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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, August 11, 2003


Philly Forum -- Recap

posted by Joe at Monday, August 11, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Governor Dean spoke tonight at the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association Candidates' Forum in Philadelphia. The video from C-SPAN should be up soon (we'll put that link right here when it is). Exhaustive (and exhausting) running commentary can be found over at Not Geniuses, but the long and short of it for Dean Nation is as follows:

The big story here: the Lieberman problem. Lieberman's attacks on other candidates are now defining the race. More specifically, Lieberman's attacks on Howard Dean – sometimes by name, sometimes not – are now defining the race. Even when couching his barbs in vague language, it is increasingly clear that Lieberman sees Dean and not Kerry, Edwards or Gephardt as the major threat to his candidacy. He also strangely fails to remark on Bob Graham, who had essentially the same position as Dean on the Iraq war.

This seems foolish to me. There is still a ton of time for things to change, but unless something drastic happens this race will come down to two candidates: Howard Dean and someone who defines themselves as the un-Dean candidate. Lieberman thinks he can be that candidate by attacking Dean now. But he'd be far better off trying to dispatch a John Edwards or a John Kerry because those are the candidates he will be in a back-alley knife fight with come February for that un-Dean identity.

Unfortunately, Joe doesn't have dough. And his grave, portending speeches about the forces of evil leading Democrats back into the wilderness has all the flailing and desperation of John McCain's last stand in Virginia Beach in 2000. You can almost feel that it’s over.

Democrats who followed Joe Lieberman's line in 2002 are in the metaphorical wilderness – he led them there. The future of the Democratic Party is in the metaphorical Radisson in Albuquerque, New Mexico – standing up for itself and refusing to be walked all over. It's not about left or right in terms of policy. It's about standing up or lying down in politics.

Howard Dean is standing up. And Joe Lieberman thinks Democrats will lose if they follow him. He's wrong. But the question for this race is: how long before he realizes it? Or, perhaps more to the point, how long before enough other people realize that he's wrong that he has to pack it in and withdraw? If Lieberman isn't gone after what will surely be an abysmal third quarter of fundraising, his strident self-hating Democrat routine may really complicate the race down the road.

A secondary storyline tonight found Dennis Kucinich calling out Dean and Dick Gephardt by name. He's trying to get them to commit to withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO. Insofar as neither appears to have ever changed his position on this, the 'gotcha' moment rings hollow. The fact that Dean and Gephardt basically ignore him means that this line at least should go away soon.

The story that wasn't: John Edwards and Bob Graham didn’t show up -- and it didn’t make much of a difference.


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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.