Friday :: Feb 20, 2004

Full Mental Jacket

by pessimist

Howard Dean - "We have demonstrated to other Democrats it is a far better strategy to stand up to the right-wing agenda of George W. Bush than it is to cooperate with it."

In 1968, a sniper's bullet ended Robert Kennedy's anti-establishment candidacy. In 2004, the methods used were more subtle, but just as effective.

Ted Rall said it best - "At least they didn't shoot Howard Dean."

Naeem Mohaiemen - "Howard Dean was assassinated in broad daylight. Unlike Kennedy's "grassy knoll," Dean's killers are not hiding -- it was the Democratic Party itself, and more specifically the DLC, that successfully went after, and sabotaged his candidacy."

Cheri DelBrocco - "Governor Dean got a raw deal from his fellow Democrats; but they can be excused. They were running for office."

Usually, when an American political figure speaks truth to power, he ends up conveniently dead. RFK, Malcolm X, some say Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone: all martyrs to the quaint ideal of telling it as it is as loudly as possible. Like them, Dean scared the establishment. His aggressive style roused youngsters whom aging Boomers prefer to see somnolent. His populist Internet-based fundraising freed him from the corporate donors whose influence keeps the citizens of the world's richest nation living under a Third World system of social protections. Al Gore's endorsement transformed a candidate who came out of nowhere (Vermont) into a genuine threat to the southern conservatives who have hijacked the Democratic Party since 1992. Dean was a pro-business moderate, yet he stood poised to radically transform both his party and the American political system.

From day one, he positioned himself as a reformer of the Democratic party -- the man who would bring the party back to its liberal roots. Dean hit headlines by being the anti-war candidate. But even within that position, most of his criticism was of his Democratic cohorts, for cravenly accepting the Iraq war. Dean took pleasure in flaying candidates like Kerry for voting in support of the war resolution. The party took notice when Dean got up on stage and announced, "I'm Howard Dean, and I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party!"

Of course he had to go.

Part of the Dean story, and threat to the party establishment, was his style and appeal. Another core part of Dean's appeal was his overwhelming support among young people. In 2000, one of the lowest voter turnouts was among young people. If you were under 24, you tuned out and stayed home in November. By contrast, the bulk of Howard Dean's support was among the youth of America. Energized by a strategy focused on Internet campaigning, "Generation Dean" or "Dean 2.0" spread across college campuses and gave a youthful aura to the man from Vermont. Howard Dean emerged within this specific context.

Howard Dean stood up for the most basic of Democratic ideals at a time when his fellow contestants felt compelled to cater to the neo-evildoers in Washington. Just as Truman pursued a moral, dignified and intelligent way for our country, Dean recognized the destructiveness of fewer jobs, the shortsightedness of environmental degradation, the incongruity of war to achieve peace, the lack of vision and practicality in simultaneously proposing a mission to Mars with $500 billion deficits and the hypocrisy of the unfunded No Child Left Behind Act.

Howard Dean has often been labeled the "prophet of rage." It's certainly true that he was an angry man -- angry at Bush, the war, the budget deficit, the mushrooming unemployment cloud, at all things that had gone badly wrong in three short years. This anger hit a chord with the popular imagination; dissatisfaction with Bush was high and Dean was the perfect protest candidate. Dean successfully channeled the anger of millions who felt apathetic and disenfranchised. He awoke voters and gave voice to the legions who intuitively questioned the policies of the present administration. He introduced serious dialogue to an administration whose every effort has been to deceive, distract and manipulate the masses. By talking about the misguided war in Iraq, the shameful lack of jobs, the destructive obese deficits, and the massive increase of our $7 trillion national debt, he caused America to question whether George W. Bush is the right man for the job.

Of course, the pundits claim Dean's "rage" undid him, that voters took a "second look," etc. etc. Nonsense really. The answer is much simpler. The DLC did not take kindly to this direct challenge. "Democrats are still so angry about Al Gore's loss in 2000 and the Iraq war that they simply will not stand for intramural squabbling," the New York Times quoted McAuliffe on February 17. "I'd much rather have a unified party with money in the bank." (He was singing a different tune in December.)

Remember the 1980s, when the Democratic Party found itself facing unassailable Ronald Reagan, "It's morning in America" slogans and an era of go-go optimism? In three successive elections, the Democrats were felled by the memory of Jimmy Carter. Dems were seen as soft on the Soviets, mullahs, crime and welfare mothers. Although Carter's gentle ways secured the historic Camp David Egypt-Israel accord, most Americans remembered the Iranian hostages, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the infamous "malaise" speech.

In 1988, Dukakis went down to Bush I because Republicans successfully painted him with the "L" word -- "too liberal". Faced with a 12-year losing streak, a new generation of party activists took control of the party. Led by Bill Clinton and others, they formed the DLC -- a powerful group with the explicit intention of moving the Democrats away from the left to the center, from where they would beat the Republicans. Bill Clinton was the DLC's first candidate, and his eight-year run solidified its hold on the party. Clinton's Commerce Secretary Ron Brown was another DLC heavyweight, and until he was killed in a plane crash, instrumental in moving the party away from "liberal" positions.

Nothing succeeds like success. Buoyed by Clinton's popularity, a balanced budget and an era of prosperity, the DLC became the standard-bearer for the Democrats' political identity. That is until 2000, when the DLC's next king-apparent, Al Gore, took a stumble in the Florida panhandle and was then hog-tied by the Supreme Court. When the dust had settled and King George was safely inside the palace, a recount revealed that Gore had actually won, but the damage was done. The DLC's critics now came out of hiding -- attacking the party for being too centrist, too cautious and too much like "Republican-lite." If you try to ape the right-wing of the nation, voters may decide to go for the "real thing"!

