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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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Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Dean for VP? I disagree

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, June 15, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
A pointed opinion piece in the Boston Globe asks the obvious question, if Kerry can consider McCain for VP, then why not Howard Dean?

News accounts of Kerry's overtures and McCain's ultimate rebuff focus on the tempting idea of a bipartisan ticket that could reach across the vituperative divide in American politics. But Kerry would also benefit from the edgy energy and tell-it-like-it-is approach politicians like McCain and Dean exemplify. Settling for the handsome but bland optimism of North Carolina Senator John Edwards makes safe political sense. But it also shows the limits of tolerance for spark, verve, and controversy when Democrats think about selling fellow Democrats to voters or when Republicans think of selling fellow Republicans like McCain to voters.
the provocative Republican was Kerry's first choice for vice president; a provocative Democrat who brought heart, soul, and an energized base to his party's primaries is on the sidelines. Dean had the courage to call Bush on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and No Child Left Behind. The former Vermont governor's passionate rhetoric forced Kerry to challenge these cornerstones of Bush administration policy, which Kerry previously supported with votes in the US Senate.

"You could hear my lines in their speeches." Dean told the AP in a recent interview reflecting on his amazing rise and fall in presidential politics. The rhetorical theft began after his opponents realized the potency of those spoken lines and their ability to galvanize liberal Democrats and indepent voters. Dean wanted to "Take Back America" long before Kerry understood how many voters feel that way, too. By telling audiences "you have the power," he linked voting to change, the first step in taking back the White House. All the anti-Bush sentiment is meaningless if Bush opponents don't take the next step -- actually voting.
A June 8-9 national poll taken by Opinion Dynamcs Corp. for Fox News provides food for thought regarding a Kerry-Dean ticket. Overall, a Kerry-Dean ticket garnered support from 45 percent compared with 44 percent for Bush-Cheney. In the so-called battleground states, Kerry-Dean beat Bush-Cheney 48-42. The poll defines battleground states as: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The old conventional wisdom about a vice presidential candidate concludes that the best pick is the one who can deliver the electoral votes of his or her home state on Election Day. That is what keeps names like retiring Missouri congressman Richard Gephardt and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack in the mix. Neither excites, and one is virtually unknown beyond the corn belt. Dean's constituency is bigger than a single state. It's a movement synonymous with change and excitement.

These are good questions, but they have a good answer. The truth is that Dean's message himself was about transcending the divide of left-right, liberal-conservative, us-them. McCain on the ticket would represent a true bipartisanship in that mold, and the polls refloect this - the paltry 1-percentage advantage of a Kerry-Dean tickey over Bush-Cheney in a (meaningless) national poll pales next to the double-digit advantage that Kerry-McCain boasts of.

Like it or not, Dean was marginalized as a leftist during the primary, and now has embraced the lefft in his post-candidacy. The overall theme of DFA v2.0 is to support explicitly progressive, not moderate, candidates - including flawed ones like scandal-ridden Jim Moran who damage the cause of principled politics rather than advance it. It is inexcusable that Moran be supported, because it damages the claim that Dean is a principled advocate rather than an ideolouge - candidates who do not meet a certain ethical standard should be rejected on principle, not embraced because they have a (D) next to their name.

Partly due to the media crusade against him, and partly validated by his opwn post-candidacy choices, Dean does not represent a voice of moderation, let alone one of bipartisanship, to the average voter in the electorate at large. Dean's constituency is largely in the Kerry camp already, and the few die-hards ideological puritans who reject Kerry are going Nader (or staying home in a fit of pique). There is little evidence to support the claim that Dean could attract moderates in swing states to any large degree.

Overall, Dean's best role is to do what he is doing - encouraging democracy at the lowest level - the Dean Dozen programs that focus on building a true grassroots movement from the ground up, at the state and local levels. Democracy for America is a much-needed counterbalance to the post-Goldwater conservative grassroots movement. But that is strictly aimed at the base, whereas for the Chief Executive (and the Executive Branch as a whole) we need a more unifying figure. Dean can't bring about his vision of a true American Majority any longer, though he laid the essential framework (and I view the adoption of his talking points into Kerry's rhetoric as an explicit marker of success, not "rhetorical theft").

Dean's legacy now is to raise the roots - and that is going to take time. In the meantime, we have a corrupt Administration to defeat, and a re-unification of the political dialog about ideas (as Bill Clinton noted below).


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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.