Yeah, I’ve been off this horse for awhile. All I can offer is that the political news lately has moved me from abject horror to stunned silence, and satire has become more difficult.
Still, it’s best to simply climb back on this thing before it gets put out to stud.
Speaking of studs…
Why I like Howard Dean:
“We can’t win this election if we worry so much about electability that the American people can’t tell the difference between us and the Republicans. The great unspoken political lie, which comes from stages like this, is `Elect me, and I’ll solve all your problems.´ The great unspoken truth is that the future of this country rests in your hands, not mine.”
—Howard Dean at the Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003
Governor (and Doctor) Howard Dean first came to my attention as an appealing candidate last February when he picked up Paul Wellstone’s mantle by declaring that he “represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party!”. That caught my attention, and I have watched in shock and awe as he has built up an unprecedented grassroots campaign to become, until very recently, the front runner in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Many pundits accuse Dean supporters of not fully understanding his history and his stance on important issues, of being star struck and idealistic without really knowing their candidate’s positions. That may be true of some, but I believe it misses the point.
In AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY last November, I acknowledged my distaste with the Democratic Party and declared my intention to join the Greens. I like Howard Dean because he is a fighter and he makes me proud to call myself a Democrat again. Like candidate Bill Clinton in 1992, he comes across as serious yet with a sense of humor and self-perception, he is passionate yet adaptable, affable and primed to lead, comfortable with his past and enjoying the present. At the same time, there is much about him that is the anti-Clinton. Dean eyes do not well up as he claims to “feel your pain”; he feels our anger and he wants to use that energy to fight the good fight. He is savvy and pugnacious to the point of being prickly. His principles are not a moving target; he has core values and he sticks by them. I may not agree with him on every issue (Death Penalty, Gun Control), but I can see that he believes in himself … and none of his positions, so far, appall me.
Howard Dean is the Tough Democrat who wants to bring this party back to its roots, away from pandering to single-issue undecideds, and restore the agenda that the majority of Americans support. Dr. Dean is the tonic that progressives need, a horse who runs like a winner.
Why I am starting to like Wesley Clark:
“Think about who we are. We’re the party that brought this country out of the Great Depression and brought it into the New Frontier. We brought the country out of trickle down economics and into the best economy in history. We’re the party of Roosevelt and Truman, Johnson and Carter, Kennedy and Clinton. And that’s a legacy I am proud to be part of.”
—General Wesley Clark at the DNC Fall Meeting in Washington DC October 3, 2003
When I heard that Wesley Clark had officially joined the race for Democratic nomination, I will confess that my initial reaction was guarded. I was principally worried by the reports that his candidacy was pushed by the DLC “old guard” (yes, I think we can start calling them that now) as a Clinton-in-uniform. After all, he is a Clinton appointee, he’s from Little Rock, and he’s a Rhodes scholar. The theory is that the middle-of-the-road Democrats have offered up Clark as an alternative to Dr. Dean, whom they see as too liberal to win. As someone who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, I am particularly sensitive to the concept of a “spoiler”.
But now that I’ve had a chance to watch him for awhile, I’m glad that he has joined the party. For one thing, as with Dean, he is unapologetic about his politics (“I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-affirmative action, I’m pro-environment, pro-health care, and pro-labor.” … Damn!). For another, though some will try, it will be difficult to assail his ability to be commander-in-chief. Bush was a swaggering buffoon in his Air Force jumpsuit, but Clark has earned earned the right to wear those stars.
The National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg called Clark the “Johnny Bravo” of Democratic candidates (not the way-cool Elvis channeler on Cartoon Network, but the wanna-be rockstar persona of Greg Brady), implying that supporters are energized about Clark’s campaign only because “he fit the suit“. That’s a good line actually, but only the irony-free would fail to realize that this is a more apt description of candidate Bush.
In his article “Framing the Dems“, George Lakoff argues that there are two worldviews that frame how citizens view their elected officials and that “these…can be understood as opposing models of an ideal family — a strict father family and a nurturant parent family.” In this perspective, conservatives prefer their candidates to follow the strict father archetype, one who provides for the family (tax cuts), protects the home (military strength), expects obedience (“Patriot Act“), promotes self-discipline (deregulation, abstinence), and keeps women in their place (groping them on movie sets). Sociologist Arlie Hochschild explores this phenomenon further in her article Let Them Eat War to deconstruct why Bush has such strong support among blue collar voters — or as Republican strategists call them, “NASCAR Dads” — despite the fact that this is the very class of people that is losing the most ground under Bush policies.
I have not turned in my support of Howard Dean, but I think it is a good thing that the two leading Democratic contenders are powerful and confident authority figures, for that is what the Democrats require to garner the support needed to lead this country away from the precipice and back towards the principles for which our nation needs to once again stand.
Why I am weary of Dick Gephardt:
“This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy and on the economy and he’s got to be replaced.”
— Dick Gephardt at the DNC presidential debate in New Mexico, 9/4/03
As House Democratic Leader during the Clinton Years, Senator Gephardt led the good fight against the radical conservatives who wanted to reshape the social contract between government and citizen. He was a hero, and with that rÃ©sumÃ©, should be the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. But like many of the other candidates, especially those who came from Congress, he is tainted. Not only did he vote for one of the worst and most dangerous pieces of legislation to come through the Senate —the ironically named USA PATRIOT Act — he actually fought for approval of authorization to use force in Iraq. Now he has the cahones to stand up and call `President´ Bush “a miserable failure”. I’m sorry, but the most intelligent response I can muster is … “Well, duh..!”
Gephardt’s supporters are repeating this newly coined phrase ad nauseam and his campaign has even registered the website AMiserableFailure.com. Follow this link and you’ll be led to the quote above, then the beaming face of the Senator and an exhortation to “tell your friends and family about Dick Gephardt’s winning message…”
Is this really the best he can do? Did Dick suddenly get religion and realize that there’s something wrong with this White House? Is “miserable failure” supposed to be an inspiring proclamation? (Oops, I’m sorry … “winning message“). Why not manifest malfunction? Or turgid tragedy? Here’s my favorite: Supreme (as in Court) disaster. If he would just stand up and scream “George Bush is an insane idiot!“, he could get more votes!
With great sadness, I have watched Gephardt devolve from crusader for the little guy to Republican-lite, and now he expects us to believe his outrage. Here’s another thought: we all know Dick Cheney can’t survive another campaign, so perhaps Dick Gephardt can run for Vice-President? We can just switch one Dick for another!
(Yes, yes, I know, that was a cheap shot and I should be reserving my indignation for the Bushies.)