Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Almost getting it

Marie Coco has a column today that demonstrates that she almost gets it as far as the Dean campaign is concerned. She recognizes that Dean's success has more to do with anger than technical savvy. But she misses the mark in suggestion that anger is all that there is to this campaign and that it won't be enough. She is right on the latter point but wrong on the former.
I have at least three things in common with Howard Dean. We both love Vermont. We both prefer fiscally responsible government. And we both hear a lot from liberals around the country, thanks to the wonder of the Internet. Because I'm plugged into the same electronic grapevine that Dean's presidential campaign is harvesting brilliantly, I know a lot about what's on the minds of Democrats who contributed to the former Vermont governor's recent electronic fund-raising surge - the blitz that gave Dean's campaign the buzz. Mostly what is on their minds is anger. ... They have taken all this anger and bundled it up and projected it onto Dean's candidacy. So Dean, who opposed the Iraq invasion, is now the latest in a long tradition of outsiders who run not so much for office, but against everyone currently holding one. ... Not that history is going to repeat itself. Just that it deserves respect. And so will Dean, if he earns it. To do that, he must broaden his appeal. The Democratic Party isn't a bunch of McGovernites with computers. It's also African-Americans and other minorities, union members, women, elderly people who remember - and still rely on - the New Deal. Frankly, the lunch-bucket crowd has more to lose from continued Republican domination of public policy than upper-middle-class people with modems. ... The next president will be forced to manage a long, costly and apparently deadly occupation. He must cope with the political fallout of this war, throughout the Mideast and among our alienated allies. He will have to play the hand he's been dealt. Only when Dean, or any other candidate, starts talking about the dangers ahead instead of a debate now past, will he mature from phenomenon to plausible president.
Here is a copy of an email I just sent to her:
Dear Ms. Coco, I am a Dean supporter and I would like to thank you for acknowledging at least part of the Dean story: that his success is not just due to his technical savvy in the use of the internet but also, in part, because he has tapped into a latent frustration felt by many in the electorate. However, anger is not the only reason many are following Dean. Anger is what may have brought Dean to our attention, but anger is not a very sustainable emotion and would eventually lead to burnout. Yet most Dean supporters I know are not getting burned out. The enthusiasm continues to grow. Why? Because Dean offers us so much more then just a way to vent our anger. Dean is about more than just criticizing the present administration and its enablers in the Democratic party. Its about returning the power to the people that are supposed to have it. Its about standing FOR something instead of simply AGAINST something (universal health care, fair taxation, fiscal responsibility, a TRULY humble foreign policy). Believe me, if Dean's campaign was about nothing more than being angry I wouldn't be supporting it. I can understand where you might get the wrong impression about this. On your first exposure to Dean supporters you will probably find a lot of expressions of anger. God knows I've vented myself a few times. But if you hang around us for much longer and allow us to move beyond that anger you will find a much deeper level of support that goes beyond simple frustration. The Bush philosophy is all about scaring us into giving up our power to an elite few. Let them make all the important decisions they tell us. We just have to show up at the rallies and wave our little flags at the appropriate time. The Democratic Party philosophy has been to try and emulate Bush's success by imitating his policies but getting better results. Pfah! The Dean philosophy has been to return power to the people and let them guide the course of the future. And this is more than just words for Governor Dean. His campaign has given an extraordinary amount of leeway to his supporters to direct the campaign. How many political players do you know who would be willing to let "the rabble" have so much influence? Most would probably shudder at the idea. And its working! Dean has gone from being an asterisk to a serious "threat" to win the nomination in less than six months. And he has done so by letting the people control their own destiny. What an amazing idea! I appreciate the advice you are providing Ms. Coco, but we are way ahead of you on this already. Try looking beyond the surface impression and see what is really going on here. There's something happening that is quite extraordinary. Don't miss the boat. Chris Andersen


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