Saturday, June 11

I Asked Poor Howard Where Can I Go

Our friends Hokie and Pepper have good takes on Howard Dean.

When I was thinking about starting a blog--I gave it all of thirty minutes; in retrospect it should have been at least forty-five--I figured I'd write mostly about politics, and the hook would be "Here's a red-state Democrat who understands more than you do about red-state voters." It's a conceit, certainly. I come from a long line of Lincoln Republicans, and I've seen how their attitudes changed over the last twenty-five years. I was getting hate mail from über-patriotic religious zealots before a lot of you were born. I know how a lot of my friends and neighbors think, but I'm as clueless as anybody about why.

But I'm pretty sure about one thing, and that's that Democrats aren't going to win over many Republican voters by pretending to be moderate Republicans. It won't fly, and it shouldn't. It's contrived. And outside of the Republican hardcore, where it won't work anyway, it's totally unnecessary. The moveable center is not going to get a case of the vapors because Howard Dean says Republicans represent White Christian monied interests. They know it's so. They know that racism is a real problem in this country. They are well aware that the voices of religious extremism run counter to most people's understanding of Christianity and threaten the secular foundation of our freedoms. They know that the playing field is unbalanced, economically, socially, and in the public debate. The one thing which stands a chance of changing people's minds is...the willingness to try to change people's minds. The Democrats need someone who sounds like he's speaking from the heart, not the latest polls. Republican candidates get to confuse the two because their base has been celebrating public disingenuousness since Nixon. The best response is not to try to split the difference; the best response is to bring our issues forward, boldly, bluntly, and honestly.

I worked for Gene McCarthy in '68, before I was old enough to vote. I consider my self a McGovern Democrat, as opposed to a McGovernite, which is a different thing. George McGovern was the first ballot I cast, and still, I think, the best and most qualified man I ever voted for. I became highly disillusioned with the way the party treated Jimmy Carter and the way it allowed the Republicans and the media to treat him. I was disgusted by how it fled in panic from Ronald Reagan. I'm an anti-Reagan Democrat now, a Democrat by default, not that I feel there's no value in being a party member. The way to Goshen is through articulating the American values which Democrats share, which the moneyed interests of the Republican party have tossed in the ashcan. Those values are not dead in every red-state voter. I don't know if Howard Dean is the man to articulate them, but we can't continue to tremble any time it happens.


Ray Bridges said...

Now I remember why I linked to you. You're the voice in the wilderness.

I've never voted for anyone but Democrats, and I don't consider myself one at all. I just think Republicans as we know them today are about as evil a cabal ever to exist.

I don't fault my friends and relatives for not wanting to vote for a Democrat, I just despise them for not holding their leaders to higher standards than what they do.

Maybe we should take over one of the political parties. It might be easier than starting a new one. I'm going to have to be a follower though. The entire situation depresses me too much for me to try to lead. You want to be in charge?

What do you think about Edwards?

Hokie said...

I said in an earlier post, on John Cole's immediate reaction to Dean's comment, that I consider myself a Democrat, and a rather partisan one, because of how much the Republicans suck. I've been driven to partisanship, though, especially on the national level, I'd almost certainly vote Democrat anyway since my view of what government should do squares with that more than the old school Repubs...but as it is, I refuse to even consider voting for Republicans on an individual basis because it would help support their leadership.

And being Republican lite clearly isn't going to work, because, well, they've got the Republicans for that, and for every moderate like John who's looking for an excuse to leave the party, you've got five who are willing to put up with the religious right so long as they get tax cuts and macho talk.

And I agree. I think what swing voters are probably looking for is something different, someone who seems to be saying what he really means and is coming at them truthfully. That's half of the manufactured reasons for adoring John McCain, after all.

So it's an issue of letting Dean know that we support him, we support his anger, but it should be focused. I WANT him going out there and messing things up, and I want him to not give a damn what any pundit has to say. If he can do it in a way that doesn't let Harold Ford (who really should just be done with it and switch parties) go up there and have a Sister Souljah moment as he pimps himself for the presidency.

BTW, I have a newfound love for John Edwards after how he handled it, because his reaction is perfect. "We should use different words, but by god, nothing Howard's said is wrong. We're all on the same page. So screw you if you say there's some sort of schism."

This is ideal, because whomever is our candidate,they're not stuck with Dean's words, but the message has been seared onto people's minds.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

Though I've been a democrat my whole life, I have a complete disconnect from some of the members of the party because of stuff like this. It's like they want the party to fail even more miserably. Can we really lose anymore power? Is Dean really that much of a threat when we are so in the minority as to be inconsequential? It makes me mad that dems care more about what other dems say than the lies the repubs say every single day. Talk about screwed up priorities. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

YEAH! I know, I know, comments should be for debate instead of perfectly harmonious agreement ... but regarding your post and everyone who came before me, I am indeed in perfectly harmonious agreement.

I spent a long time during the run-up to the presidential elections studying the candidates - and so many of them were just too darn eager to please. They were like salivating dogs - especially Gephardt - and I went for Dean lickety-split.

That said, I don't think Dean will ever be president. But he is right where he needs to be - saying everything that needs to be said and shining a spotlight on all of the Democrat frauds out there. (That Harold Ford comment cracked me up, Hokie.) If Dean can be the muscle, then Edwards can do the smooth-talkin'.

Plus, given my obsession with social class and how many people try to deny the existence of class struggle in the USA, I heart Edwards because he was one of the few front-runners last election to mention the subject.

Hokie said...

I hate Harold Ford. Sooo much dislike...

I personally think the tack the Dems need to take is along that line, pepper. Not the faux-economic populism Gore tried to pull off during his candidacy, but rather something focused around opportunity. That's our party's hook, our short little catch. We're for positions that expand people's, everyone's, opportunity. We're for affirmative action because it's necessary to create opportunities for groups that have been systematically excluded. We're for social insurance because it helps create opportunities for people who were born into poverty or whom have had a setback, such as being laid off. We're for affordable health care, that the government helps pay for in case of need, for a similar reason. We're for programs that enhance the ability of anyone, not just the wealthy, to get an education without going through massive amounts of debt from a young age. We should have a foreign policy that emphasizes that it's not just Americans, but all people whom should have this opportunity, etc, etc.

I figure maybe this will piss off some in our big ol' tent, but forget 'em. We're the party of opportunity for everyone, of the possibility of the American Dream. The Republicans are the party that only wants opportunity for themselves, that uses the American Dream solely as a way to villify those that aren't rich. That's the fundamental difference. And I believe that's where we need to go. Kick it back to JFK.

Cathie said...

Piss off some in our big ol' tent? How about just getting rid of them? We need to clear out the dinosaurs in the party and elect people like Dean to take their places. The disconnect kept me disillusioned for so long, but Dean brought me back. It was as if he said, "you count."

I hope Dean inspires people to run for office. We could use more people like him. I'm not sure when truth became such an evil concept, but I support it.