Dean emerged as the early favorite, but anyone could see that his own party leadership had it in for him, going so far as to promote General Wesley Clark as the "anti-Dean." One indignity followed another--all because, God forbid, the guy got a tad rambunctious. The press dealt the coup de grace after Iowa. "Is Dean Too Angry?" headlines spread across the nation. That left Kerry, the official DLC candidate, as the most viable alternative. Dean has the second largest number of delegates, yet the media refers to Edwards as Kerry's principal challenger. Democratic primary voters, however, have no way to know what brand of Democrat appeals to a swing voter. Most Democrats, determined to get rid of Bush, simply supported the contender who seemed most likely to win the nomination.

Before Howard Dean, Democrats were sounding like “Me too, I agree with Bush” Joe Liebermans. But when he came out swinging with his “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party”, record crowds showed up, money poured in from the common man and everyone involved began to run scared - the Republicans, the Democrats and the national media.

The Democratic Party owed Governor Dean much more than their participation in the mass media mischaracterization of his message, manner and tone. Dean did not possess the charisma and persuasiveness of Bill Clinton, but he did have the matter of fact, common sense, common man intelligence of Harry Truman - just the style, manner and personality to expose the bogus and disastrous policies of George W. Bush.

DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe, who refused to run interference for Dean when he was leading the pack, stepped into the fray to protect Kerry. McAuliffe has a simple explanation for Kerry's string of victories. "Voters said, 'We want someone who is electable,'" he said. Judging by Kerry's unwillingness to go for the jugular on Bush's AWOL year and his waffling on gay marriage, Dean would probably have been the more electable Democrat come this fall. I suspect that his integrity and intelligence would have made him a finer president.

In 1999, after speaking to a youth group interested in politics, President Clinton opined, “I couldn’t tell them the truth, that the media runs the government.”

This is where Dean lost a crucial ally -- the mainstream media also joined in on the anti-Dean feeding frenzy. In his early days, he had flayed big media for caving in to George Bush on Iraq, and media giants never forgave him for this. In the same week, Time and Newsweek ran "Who is the Real Howard Dean?" stories. One cover showed a face covered in dark shadows, another showed an incomplete jigsaw puzzle! Semioticians take note -- bad guys in westerns always have their faces obscured in shadows!

The same journalists who issued get-out-of-scrutiny passes to George W. Bush for everything from electoral fraud to assassinating U.S. citizens he declares "enemy combatants" to lying about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction nailed Dean for, of all things, "screaming" into a microphone the night he lost the Iowa caucuses. (For the record, those in the audience say, they could barely hear him over the din of the crowd.) The Hotline political newsletter reported that national TV news programs aired Dean's "I Have a Scream" speech 633 times within four days--and that's not counting local news or talk shows. Even Roger Ailes, the right-wing svengali pulling the strings at Fox News, conceded that it was "overplayed a bit." According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, only 39 percent of Dean's coverage was positive during the following week, compared to 86 percent for John Edwards and 71 percent for current frontrunner John Kerry.

Rather than giving fair treatment and attention to the message, they attacked the dignity and personality of the man. They were determined to frame Dean as one without substance despite his many personal, professional and political accomplishments. That is why we heard about Dean’s “woodchuck” smile rather than his balanced budgets and successful healthcare policies in Vermont. That is why we got “the Judy dilemma” rather than the story of his successful 20+ years of marriage. That is why we got the “Dean scream” rather than his impressive practice as a family physician.

The television pundits are proud of their culinary work. They boiled, broiled, fried, and basted until they completed the job. Put a fork in him. Howard Dean is done. - Cheri DelBrocco

The crucial dynamic in America today is that big companies, political parties and media are powerful businesses -- and they will do anything to crush new threats. The DLC reacted with fury to the Dean candidacy, going all out to torpedo his momentum. Although Democratic nominees soon piled on the "bash-Dean" bandwagon, earlier attacks were carried out by DLC operatives. There was even the smell of scandal when two top Democratic candidates were found sharing information about Dean in an attempt to slow him down.

America is riven by a strange schizophrenia. It is an entrepreneurial nation that prizes individuality and celebrates non-conformists. Especially in the area of business, mavericks like Ted Turner and George Soros have been able to define their own space. But in the area of politics, the establishment guards the doors zealously -- outsiders have no chance. In 1976 an unknown peanut farmer from Georgia came out of nowhere to capture the White House. Jimmy Carter was the anti-Nixon, his mantra was, "Trust me, I will never lie to you!" But insurgency candidates like Carter don't appear too often. People like Bernie Sanders have to run on Socialist tickets. Other voters are deserting the Democrats for the Green Party and Working Families Party, scoring small, incremental victories in local council elections across the nation.

In the end, Dean threatened a troika of powerful institutions. He was a threat to the political parties (because he attacked Democrats' centrist drift), to media (because he criticized their cowardly reporting) and to big business (because he would roll back chummy tax-benefits for corporations). All three institutions responded with venom and destroyed Dean's candidacy.

Perhaps President Clinton should’ve warned us that the war room mantra for 2004 has been changed to “It’s the Media, stupid.”

Source Links
The Assassination of Howard Dean

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pessimist :: 7:05 AM :: Comments (21) :: Digg It!