8.05.2003


politicsMissing Dean's point

Sam Singer over at Protocols has culled a soundbite from Howard Dean via CNN and taken exception with the Democratic candidate for essentially rephrasing the critiques of his critics, thus reinforcing his general unelectability. The soundbite in question reads as follows:

"Rejecting criticism from some of his Democratic brethren that he is too liberal to be elected president, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean says that the real problem is that "the Republican Party and even my own party has simply moved too far to the right."

Singer rebuts Governor Dean: "'But... but... but....isn't that the same thing,' we confusedly ask? Dr. Dean, isn't the criticism levelled against you that you are far left of the pack, and thus stand no chance to win in 2004? How, exactly, does this answer the charge?" But alas, Senor Singer misses Dean's point.

Indeed, Singer reflects a larger political assumption that is fundamentally wrong, that a true liberal espousing anti-war policies and a serious re-evaluation of Bush's tax cuts can't sell such policies to the American electorate. Thus Singer can't help but miss Dean's message. What Dean is arguing isn't that he's left of the pack and therefore unelectable, because Dean doesn't believe that running left of the current pack is a losing bet. Hence Dean argues that the Democratic Party is actually damaging itself by running to the center and pretending that arguing for true liberal alternatives is a disaster waiting to happen, and in that it's actually hard to argue against Dean. The Democrats have been moderating themselves and avoiding fights on foreign policy or national security for a couple years now. How've they done?

What I find even more interesting is the ongoing argument that Dean is a full-blown left-winger. In fact, he espouses liberal policies but has gone on record as saying he's closer to AIPAC's positions than Americans for Peace Now when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He's bucked his own party in Vermont on fiscal policies taking a more moderate tone when it is appropriate to the economic climate, but because he's criticized Bush on the war and questioned the current president's honesty (hardly a difficult argument) and signed a law allowing for gay civil unions in Vermont he's branded a McGovern leftist who can't win with a right-leaning American population.

So again I ask, why aren't Democrats having the argument and convincing some of that population that the Bush administration has run amok? Dean is. Even Lieberman's campaign is citing Dean's "standing firm on the issues" in a recent release from its website. Lieberman may actually be the least liberal candidate in the Democratic field. What does that tell you? It tells me a great deal.