question is which one will begin to get the corner on support from African-Americans and Hispanics, whose votes are fairly segmented right now.

These guys should finish 1-2 in Iowa and probably pretty close to each other. Dean should beat Gephardt in New Hampshire and I would guess Kerry might even outpace Gephardt there, although Kerry's stock is sinking every day. Similarly, where is the opening for Lieberman in the early primaries? I can't see him winning anywhere, except maybe South Carolina, and that's only if Edwards drops out due to a lack of money, buzz and the need to save his Senate seat for the Democrats.

Arizona is key! Grijalva's decision to back Dean comes with all the grass roots power his organization brought to bear on his race, Elias's supervisorial campaign and Adelita Grijalva's victory in the TUSD school board race. Ed Pastor is backing Gephardt and the unions will also work hard for Gephardt in this state, where union assistance still means a great deal, especially considering our historically low voter turnout rates. This is when "people-powered Howard" needs to bring to the polls all of those new voters and everyone else in our coalition.

Dean is right when he says this campaign is first a battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. I honestly see Gephardt as the standardbearer for the old vision of the party, which is why I think he and Dean will be duking it out at the end. Lieberman is not catching fire, nor is Edwards, and Kerry, once regarded as the frontrunner, comes off as canned, passionless and easy fodder for the Bush machine. The others are second and third tier candidates at best, which sounds harsh, and I leaven that severity by pointing out that each of them represents segments of the party that the eventual victor will need to bring to his side.

To sum up, Dean is the best choice to unite this factionalized party and take it to victory in November. He would toast Bush in a debate and he shows the ability to raise money, although any Democrat will be outspent by Bush and his corporate cronies. Dean's issues and his unique tactics can re-energize this party, bring in new voters and perhaps generate coattails that may lead to a Democratic takeover of the Senate and a closer margin in the House, which will likely stay Republican. As he endures attacks from both the left and the right, consider these barbs a blessing, not a curse. People who are difficult to categorize are often best equipped to be healers...and we need a healer!


At 6:02 AM, Anonymous Health Blog said...

This is when "people-powered Howard" needs to bring to the polls
all of those new voters and everyone else in our coalition.


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