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Dean’s Worst Light

The self-styled progressive site CounterPunch has a scathing article about Howard Dean’s record as governor of Vermont. It claims he is a “Clintonesque Republicrat whose stances are not far from that of the current administration.” Oh no! not Clintonesque!

I hadn’t followed Dean when he was governor, so much of this was news to me. But most of the positions that the authors find outrageous are either mainstream or compromises (e.g., after getting 99% of the state covered with health insurance, the state then increased co-pays and cut back some benefits). You know what: Good! I am personally to the left of Dean on almost all issues. I would de-militarize the “war on drugs” and would legalize marijuana. I’d look at socializing the pharmaceutical industry. I hated the Tough Love Welfare Reform Act. In general, Carol Moseley Braun better represents my political views. (Probably not this Braun, however.)

But I also think that it is laughably short-sighted to say that there’s no real difference between W and Dean. Sure, the Himalayas are no higher than the bump on the skin of an orange, but only if you’re living on Mars. On earth, the differences are enormous and if you’re too morally pure to see that, then the damage that W’s second term would do to the environment, to the poor, to the powerless, to the different…all that now is on your head.

For me, the most telling moment — and the funniest — in the article comes when the authors each state whether they’d vote for Dean against Bush, and Ron Jacobs writes:

I have never voted for a presidential candidate. Indeed, the last one I even wanted to see in the White House was George McGovern, but my 18th birthday came after the 1972 election. The only candidate I have consistently supported for the presidency is the candidate managed in his first several campaigns by Wavy Gravy: NOBODY. Why? Because I honestly believe NOBODY really cares about the poor and the young, especially when they don’t vote…

Poor Ron Jacobs! He’s too right to ever vote.

Politics is about compromising enough to be able to share the planet with people you disagree with. The inability to compromise is as dangerous as having no moral ambiguity. Scary.

Similarly, if you tell me that Howard Dean has compromised and taken mainstream positions, my response is: Thank God!

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16 Responses to “Dean’s Worst Light”

  1. I agree with most of what you are saying here David, but I have some concerns. I will vote Democrat in 2004 in order to unseat Bush and his posse so that’s not an issue for me. My vote will probably represent a compromise, and a vote against some uncompromising person on the left – say a Green, or a splinter Democrat who could split the vote and help the Bush team to another four years.

    But consider the death penalty. I’m against it. This issue and others have me lining up for Kucinich right now. An impractical choice? Perhaps. But since Dennis Kucinich seems to reflect my views more adequately than Howard Dean, I think I’ll vote for him in February – unless perhaps Howard Dean sees the Progressive wing of the Democratic party that Dennis Kucinich now holds as an asset worth acquiring through compromise.

    Besides, I like the idea of a vegan in the White House and I’ll bet the idea appeals to you just a little. Doesn’t it?

  2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

    In response to my earlier post giving my reasons for supporting Dean, our friend Bonnie said: At this time, I think all the progressive viewpoints still need a chance to be heard and put forth visions and plans. Bonnie’s from

  3. Sure, the idea of vegetarian state dinners appeals to me. Much of what Kucinich says appeals to me; I’m closer to him on the issues than I am to Dean. But I actually think Kucinich would make a totally lousy president, even if he could win (which he can’t). I don’t think he could work with Congress. I don’t think he could gain the respect of the people who voted against him. He’s too much of an ideologue for my taste.

    As for the death penalty: Dean was against it until 9/11 when he realized that there were some crimes for which he’d consider it justified. He’s talking about exceptions, not supporting the current system. I personally am against capital punishment, but my main objection is that it can’t be applied fairly as general rule. There are instances where fairness of application is not an issue (e.g., Adolph Eichmann), and although I’d rather the gov’t not kill anyone as a punishment, I can live (so to speak) with Dean’s point of view on this.

  4. My father-in-law and I discuss politics often. He describes himself as a ‘Yellow Dog Democrat’. I said, “You mean a Blue Dog Democrat…”

    He said, “No, I mean ‘Yellow Dog’. If the Democratics nominated a yellow dog, I’d vote for it.”

