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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, November 15, 2004


Divider, not a uniter

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, November 15, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
Howard is already taking heat for this one:

"The truth is the president of the United States used the same device that Slobodan Milosevic used in Serbia. When you appeal to homophobia, when you appeal to sexism, when you appeal to racism, that is extraordinarily damaging to the country," Dean charged. "I know George Bush. I served with him for six years [as a fellow governor]. He's not a homophobe. He's not a racist. He's not a sexist. In some ways, what he did was worse … because he knew better."

A fair charge?

As usual with Dean, he makes a valid point but drapes it with an inflammatory metaphor that completely obscures it - and in the process, undermines his own goal.

Dean's point is that the GOP strategy solidly rests on a foundation of drawing a dividing line across America - where "Us" are righteous and "Them" are craven, and that teh very concept of a principled vote for Them is a contradiction. There are plenty on the supporters on the left who share that opinion. But the difference is that the Kerry campaign did not enshrine that attitude as electoral strategy. The Bush campaign never even tried for teh Independent vote - and Kerry did. Bush's campaign events were for the true believers only, complete with loyalty oaths. Kerry's were open to all.

For all the hand-wringing by self-identified Red Staters about how the Blues hate them, the venom for the Blue matches it equally. Here's what a Red guy thinks about Blue children:

spoiled, bored, self-centered, angry, dispirited, whiny and uncontrollable thugs, sociopaths and cowards.

That's MY daughter he's talking about. And the stereotypes he proudly displays are the result of a cultural war that has been fomented largely by the conservative media, especially on talk radio (I live in Houston. I listen to this stuff daily) where "liberals" are demonized hourly for being everything that the True Patriots fancy themselves holier than.

The truth is, that there has indeed been a culture war ging on - and regardless of who started it, it needs to stop.


Good for Howard. It's a very fair comparison, if an impolitic one.


"It needs to stop." Used to agree. But it won't stop, it's the lifeblood of the right. Instead, it needs to be mocked, and then it needs to be defeated at the polls until it's irrelevant. The defeat part will obviously take a long, long time; the mocking can begin right away, though.


I fundamentally believe that Howard Dean is a VERY smart man, who really does have the ability to choose his words very carefully.

I think that most of the "gaffes" during the campaign were intentional - designed to make a point while simultaneously generating a lot of free publicity.

This one though - I just don't get it.

If one believes that this statement was planned and intentional, that a logical conclusion can/should be drawn that he has decided that he really doesn't want to chair the DNC, and he'd rather be unchained as a SAKAL so that he can position himself for another run in '08.


Good for Howard, indeed.

Inflammatory? Only in the "beltway world". This is just everyday, common-sense language to me. And it is concise and to the point.

Aziz, I have a lot of respect for you and what you have done here. However, I disgree when you take the philosophy that I believe that has led to the Dem party becoming perpetual losers. One of accomodation, even though that is not the intention. In an ideal world/country I understand and agree with your points, e.g. with respect to a purple country and "it has sto stop" (culture war). However, the Republicans have made it so we have to act with a practical bent, not an idealistic one. And blunt, to-the-point language like Dean used is, in my opinion acting/speaking practically. We won't get anywhere with soft beltway-speak

I also think it is obvious now that elections are going to be won by people who have strong views and express them firmly. People will respect someone who they believe really does believe what they say they believe. Even if the disagree!!!


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1) a fair charge as far as homophobia. Less so as far as racism and sexism.

2) needlessly and pointlessly inflammatory. Hyperbole can be effective, but only if it's done sparingly and only if it's done right. In this case Ho-Ho breaks the oldest rule in writing--"show, don't tell." Instead of muddying the waters with Milosevic, he should quote the words of Santorum, DeLay, Weyrich, the Family Research Council, Dobson, Cornyn, Coburn et. al., say "substitute the word "Jews" or "blacks" or "Bosnians", and what does that sound like? A person who said such things would not have a seat at the table in Washington, and rightly so. But since they're talk about gay people, they can rewrite the Constitution, pick Supreme Court nominees, and have weekly conference calls with Karl Rove."

Show, don't tell.


Look, I agree that the GOP has institutionalized demonization of its opponents. In fact, I've been arguing that fact for ages now. But drawing deliberately provocative ocmparisons to actual fascists and dictators, like Hitler and Milosovic, serves to undermine the effort to convince the public that we are actually ON a path leading there.

I respect, but firmly disagree with, the sentiment that says to win you must play teh GOP's own game of demonization. I think that Purple Nation is waiting for something different from the status quo, not the same game.

Demonization does no good. Inclusive rhetoric is important and hasnt even been tried. I mean, do any of you think that Garrison Keillor's comments about dienfranchising the born0again Christian vote is remotely appropriate? Its much teh same kind of free ammo to the Right to justfy their culture war in the first place.

take away their ammo, and they are left with blanks.


I think if you re-read Dean's statement -- and recall that Milosevic appealed to neither homophobia or sexism, at least not mainly -- Dean was using the 3 terms as "any of a variety of divisive things" in a reflexive "gotta list 3 things" way, and then stuck with it, when he should have just stuck with homophobic.

