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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, May 07, 2003


He's Saying What We've All Been Thinking

posted by Matt Singer at Wednesday, May 07, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Matt Bailey links to the article where Howard Fineman says what we've all been thinking. And it's a good article, but I'd like to expand a little bit on some of the points he makes, because there are some deeper truths implied.

Even if you follow politics closely, you probably didn’t notice that the Howard Dean boomlet faded a few weeks ago. The theory was that no anti-war candidate—and Dean is one—can survive the fall of Baghdad and the rise of a president playing Top Gun on an aircraft carrier.

This is a critical observation, because this lie is one that has been circulated by the DLC-folks and rival campaigns (and their lackeys like Gary South, who I'm pretty sure I can't dislike too strongly since he's pretty much the only significant behind-the-scenes player who hails originally from Montana). The sad irony here is that the DLC, which started out as a rather intelligent "third way" organization, has now succumbed to the notion that "third way" means "Republican-lite". This idea is completely false. Dean is the third-way candidate. He is the Clinton for 2004. It's the DLC that doesn't know how to win elections, not Dean.

He has the august Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts reacting to his moves (and elevating Dean by attacking him). Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri unveiled a sweeping healthcare proposal, playing to an issue that Dean, a doctor, hoped to own.

And Dean’s dovish views and chesty demeanor are defining the debate, drawing reactions from other contenders. His biggest applause line is: “I represent the democratic wing of the Democratic Party!” Sen. Bob Graham of Florida had a retort last week in South Carolina: “I represent the electable wing of the Democratic Party!” In a TV debate there, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut added his own reaction, which was that no candidate who wasn’t “strong on defense” could defeat George W. Bush. Translation: That means you, Howard.

The implication in this entire set of lines is that Dean is strongest of Democrats. He's the one everyone else has to attack. Right now, virtually everything significant revolves around Dean and the Dean-Kerry squabble, the Dean-Gephardt health care plan debate, the Dean-Lieberman national security tizzy, and the Dean-Graham rhetorical boxing. These candidates are now all defining themselves in terms of Dean.

If Dean can send other Democrats into this desire to have them define themselves in relation to him, he's already winning and he will win, both the primary and the general? Why, because if Bush and Rove fall for the same tactics, they end up being the incumbents who can't even run on their incumbency. They run on not being Howard Dean.

And I'm not entirely sure how Dean's doing it, but he is. He quickly went from being the attack dog to being the guy who doesn't have to attack. It was an incredible turn-around and we'll see how it will continue.

He is running a relatively lean but efficient operation, with knowledgeable veterans (Steve McMahon and Joe Trippi from D.C.) teaming up with Ben & Jerry types from Vermont and elsewhere.

So far, Dean’s outfit is the most adept at using the Internet, which is to the 2004 campaign what cable TV was to 1992 and direct-mail to 1980—the new Best Practice for reaching and motivating voters.

Virtually no comment necessary. We know Dean is out-organizing those other folks. LaRouche may have more people on the ground. But, well, he's LaRouche. Dean's supporters may be enthusiastic, but we're not a cult.

That's it for my explication, but I just want to stick this line in everyone's head again:

“Kerry has a Noah’s Ark campaign,” a top Dean lieutenant told me in South Carolina. “They’ve got two of everything.”

One more reason to vote Dean. When we get to the general election, Dean's campaign will know how to maximize resources. And since both sides will start with the same amount of money, we're gonna need to squeeze it for all it's worth.


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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.