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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, October 20, 2003


Dean greeted warmly by Arab Americans

posted by Aziz P. at Monday, October 20, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
This article about Dean's speech at the Arab American Institute (AAI) is important in many ways. The Arab American community supported Bush in 2000 because they thought he'd be tough on Israel - and compared to Clinton, he actually has been. However after 9-11 the community has felt victimized by the domestic security policies and infringement of civil liberties that the Administration has pursued. Not to mention the fact that the basic neocon dogma states that Arab nations are "failed cultures" and that Islam needs to be reformed, ignoring the fact that the bulk of the rationale for lack of freedom in the Arab world is the direct result of American interference and coddling of dictators under the Reagan administration. There are photos and video from Donald Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam as Reagan's envoy in the 80's - which included weapons sales.

So Dean's appeal to the Arab American community is significant. Of course, there's pure political advantage in the numbers:

George D. Salem, chairman of the AAI board and an active Republican, acknowledged in his remarks that "there is a war going on" within the GOP and the administration, and that Arab Americans "and other moderates" have an uphill struggle with conservatives who support the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act and align the U.S. government with the policies of the Israeli government.

The apparent shift of sentiment in the Arab American community could be of political significance. Polling by John Zogby, brother of the AAI president, indicated that in 2000, Bush enjoyed an 8-percentage -point lead over Al Gore among these voters. Numbering 500,000 to 1 million, they are concentrated in such battleground states as Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey. Bush has been in Dearborn, the largest community of Arab Americans, twice in the past 20 months, but opposition to his policies has continued to grow.

but the foreign policy aspect is actually the less important one. The much more resonant issue is the domestic front:

The cheers and ovations grew more frequent when he turned to condemning the Bush administration's anti-terrorism tactics within the United States, saying that its treatment of immigrants and roundups of Muslims amounted to "ethnic profiling" and violated constitutional guarantees -- reinforcing claims made by a battery of lawyers, scholars and community service agency workers during the morning panel.
John Khamis of San Jose, Calif., a Republican activist, said the combination of Bush's Middle East policy and Ashcroft's use of the Patriot Act means that "the attractive parts of the Republican agenda, our economic policies, are falling on deaf ears."

Asked if he thought Bush could regain support among Arab Americans before next year's election, Khamis said, "I don't know. It's going to take a real effort, and the odds are against him. I've had 30-year Republicans tell me they are re-registering as independents."

The Boston Globe article on Dean's appearance at the AAI notes that Dean elicited real emotion from the audience:

"This flag" said Dean, pointing to a hanging American flag, "belongs to every American. It does not belong to John Ashcroft or William Boykin or Rush Limbaugh or Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson." This regular stump-speech line seemed to have special impact as several Arab-Americans in the audience shed tears.

This is a demographic that is profoundly patriotic, and proud of their heritage. With Dean, they see a real chance for not just change but actual good works. It's something to watch.


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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.