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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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Wednesday, July 09, 2003


Straw Into Gold, Lemons Into Lemonade

posted by Trammell at Wednesday, July 09, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Dean supporters often talk about people who "get it" and people who "don't get it." My theory is that the "don't get its" are either precedent-obsessed political scientists or fierce opponents who are too blind or too frightened to face the harsh reality of the coiled rattlesnake at their feet. They are folks incapable of seeing the dimension that exists between magic and science, the realm of the political alchemist. They've heard tell of it, but they either dismiss it as superstition or cower in fear of it coming to upset their Sir-Isaac-Newton-monogrammed applecarts. They fear even more that candidate, that movement, seemingly capable of spinning straw into gold. Unable to wield such alchemy themselves, they must attempt to debunk it at every turn, to define it, to explain it, to pigeon-hole it. Otherwise, they could not go on. I have been in their shoes, and I'm here to tell ya, "getting it" is altogether better.

CNN's Mark Shields writes:
Howard Dean's raising more money....reminds me of the legendary Theodore White's memorable report of the scene in the Boston Garden during John F. Kennedy's last campaign rally on the eve of the 1960 presidential election.

JFK, according to White, was surrounded on the stage by a " covey of the puffy, pink-faced, predatory-lipped politicians who had so dominated Massachusetts politics before he had taken over." Noting their "envious faces" as the candidate spoke, Richard Donahue, a Kennedy aide observed: "You know they can't understand this. They think he has a trick. They're listening to him because they think if they learn the trick, they can be president, too."

To listen to experienced and able politicians in the campaigns of Dean's Democratic rivals this week was to hear men searching for the "trick" that had transformed the under-funded underdog into the well-heeled contender.

Shields concludes that it's Dean's message, and he's right, but it's also the "it" factor of celebrities and alchemists, who by chance and/or design find themselves in the right place, at the right moment in history, with the right set of talents, the right message, and an ability to deliver that message.

Put another way, Robert Price from my local Bakersfield Californian writes:
If John Kerry or John Edwards or Dick Gephardt or Joe Lieberman (remember him?) are creating this kind of grass-roots passion this early, they're being awfully quiet about it.

Simply put, lacking their own straw-to-gold spinning apparatus, they have little to do but discuss how patently ridiculous it is to think one could actually spin straw into gold! Haha! But, when shown the straw, the spinning and the gold, it's dismissed. "Well, sure it's gold, but it was a fluke! And besides, that's not enough gold, you'll need way more gold than that!!! Hrumph! Huh! (whisper) they?ll never be able to repeat it....."

Nope, they still can't, still don't or still refuse to see. In The Note Tuesday, this item from Roger Simon:
[In] Ashland, Oregon, which I visited recently on vacation. Ashland, a town of about 20,000 located approximately 15 miles north of the California border, is home to a famous Shakespeare festival, lots of B&Bs, a hundred-acre park and people who spend entire afternoons without ever saying things like ?electability? or ?momentum? or ?political viability.?

Which is why I was surprised one morning to come down to the lobby of the inn I was staying at to find two women wearing large ?Howard Dean for President? buttons. This was a shocker for two reasons: First, campaigns don?t really do political buttons any more. They are too expensive and have been replaced by peel-off stickers. (Which is a shame. What kid is going to start a peel-off sticker collection?)

Second, how many people are walking around wearing political buttons in the summer of 2003? Most people don?t even realize there is a presidential campaign going on. Unless, of course, they support Howard Dean.

So let them go ahead and throw lemons. While they wonder about what "it" is, what "the trick" is, let the lemons fly! Dean supporters won't just turn the lemons into lemonade, nope. We'll sell it to a thirsty America in Dean Dixie Cups -- and raise a few million dollars doing it -- all the while singing "thanks for the lemon trees."


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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.