Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Still Standing

Momentum is for falling rocks, not for selecting the most powerful man in the world. Momentum in a social context is generally a reserved for describing unreasoning mass events such as stampedes, mass-hysteria, and pro football. John Edwards spoke today in his address to supporters about his momentum 'captivating' America. Yes, momentum robs us of will and reason and holds us captive to the power of the crowd. It allows us to shed responsibility for our own decisions and merge ourselves comfortably in the embrace of the pre-frontal impulses of our neighbors.

Dean built his support one person at a time. Slowly and patiently a network of ideas by which Americans could take back their nation crystallized around Dean like a gem around a seed. Building the conceptual tools by which to reach people's hearts and minds to galvanize them for the task rebuilding their party, and taking back their government. But such networks are inherently fragile in the face of people's herd instincts. Difficult to maintain in the face of panic and fear. Dean's opponents have skillfully used Democrat's fear that Bush could win another four years to break the coalitions Dean has built.

And that's all it is - unreasoning fear. Bush is weak. He's under assault by GOP moderates as well as the fiscal conservatives and limited government people in his own party. His re-elect numbers are in the toilet. The economy has indigestion from trying to swallow the billions in corporate welfare and defense-related spending Bush has primed the pumps with, and produces profits for corporate stakeholders, but scant jobs. The war in Iraq rolls on, demonstrating daily that we are not in control as the death toll climbs.

But the momentum from Iowa and the media's obsession about trifles continues to play out. The Dean Team in NH have clawed back from a possible 4th or 5th place showing with skill and judgement, yet the media considers it an underperformance because we led in the polls prior to Iowa. It is, in fact, one of the most skillful comebacks in modern political history, and a testament to the good sense of the independent minded inhabitants of NH.

That Dean was able to pull back into second place, netting nearly as many votes as Edwards and Clark combined, speaks to his enormous personal appeal, and rock solid sense of himself. Yet the some are saying that Dean must now leave the race. What poppycock. Dean is only beginning to rebuild his network, stronger and more tightly now, to contain the surges of momentum and deflect the long knives of the media. The further we move away from the epicenter of the 'Mo, Iowa, and the intended killing stroke of the media, the rebel yell, the stronger Dean becomes. From 3rd in Iowa, to 2nd in NH, Dean is putting it back together voter by voter.

Dean's message will carry on, even if he does not; but as platitudes and slogans in the mouths of the other candidates. They may now be saying what Howard Dean has been saying all along, but they aren't big enough to embody the truth of those words. They may say "Take back America," they may taunt Bush with attacks and slogans, they may pretend to be against the war, they may ape Dean's positions and pretend that their campaigns are about returning the power to the people, but it will wear thin. In the days and weeks ahead, the excitement and the hysteria, generated by the flush of victory will subside. People will take a look at the men whom they are supporting and see ambition, hubris, and the toll of year and years of compromise. People will look at the issues, and see the empty and unrealistic promises. People will watch Dean and ask themselves why they follow a hollow imitation, rather than joining arm in arm the real McCoy.

Dean has give the party a spine to stand up to Bush and the courage to stand proudly for Democratic values; a soul on the issue of fundraising, to live and die by the personal support of the people, not crumbs falling off the table shared between the GOP and corporate America; and a structure by which America will be ruled, Trippi's web of webs, not the ivory and steel towers of the old corporate model, now passing into history.

Dean has never been about Bush bashing, or hating the GOP. But the other campaigns haven't yet learned this. Even as Kerry adopts a taunting "Bring it on!" as his unofficial slogan, it has the brittle sound of braggadocio in supporters mouths. The Dean campaign in my experience has always about standing up for ourselves, not cutting others down. It has always been about not being ashamed of who you are, not shaming others about who they are. It has always been about caring for this country as you would a part of yourself, and caring about others as if they were members of your own family. We've welcomed every person who comes with good faith. The Dean campaign is about love. Of country. Of self. Of your countrymen. Of our unbounded future. And, yes, you get angry when someone tries to destroy the things you love.

Are Deaniacs protective of their candidate? You bet. He's ours, and you protect what is yours. Are Deaniacs convinced that Dean is the only one with the courage to stop Bush and his cronies? You bet. We've seen the evidence in the spineless collapse of people like Kerry, Edwards, and Lieberman, when the chips were down, and the self-interested collaboration of men like Clark. Are Deaniacs unreasonably devoted to Dean? Do we worship him like a cult? No. Dean is fallible and could fall out of favor if he were to do something that showed truly poor judgement or a lack of commitment to our cause. Whooping like an idiot is neither. Just human. And being human is something we've wanted of our leaders for a very long time.

So I just want to remind those reading, Dean supporters or otherwise, the most important thing is that we win. The people. Not the party. The most important thing is that we get the truth from our government, access to our government, and voice in our government. So for me, the most likely candidate to deliver when elected, is the who is delivering while he's running.

We will continue and will not stop until the convention. Dean will get stronger as he bounces off this rough spot and as the field narrows to two or three candidates. Dean has the money and organization to keep running even without winning, but there will be victories, and America will come to see Dean's stature and ability. America will see what all of us have seen: that Howard Dean is the President America needs.


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