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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, December 30, 2003



posted by Dana at Tuesday, December 30, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
The term “Heathers” has come into vogue describing “liberal” columnists such as Matthew Yglesias and Joshua Micah Marshall.

Its origin is as the title of a 1988 movie starring Winona Ryder as a high schooler desperate to join a sorority where all the girls are named Heather. It’s a touchstone among “Generation X,” (the baby bust, born between 1964 and the Reagan era.)

I first saw the term used to describe the media in a story by David Podvin. He credited the term to Peter Hart of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, who said “reporters tend to be clique-ish sorority-like ‘Heathers’ who are put off by the personalities of (all) liberal candidates.”

Podvin’s view is darker. He sees them as the GOP’s Stepford Wives (the remake comes out in June (goody))

In fact, the serial sliming of Democrats has absolutely nothing to do with Clinton or Gore or Dean or Kerry – it is all about the profit motive. The anti-Democratic bias in the media is directly proportional to the level of consolidation of the industry. While it is true that mainstream reporters are excruciatingly shallow, that is because journalists of substance who will not conform to the corporate agenda are unwelcome at the major media outlets.

What remains at America’s metropolitan newspapers and national broadcasting networks are the reporters who are willing to trade their integrity for high-paying jobs. In 2000, these mercenaries savaged the Democratic nominee because their employers viewed anything else as being unacceptable. In 2004, they will do exactly the same thing for exactly the same reason.

In other words, it’s all part of the Conservative Media Conspiracy, the Silencing of Dissent in the name of Corporate Greed.

However you view it, whether as mere “me-tooism” or outright bias, it’s part of the environment we must deal with. The Doctor himself is playing a wary game of seduction, soliciting Washington endorsements and highlighting his moderate credentials.

We don’t have to play it that way. But shouting “Conservative Media Conspiracy,” even if true, is not going to get the j-o-b done.

As so often the case in questions involving Governor Howard Dean M.D., the answer lies in history. In this case, the history of Washington, D.C.

Washington was designed as a renter’s town. Abigail Adams called Georgetown “the very dirtiest hole I ever saw.” My favorite Washington movie is the war-time comedy “Government Girl,” portraying Washington, in its most heroic period, as a fetid pool of power-grabbers who care little for the common good.

Those who stay in Washington, in other words, shouldn’t. What the town needs most of all is turnover, a spring cleaning, not just in the government but everywhere.

I think the Heathers know this. I think that’s why they are so anxious to do the bidding of Washington Democrats and take Dean down. They know that Dean brings, not just a Democrat to power, but true democracy, in all its revolutionary hurly-burly fervor. A Dean Administration would not just discomfit them, it would turn their safe little lives upside-down.

To which I say, again, goody. Turnover is what we should stand for, turnover is what we should demand. Turnover now. Marshall, Yglesias, Stephanopoulos, Matthews, all you Heathers, get out of town. If you can make a living in the Real America, maybe someone will invite you back.

But for now you’re tainted. You have, as the cops say, “gone native.” You’re suffering Stockholm Syndrome.

The good news is that, once again, this casts us in the mood of the revolutionaries, at a time when a “throw the bums out” mood has taken over. There are no jobs, our best young people are dying, we’re scared to death, the environment is a disaster, but we don’t have to take it.

We don’t have to take it from Bush, and we don’t have to take it from the Heathers, either. We’re marching, we’re spreading the word, and we’re going to win.

UPDATE (Aziz): The comment thread has been abuzz with disagreement (including my own) about calling Matt (and to a lesser extent JMM) a Heather. ccobb summarizes best:

I'm a liberal Democrat. I like Dean a lot. ... I am not a Dean supporter, although like most Dems I will certainly support him if he gets the nom. Sorry Deaniacs, but the good doctor is not the 2nd coming of Christ, Moses and Mohammed roled into one. He's just a politician, and a relatively moderate one at that. He is not perfect.

And like Matt Y and JMM, I have my concerns about Dean, just as I do about most of the candidates. But I don't think it is selling out to the "mainstream" or being a "heather" to be critical of Dean. Hell, if more of that would have happened with Bush, we might not have him as our fearless leader.


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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.