    Considering what Bush & Co. has done to America, I do believe my father-in-law is right. The biggest danger to the Democratic Party is The Democratic Party. The sooner we link arms behind a single candidate and stop the internecine fighting, the sooner we can oust Bush.

    It’s the Presidency that mattters, not the platfrom.

  5. What a great definition of politics. Kewl.

  6. These days I’m a yellow dog Democrat too. And if Howard Dean wants to be the Democrat I vote for in November 2004, I think he will need to open out to the progressive constituency in the primaries. Otherwise we, the party’s left-wing, will all be voting for Kucinich while the race will be won by Kerry. Just my opinion, I could be Dennis Miller.

  7. Frank’s right.

  8. If you’re really out on the progressing wing, politics is not the most important field of action. The mistake is to be so purist about it that you won’t vote strategically to help keep the worst possible outcome from happening. There is a certain range of things that can be accomplished in politics, and good centrist polititians are your best bet for that, or at least not making things worse. On the vangard issues, you have to be working out ahead of politics, educating and raising issues so they have a chance of becoming mainstream down the road.

  9. It’s better to have a good candidate and win than to the have the best candidate and lose.

    Winning matters.

  10. It’s interesting that you failed to see the humor in my comments regarding my preference for NOBODY. In addition, you failed to mention that I stated I would probably vote for Dean if it was him against Bush, if only because I consider it essential that Rumsfeld and Ashcroft become unemployed. The essential argument of our piece is that Dean is not what he appears to be. So, Voter beware!

    One more thing on voting–I vote for congresspeople and senators (and loscal officials) all the time–it’s just that the men who run for president are usually varying degrees of reprehensible and usually liars!

  11. Ron, why do you state with pride that you’ve never voted for a president? Don’t you and I agree that we would have been better off with Carter rather than Reagan, with Mondale rather than Reagan, with Dukakis rather than Bush1, with Gore rather than Bush2? I honestly don’t understand your reasoning or your attitude.

  12. As to why I never voted for a president–Actually, the closest I got was in 1980 when Reagan beat carter. I was standing in line to vote out in California when it was announced that Carter had conceded. My not voting (along with the millions of others) is a testament to the sorry state of our democracy. Why is it always choice between two usually somewhat wealthy men chosen by the elite? Since when did the meaning of democracy mean having to choose between two people who don’t even come close to representing most of the American people?

  13. Q: Since when did the meaning of democracy mean having to choose between two people who don’t even come close to representing most of the American people?

    A: Around 1789, when George Washington was elected President.

    If you disagree, please tell me when the ‘Good Old Days’ were when money, power, and the elite didn’t play a part in politics.

  14. Ron’s reasoning reminds me of my own motto from my college days: “Too smart to study, too cute to care.” Clever, maybe. But it didn’t do any more for my GPA than the nonparticipatory whining of the over 50%+ nonvoting electorate has done for the nation.

    Fact is, Ron and his 100 million or so idle compatriots are victims of the oldest political trick in the book — negative campaigning. By staying home, the Republicans won at least half a vote. How else could the party that represents (in the sense of “advocates for”) less than 25% of the population keep winning elections?

    Also, that bit about not voting because the election was already decided? There’s a lot more subtlety to this process than the winner-takes-all result. Look at how the red-and-blue electoral maps are analyzed ad infinitum! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How the states, districts and precincts vote are analyzed by every future candidate and every potential candidate. Will a Democrat ever win in my hometown? Not if I don’t go out and vote every time I get the opportunity. No Dem in his right mind would take the time, money and emotional effort to put himself through it, if the party can’t make a fair showing in a major election.

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  16. Ron, why do you state with pride that you’ve never voted for a president? Don’t you and I agree that we would have been better off with Carter rather than Reagan, with Mondale rather than Reagan, with Dukakis rather than Bush1, with Gore rather than Bush2? I honestly don’t understand your reasoning or your attitude.

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