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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


The remaking of an American conscensus

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, April 19, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Time was, that agreement between DailyKos and Tacitus wasn't a noteworthy event. However, their combined praise for the book, Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein is significant for its relevance to the Dean movement. Kos writes:

It's a brilliant look at how Goldwater founded the modern conservative movement.

The parallels to today are startling, a sort of Dean bizarro world stuck on opposite day -- a Republican Party that was trying to be "Democrat-lite" and an establishment hostile to "outsider" forces. With Goldwater railing against his party's establishment and the special interests that controlled it. Throw in innovative use of tactics and technology (Goldwater pioneered the use of direct mail) and a crushing defeat, and you've got the Dean phenomenon.

The big question is whether the Dean movement can survive Dean's demise. The conservative movement not only survived Goldwater, but used his defeat to fuel their current dominance.

As Kos notes, we want the parallel to continue beyond "crushing defeat" :) However, there is a different dynamic at play. Dean explicitly wanted to work across the party and cultural lines that have been drawn since Goldwater. Those fault lines were in fact part of Goldwater's strategy - where the conservative movement today is all about Us vs Them, and the Left slavishly tries to copy that divisive approach, Dean articulated a genuinely inclusive message founded on shared values. The single most important thing Dean said during the campaign was his comment about pickup trucks and confederate flags - the underlying message got lost in the target practice on an upstart front-runner, and the intrinsic distrust between people on opposite sides of the Divide, but the core ethos remains applicable.

What is our challenge? I believe it is to reject labales such as conservative, liberal, and progressive. Litmus tests on fringe issues need to be disavowed. We need to reach outwards.

The Right is too disciplined to ever achieve this unity. It has to start with us. I want Dean Nation to be a place that can happen. Rather than Goldwater's vision of eternal Us vs Them, we need to re-make the American concensus. Dean gave us the raw material but the power, as always, remains with us.


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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.