Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Howard Dean got an old-fashioned ass-whuppin' from Democratic Party regulars (that is, the common folk, yellow dogs, etc) in Iowa, & I am proud of them, because they did something I hadn't expected: they spoke for me. Their message was simple: "Not here, not yet, Howie."

I am not a party regular, meaning I'm not active at the ward level. But since I vote Democrat nearly all the time (sometimes for dissident factions in local primaries), I resent the primary process being pirated by two small states that do not represent the broad demographics of the Party. It was a well-intentioned reform but... Just as with the G.O.P., Democrats have to deal with various "button issue" groups representing constituencies & agendas that are aligned with the Party but not actually a part of it. Republicans have a religious Far right. Democrats have a secular left wing. It is a fact that neither the right nor the left by itself has the slightest idea of how to successfully elect a Presidential candidate by gaining an Electoral Majority out of Fifty States.

Only two Democrats have been elected President since 1968, & both candidates unseated incumbents who were not depised by Americans. Those two candidates, Carter & Clinton, had a lot in common. Both had a sense of border state populism, where you can wrap yourself in the Stars & Stripes & still advocate progressive ideas; both could talk liberal enough when up north & reasonably moderate elsewhere; & both could express belief in God without jiving. Stray too far from that formula & you get Michael Dukakis, a good guy sucker-punched by Bush Sr.

I'm not an Al Gore fan; not anymore. Here's a hail fellow who found ways to insult both Clinton & Lieberman. We tend to forget that had Al humbly asked Bill to make a few targeted trips to Florida during the final weeks in 2000, that absurd peninsula probably would have gone Democrat without much dispute. As for Bill Bradley, I was proud to have him as my Senator, but off the basketball court he's always been a banker's son & an egghead who couldn't even fake a regular guy personna. But that's the sort of Senator we nearly always elect from Jersey. So their endorsements of Dean were techno-geeky rather than truly felt. [It's our governors - Dick, Tom, Christie, Jim - who enter office on a first name basis.] Dean needs to ask Dollar Bill why $100 internet donations - as much as I support the concept - do not constitute reliable political "base."

What's struck me about the Dean campaign up to now is its unreality, as if it existed mainly in cyberspace where an equally cyber-creation, MoveOn, got to insinuate a big endorsement, plan the strategy, create the ads, send out barrages of e mails almost daily, hold the election & count the votes. One Howard Dean existed there, strangely fascinating some of my most leftist friends & acquaintances like a hypnotist swinging a pocket watch, while a corporeal manifestation of the man was running around Iowa & apparently bellowing at people too much. Iowa wasn't about who spent the most money - in that sense, it worked out pretty good.

Welcome to The Game, Governor Dean.

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