Sunday, February 13, 2005

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream . . . 

We are quite happy with new DNC chair Howard Dean, elected by acclamation yesterday, even though some of our friends on the left regard him as a "national joke" (seen this, guys?) and both of our friends on the right have warned us that he is a wild-eyed, radical-lefty lunatic who will further alienate moderate voters -- a scenario that, if it came to pass, would sadden them deeply, they tell us, in the same soothing cadences of heartfelt sincerity the President likes to use when when he talks to the rubes about Jesus or Social Security privatization.

"Radical-lefty lunatic," as you know, is simple demon-talk; it translates as "opposed the war in Iraq," an opinion that seems perhaps less wild-eyed now than a year ago, when it still took a modicum of courage for a public figure to express it. (We take it as a badge of sanity.) It's true that Mr. Dean brought affordable public healthcare to Vermont, but otherwise, there's nothing especially liberal about his politics. And we are at a loss to understand how he is to go about alienating moderate voters; unless we were hallucinating throughout most of 2003 and 2004 (and oh how we wish, for your sake and ours, that we could wake up to realize it was all an ugly dream), Dean was one of the only Democrats who advocated taking the party's message to those great undifferentiated red-state masses. That, according to Tim Grieve of Salon's War Room, is still part of the plan:
[I]t's hard to find a DNC member who will admit to being anything but overjoyed about the party's new chairman. Even party insiders who tried to sink Dean's campaign have come out for him in the last few days, praising his grassroots politics and vowing their enthusiastic support . . . .

Dean said that Democrats can't make progress in more conservative states until they start talking to voters one-on-one. "It is going to take a lot of work, and I'm going to be asking for a lot from all of you," Dean told Democrats in his acceptance speech. "We can't run 18-state presidential campaigns and expect to win. We have a strategy for every state and territory, and it's very simple: Show up. People will vote for Democrats in Texas and Utah and West Virginia if we knock on their doors, introduce ourselves, and tell them what we believe. That's what organization allows us to do."

When Democrats start those conversations, Dean said, they'll begin the work of framing the political debate on their own terms. "We frame the issues," Dean said. "The Republicans will not tell America what the Democratic agenda is. We will do that."
Dean had more to say in the Chicago Sun-Times:
The former Vermont governor promised to learn how Democrats can communicate positions more effectively.

Dean said that no one is "pro-abortion," but "we are the party in favor of allowing women to make up their own minds about their health care."

And Democrats are not for "gay marriage," but "we are the party that has always believed in equal rights under the law for all people," he said.

Dean is determined to seize the moral high ground from Republicans, arguing Democratic positions on helping the poor and protecting children are consistent with religious values.
We still believe a Democratic candidate who was able to articulate a clear position on any issue could easily have won a few hundred thousand extra votes in Florida or Ohio -- enough to take the White House. (If exit polls are any guide, even John Kerry did it.) The GOP controls both houses of Congress, for the time being, and they own the media. But while you're pissing and moaning about the prospect of decades-long right-wing hegemony, don't forget: their poster boy, less than a month after his inauguration, has a 50% disapproval rating -- and he's about to fuck with Social Security. Opportunity knocks.

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