Fearlessness and Good Republicans
Please go read this thoughtful essay by Michael Cudahy, an Republican who is working to elect Howard Dean:
I can remember the first Dean meetup I went to back in March. 40 people gathered on a cold Winter night in Portland, OR to talk about an unknown ex-Governor from Vermont who was campaigning for a vote we wouldn't be making for another 18 months. That alone was an extra-ordinary thing to witness. But what also impressed me that night was that there were two people in the crowd who were registered Republicans who got up in front of a crowd of Democrats, Greens and Independents and openly confessed that they voted for George W. Bush and that they wanted to do whatever they could to make amends for that error.
This country is hungry to put an end to the partisan warfare that has consumed this nation for the last 15 years -- at least.
That hunger, and a deep discontent with the status quo keeps reasserting itself. It raised its head in '96 with the hope that Colin Powell might run. It reemerged with the McCain insurgency, and I believe that it will finally succeed with the candidacy of Howard Dean.
This is not a question of party registration. It is a matter of right and wrong. It is a question of thoughtful policy development that addresses the needs and problems that are facing the majority of people in this country.
I have campaigned all over this country and I have enormous confidence in the basic common sense of the American people. I believe if you speak to them rationally they will listen. I am convinced that one of the reasons that the Dean campaign is gaining such traction is because unlike everyone else they have thrown the rule book away and are beginning to intelligently address the problems that are threatening the nation.
I also believe that they understand that they represent a potential home for millions of disenfranchised traditional Republicans who -- like myself -- are no longer welcome in their own Party.
Governor Dean projects a complete unwillingness to be afraid, and that is the key to taking these people out. From what I am hearing from friends inside the Republican Party, they are deeply concerned by the Dean campaign because they do not know how to deal with it.
I guess I would say to people who have been terrified by President Bush and his administration, "do not be afraid of all Republicans, because there are millions of Republicans who are wonderful caring people. Citizens who embrace the traditions and policies of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower......reach out to them.........and create a radical center where all of us can work together -- even when we disagree."
Please do not tar us all with the same brush. Like all Americans, we love our country, its values and the principles that have made it great. Equally important, we are committed to the vision of the founders of our party who believed, in the words of Abraham Lincoln that, "This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it."
There has been a lot of talk about how Dean is drawing in people who have felt disenfranchised from the political system. But what hasn't been talked about enough is how Dean is appealing to a lot of disaffected Republicans who are tired of belonging to a party that is lead by crass political operatives like Karl Rove and Tom DeLay.
I make lots of cracks about Republicans, but that is generally my way of commenting on the leadership of the Republican party. I don't want to fall into the trap of assuming that all Republicans are unfeeling ogres who care only about their own welfare. Republicans are Americans to and they deserve moral leadership as much as the rest of us.
Mr. Cudahy demonstrates this eloquently in his essay. Mr. Cudahy also elaborates on the one weapon that Dean has that the Republican leadership doesn't know how to deal with: fearlessness. The GOP has become so used to operating in a political atmosphere where Democrats cower in the face of Republican belligerence that, when one of them stands up and says "enough", they are flummoxed by how to respond.
When Rove came out a few months back and cheered on a Dean float at a local Washington D.C. parade some people thought this was a sign that Rove was afraid of Dean and that he was trying to fool the Democrats into not nominating him. I think it more likely that it was just another part of Rove's general attempt to keep the Democrats cowering in uncertainty (see the recent Adam Nagourney article about "Worried Democrats"). What I don't think Rove expected was for Dean and his supporters to take strength from Rove's clumsy efforts(*). Dean went on to post record setting Q2 fundraising numbers and bring out 10,000+ crowds in the middle of August more than a year before the election. Here we see a prime example of how fearlessness can slay the mighty GOP machine.
You don't hear much from Rove lately about how he wants the Democrats to nominate Dean do you?
I wonder why?
Update: I didn't realize it when I wrote this post, but apparently Michael Cudahy is not just a Republican. He is a Republican party activist who ran 8 states for George Senior (according to the folks over at Escapable Logic and at Dean Nation). I wonder how many other GOP activists are ready to bail on Dubya?