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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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Monday, April 19, 2004


How Much Backbone, Dean Nation?

posted by Dana at Monday, April 19, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
One reason I think we lost the primary was Dr. Dean’s comparing his own “straight talk” campaign with that of his idol, Harry Truman.

Truman was an accidental President, rising to power on Franklin Roosevelt’s death in 1945. Truman’s 1948 win over Thomas E. Dewey was a big upset. More important, Truman lost both Congressional elections held under his watch. And in 1952 we got Eisenhower.

Fact is, Truman was exhausting, and McCarthyism, a paler form of Stalinist repression, best fit the national mood. In our time we have what I call “religious McCarthyism,” with a zealot in the White House. Would Truman have beaten “Tail Gunner Joe” if Joe McCarthy were the President in 1948? Would Democrats have run him?

I strongly doubt it. I don’t know whether we’re running Tom Dewey or Alger Hiss for President. Like Dewey, Kerry’s the experienced hand with the respectable record, the guy who does well in the polls. John Kerry is also everything Hiss was – tall, patrician, connected, and careful. Democrats think his war record immunizes him from attack, but Hiss wasn’t immunized. And we all know what happened to Dewey.

So the question I have today is, how much backbone is required, not just for victory, but for governance? Democrats have said we have too much. I say Kerry has too little. Must we modulate in fear of criticism, or are we better off telling it like it is no matter the consequences?

I think this is an open question even here. After all our April endorsement went to Martin Frost, a careful, incumbent Texas Democrat, rather than to, say, Richard Morrison, who is taking on Tom DeLay frontally and even has a fine blog.

I’m conflicted on this myself. I approved the Frost endorsement. Let’s not attack each other here. Let’s ask the more basic question, what do we want to be from here on out? Do we want to be the margin of victory? Do we want to be the liberal vanguard? Or do we want to highlight profiles in courage?


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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.