(OTOH, "Racist" could be justified, to some extent, by the voter suppression strategies openly discussed and executed by the GOP.)

It's not a plus towards recommending him for the DNC chair, but he's got great qualities that may simply be part of the same bargain. He stayed pretty on message supporting Kerry, but the question is whether Democrats would enjoy explaining Dean's verbal flights that often. Analogies are dangerous enough, Howard, don't overextend them.


I don't see it as demonization, Aziz. I see it as calling a spade a spade, and not couching it in beltway-language. And it comes from someone who uses inclusive language a lot.

Look, SOMETHING radical is going to be needed to shake the Dem party up... so there are a lot of pieces lying around that can be put back together again. It is quite clear that the Dems are not going to change smoothly/gradually/evolutionary.

Caution is the enemy here. Caution results in people not believing that candidates actually believe what they say they believe. And people will vote for the strong, stand-up in a stiff wind candidate even if they disagree with some of what that candidates says 9or his/her policies).


Unfair by far.

1) Sexism and Racism are from out in left field. There is really no evidence at all.

2) Supporting the FMA may be construed as homophobic, but listen to the President's reasoning. Read his speech supporting it. It is entirely about stopping activist judges from imposing same sex marriage. This is not homophobic, it is democratic. Just because he doesn't support gay rights does not make him a homophobe.

Howard Dean is following the Al Gore path of forgetting to think before he speaks now that he isn't in election-mode. But remember that this is the same Dean who leant credence to the idea that the President knew about 9/11 before it happened. He may have been a good Governor, but his anti-Bush worldview seems to be distorting his ability to live in the reality-based world.


Furthermore, even if the charges were true. The wording and manner it was done with are definitely divisive. But most of the Democratic tactics since Dean's momentum have been based on general anti-Bush disdain and thus are necessarily divisive. I'm not faulting them for it, but if we are hoping to mend fences this is not the way to start.

Kerry's concession speech was a good example of how to start uniting... as was the President's acceptance speech.


Adam, you're mistaken on the Dean-conspiracy issue with respect to 9-11. I think you need to look at the context of that comment. Certainly Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint had their share of statements that bordered on lending credence to wacky-afield ideas, but they deserved benefit of the doubt.

If I recall correctly, Dean was speaking more to the point of the failure of the administration to really prevent 9-11. The fact that Bush was later found to have been given an explicit briefing on teh piotential threat has essentially vindicated asking the question, what did the goivernment know?

Thats not the same as asking "did the govt allow 9-11 to happen". Its a question of did the govt actually do its job. These are questions that Dean had a right to ansk and which it is unfair to ascribe to paranoid conspiracy theorizing.


"Supporting the FMA may be construed as homophobic, but listen to the President's reasoning. Read his speech supporting it. It is entirely about stopping activist judges from imposing same sex marriage."

Not true.

Frim Wikipedia:
"The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that legislates a federal definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman and prevents subsequent legislative and court action from extending marriage rights to unmarried couples"

Bush's support of the FMA is entirely about creating a wedge issue.

And the FMA also would eliminate the possibility of Civil Unions.


GS, you can't really invoke Wikipedia as a source for the intent behind the FMA. I agree that its a wedge issue, but I think that being cynical about why its being pushed forward now (ie, to assume that there is no authentic principle behind it) is wrong, and guilty of the same ascribing-or-irrelevance to moral issues problem that the Dems in general have.

Bush himself says he is for civil unions. I think his admission was one of those rare unscripted moments of honesty.


FMA discussion. Here is the President's FMA speech. Tell me which line shows a homophobia. I see a worry about judicial activism. I see a belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. I don't see anything negative against gays or lesbians. There are many homophobes in the country, I haven't seen any evidence that the President is one of them.


Wikipedia or not, it provides a verbatim quote of the Musgrave FMA:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.
Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

That is prima facie homophobic. Marriage is none of the federal government's business -- it's none of any government's business I think. But if it is, then institutionalizing separate but not equal will not do (to say nothing of neutering states' abilities to come to their own conclusions).

I don't give a flip what's in Bush's heart, he's lent his support to this trash, end of story. And the "legal incidents thereof" gives the lie to his "civil unions" smokescreen.


Howard Dean hit the nail on the head with his comment comparing what Bush did during the 2004 campaign to what Milosevic did to rile Serbians against Muslims. The tactics are the same, just the degree is different.

Dean's language was not inflammatory but provocative. The purpose of provocative language is to grab people's attention so that you can make point about something important. Dean's comparison did just that.


I think that Howard Dean was only making a fair criticism of the Bush Administration. Bush does seem to pander to racists, sexists, and homophobes.

I find it interesting though, that some Dean supporters think that there is not that much racism and sexism left in this country. Some of you seem to think that the only phobia that some Republicans have is "homophobia". I know that some people are tired of hearing about racism and sexism, but they still exist every bit as much as homophobia.

As far as racism, you can see how the Republicans try to come up with all sorts of dirty tricks to keep African Americans from voting.

As far as sexism, it is only because there are as many women in this country as there are men, that women have the power that they do now. That doesn't mean, however, that most Republicans are not sexist. I think that a lot of them still are.


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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.