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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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Friday, May 09, 2003


Why Dean Will Win

posted by Matt Singer at Friday, May 09, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
My co-blogger has one good reason below. It is, in fact, the reason that I've believed all along. Dean inspires people: moderate, independent, liberal, sane, and crazy in a way that no one has in years.

Inspiration Matters

But beyond that, I think that quietly a scenario is coming into clear focus in which it not only becomes possible to have Howard Dean win the Presidency but makes him the Democrat best positioned to do so.

Am I crazy? Possibly. But that will only make me one part of the winning coalition.

Via Kos, we can see a news item in (NewsMax: "We make Fox look reasonable.") about the push by some in the Christian Right to drop the Republicans over the issue of gay rights. Basically, these folks are upset that Bush isn't completely bigoted and won't stand up and say he agrees with Santorum. And this could leave Bush in a very, very awkward position. There are already two parties in existence with affiliated parties in a lot of states that could mount a candidacy in 2004 that would run to the far-right on the issue of gay rights: The Constitution Party and America First Party. If the gay rights issue begins to heat up, as it will, it will leave the country in a massive debate and some states, in particular, will see the divisions.

It's important to begin by noting that there are basically three views in this country on gay rights. One is liberal and basically holds that civil unions (or marriages) should be legal, openly homosexual servicemembers should be allowed to serve, sodomy laws have to be repealed, adoption should be legal for gay couples and, typically, hate crimes laws should include protection for gay people. Until civil unions or marriages are passed, people deserve equal access to health care. There is the moderate position, which is fine with openly homosexual service members and the repealing of sodomy laws, but is split over hate crime laws, adoption, and civil unions. And there is the conservative position, which opposes all of it.

Within the next few months, the Supreme Court is going to hand down a decision that will either galvanize liberals or galvanize conservatives on the issue of gay rights, but the real explosion will come when the Massachusetts Supreme Court will likely vote to legalize same-sex marriage, as noted by Stanley Kurtz in this NRO piece. What Kurtz fails to understand is that there are conservatives for whom a middle-ground is unacceptable. These people will bolt the Republicans if the Republicans don't attack homosexuality. Santorum proved that they have to do more than defend marriage. They must be on the offense and, if Bush does that, he will lose the moderates who maybe are uncertain about gay marriage, but know they want everyone treated with human dignity. If he plays to the middle, he loses the base. And Nader proved that 2.7% can have a huge effect (especially when New Hampshire is already showing itself in a dead heat).

But the real thing going on here is that Dean will catalyze the debate. If Iraq is less-than-stable at the point that we're hitting the general election, the main attack point that Bush will have against Dean is civil unions. If Bush goes after Dean on civil unions, Dean responds with sodomy laws and Santorum, and his great "dividing rhetoric" (the following is only taking place in my head):

I'm sick and tired of being divided. The Republicans divide us by sexual orientation. They single some out because of who they are. Matthew Shephard understood what it was like to be singled out for who he was. Black men getting lynched in the South knew what it was like to be singled out for who they were. And on 9/11, all Americans came to understand what it felt like to be singled out for who we are. When it happens to us as a country, the Republicans wrap themselves in the flag and call it terrorism and enforce stricter laws. When it happens to members of the gay community and we try to enforce tougher laws, we get accused of trying to punish thoughts. Harry Truman desegregated the United States military. He did it over the objections of the country because he knew it was the right thing to do. Today, no matter what the polls say, uniting the country, Black and White, Straight and Gay, Woman and Man, is the right thing to do. Our united military has become the greatest fighting force on the planet. Without unity, security can't exist.

Sure, it needs a little work. But it would set the Right in a tizzy. Dean would be framing the debate, with a far-right opponent (Buchanan? Phillips? Keyes?) providing a counter-stance and Rove trying to triangulate but failing miserable because this is an issue where leadership will matter and leadership means that you can't triangulate.

But there's something bigger on top of all of this, and that's what is going on in Florida, where Rep. Mark Foley (R), who is a frontrunner for the Republican nomination for Bob Graham's Senate seat, has been outed. Given that people are already thinking there could be a gay-rights showdown in the primary in Florida, what can we expect when same-sex marriage ends up on the agenda. How does Bush pander to the bigots in Florida without destroying his Senate candidate? How does Bush win Florida if he is forced to choose between pandering to the bigots and working with a Senate candidate. Obviously, many moderates in Florida would be disgusted to see a "compassionate conservative" turn his back on Mark Foley simply because he is gay. And many conservatives would be appalled that the Republicans would nominate a gay man for the U.S. Senate. And if a third-party builds enough strength in Florida with the combined Presidential and Senate race, they could easily outperform Nader's 3% effort, especially if they were smart and targeted the state.

There is, of course, a question as to why Dean won't see the same problem on the Left if gay rights is the big issue. After all, he only legalized civil unions, not marriage. He has specifically said that he won't require states to adopt civil union laws. The most progressive statement he's made is that he thinks DOMA is unconstitutional and that if the Court agrees, he'll work to repeal it. So why won't Greens jump ship to someone who promises marriage? Well, the short answer is that some Greens will. But the people for whom gay rights is critical will understand that they are in a three-way cultural war and if they make it four-way, they lose. Nationwide civil unions would be so amazingly huge that it will get the votes.

Stanley Kurtz of NRO was certainly right that Democrats have been misunderstanding the implications of the Santorum affair. He just doesn't realize that he's missing the dynamic as well.

Dean can win. And he will.


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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.