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Wednesday, February 26, 2003


What the media doesn't get about Howard Dean

posted by Frances at Wednesday, February 26, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Michael Tomansky, writing for The American Prospect has a good article about some of the “just an ultra-liberal dove” coverage that Howard Dean has gotten in the media (and I’m looking right at you, New Republic) and why that label not only fails to describe Dean, but also totally misses why Dean is catching on with so many Democratic (and Independent) voters.

He astutely notes that Beltway media types tend to focus on ideology first. They see a candidate’s position on one or two things and label that person “liberal” or “conservative” based on those positions. Sometimes, that works, but with a candidate like Dean, it fails utterly. Such an approach also fails to capture a candidate’s ability to project a personality and to relate to voters—a factor that frequently trumps ideology. This is especially true of Dean:

But to see Dean's appeal to hard-shell Democrats as chiefly ideological is to miss entirely what's important about his presence in this race. His appeal is mainly emotional. He is telling beleaguered party loyalists -- sick to death of counting up their party leaders' wretched misjudgments and capitulations over the last two years -- that here is one Democrat who wasn't a part of that train wreck and who just isn't afraid of Republicans. This is why Dean matters. When he says, "I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," there is, to be sure, an ideological element to it; but it's a phrase laced with far more electricity than ideology.

Pundits and experts don't see it this way because they only know how to interpret things ideologically -- Dean is positioning himself to the left of this one and the right of that one. The ideology-is-everything lens can lead to some silly assertions, such as The New Republic's recently offered opinion that Dennis Kucinich's (D-Ohio) entry into the race "leaves Howard Dean without a constituency" (because Kucinich is also anti-war and quirkily conservative here and there). This would be spot-on true -- if the two were both pieces of paper rather than human beings.

I suspect that many potential voters were first attracted to Dean because of his stance on the war and if that were all he had to offer, then that might not be enough to hold on to those voters or, indeed, remain relevant. But Dean is not a one-trick pony. He is certainly going to surprise some folks…

One last paragraph from the article—it is particularly good, I think:
My impression of Dean is that he is a liberal-leaning but pragmatic executive whose medical training has made him more of a task-oriented problem solver than a dreamer anxious to uncork the next New Deal. If he's going to get the media to take him seriously, he has to put that Dean on display alongside the fire breather, and maintaining the balance between the two will be a challenge.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.