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.