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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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Saturday, August 30, 2003


Dean Opponents Taking Aim...

posted by Christopher at Saturday, August 30, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
The Washington Post's Jim VandeHei is jumping on the bandwagon of Dean's opponents, charging that now that Dean is the "frontrunner" he is changing his positions on the issues. The article specifically cites three key items: 1) the public financing issue; 2) Social Security; and 3) the trade embargo in Cuba.

I think it's fair to say that most of us realize this has the fingerprints of rival campaigns all over it. They're trying to tear into Dean's straight-talking image.

"He has sold himself as the straight-shooting candidate, the truth-teller, the one who will say what's hard and unpopular," said Jim Jordan, campaign manager for presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). "In truth, he's a very crafty politician, very calculating."

Thanks, Jim. We know you think he's crafty (he's leading you guys by 21 points in NH!).

It serves to remind the other campaigns AND the pundits, that Dean has not made a final decision on this issue. The attempt to raise the issue now is a red herring in a vain attempt to discredit Dean. However, were he to change his position, it is simply in light of a) the reality of the Bush fundraising juggernaut, and b) the power of the American people to reclaim the broken political financing systemt through small, individual donations.

The reality is that six months ago none of the candidates could have imagined they would be in a position to forego public financing through small contributions and individual donors - without accepting big money from special interests. Kerry's team is angry because they could do it only by tapping the Heinz fortune and funding the campaign himself - hardly a legitimate show of strength - in an attempt to buy the election outright. And, isn't that what public financing is really all about? It's about not buying elections through individual and special interest wealth. Dean is now in a position to demonstrate that individual Americans still have an important role in American politics. That small contributions count, and can offset advantages to incumbency and the vastly disproportionate amount of influence that wealth begets. That is the point, folks. This is not a "flip-flop" so much as it is a door opening for everyday Americans to exercise some control over politics again. And, let's not forget that George W. Bush has already declared he will circumvent the public finance system in order to ensure his fundraising advantage. It makes sense that the Democratic nominee would factor that into their decision about whether or not to accept public financing.

On Social Security, Dean made a mistake by engaging Kucinich in a debate and denying that he ever considered raising the age requirement for Social Security benefits. He did... as Governor of Vermont about 6-8 years ago! Big deal... back then we did have to consider everything from means testing, to the age requirements, and it was not a radical idea at that time. However, as Dean points out, Clinton showed that budgets can be balanced and Social Security can remain solvent through other, fiscally responsible means (LIKE A SOUND TAX POLICY!). Thus, he has been saying in this campaign that the Social Security age requirements should remain where they are. Makes sense to me, and his consistent message on this during this campaign is probably why he slipped during the debate in responding to Kucinich. Note to the campaign: stop responding to Kucinich. He's not a viable candidate, and his role at this point is to try to cut into Dean (although, at this point, I suppose that's everyone's role!).

Finally, on Cuba. Dean has been saying that he favors lifting aspects of the embago for humanitarian aid, etc. Due to recent events and some of Castro's recent "trials" for political opponents, Dean wants to look carefully at that before taking any action. Sounds reasonable to me... where's the beef with not wanting to reward dictators for bad behavior? This is also consistent with his recent positions on holding nations responsible for violating human rights when it comes to trade agreements and/or MFN status. This position is clearly compatible with Democratic values.

A few well-placed letters to editors on any or all of these issues would be timely, take the initiative away from Dean's opponents, and help set the record straight.


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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.