Focusing Democratic anger
CNN LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE Aired June 2, 2003 - 18:00 ET DOBBS: Moving to political news tonight, a new round of polls concerning President Bush and Democrats. Less than two years ago, the president had a great deal of support from Democrats, but times have changed. Senior political analyst Bill Schneider has the story. ... SCHNEIDER: During his first eight months in office, President Bush's job approval rating among Democrats averaged only 30 percent, hardly a honeymoon. September 11 created a huge surge of unity in the country. Democrats rallied to Bush at the end of 2001, giving the president nearly 80 percent support. But it wore off quickly in 2002, especially after what Democrats saw as the president's harshly divisive midterm election campaign. So far this year, the president has averaged less than 40 percent support from Democrats, the latest figure, 32 percent. Democrats don't like his international policy. ... SCHNEIDER: Republicans cultivated an intense dislike for President Clinton in the 1990s. Has Democrats' antipathy toward Bush reached those epic proportions? The answer is, almost. Republicans' approval of Bill Clinton averaged about 26 percent over his eight years in office. Democrats aren't quite as angry as Bush as Republicans were at Clinton, but they're getting there. ... SCHNEIDER: Right now, Democrats say, by nearly 2-1, that they want a candidate who can beat Bush more than a candidate whom they agree with on the issues. And which candidate would that be? So far, no Democrat has really caught fire. Senator Joe Lieberman leads the field by a small margin because he's the best-known Democrat. But the largest number of Democrats say they can't decide whom to support. ... SCHNEIDER: So the message here is there is an army of angry Democrats looking for somebody to lead them, but you know what, they don't see anybody out there yet. ... DOBBS: You certainly have the evidence to support that view. But the idea that people would prefer, Democrats would prefer a candidate who will beat Bush rather than one that would agree with him on issues, that's a startling ratio. SCHNEIDER: That is. It is startling, because it says their prime motivation is to get Bush out of there and they're not likely to insist on ideological purity. It doesn't have to be the most liberal candidate. It has to be someone they think can beat Bush, which a lot of the Democrats are running on. They say, I'm the guy who can beat Bush. And if that's their argument, they're going to have to prove it. ... DOBBS: Kerry and Dean running hard in different directions, it seems. SCHNEIDER: Right. That's a very tight contest in New Hampshire, where Dean is from the neighboring state. Dean's the governor of Vermont; Kerry's the senator from Massachusetts. There's brewing a knockdown, drag-out fight between the two of them. John Kerry, there was a terrific profile of him in the "Washington Post" on Sunday, which described him as "complex, smart, nuanced," and I thought to myself when I read it, those are words people don't use when they talk about George Bush. They don't call Bush complex, nuanced, or even smart. So in a lot of ways Kerry is the un-Bush. And in the "New York Times" they did a profile of Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, and they described him as appealing to Democrats who are fed up with Al Gore, who said we want someone who's tough, who's in your face. So it could end up being a contest between Kerry, the un-Bush, and Dean, the un- Gore.
That's our crack establishment media for you. They only just now are noticing the palpable sense of anger that has been obvious to the rest of us for years. It's been growing for a long time. It was annoyed during the impeachment fiasco, it was outraged in 2000, it calmed down after 9/11, but it has returned even stronger after 2002 and everything since. If that anger can be focused effectively it will be a nearly unstoppable force. That is why I support Howard Dean. I support him because he is the only serious candidate in the Democratic field who both understands the nature of that anger and knows how to effectively focus it. The rest of them, Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, are just beginning to become aware of it. The fact that it has taken them this long to realize it is another indication that they aren't qualified to take on Bush. Schneider, of course, is wrong in one part of his analysis. One candidate has "caught fire". But since it took him so long to notice what was obvious to the rest of us it isn't surprising that he hasn't noticed the boiling cauldron that is the Dean campaign.