Friday, November 07, 2003

More voices

Add yet another voice to the chorus. Jefferson Crowe, a history professor at Cornell University, writes for The American Prospect that "Dean's assertion ... was clumsy -- but on the right track."

So far, this immense historical problem has appeared in Dean's campaign with all the breadth and depth of a set of bullet points in a political-strategy book. The former Vermont governor's challenge now is to flesh out this issue for himself and the nation. Obviously he won't get far trying to court a constituency by calling its members "rednecks" or exercising his tin ear on race before the electorate. Rather than go on apologizing for the Confederate-flag flap, however, he ought to announce a major speech on the issue and walk the nation through this history. He will never have the credibility Bill Clinton had with poor whites or with blacks. But he would also not be the first rich, white politician to bring the nation together around a shared economic vision. A frank confrontation with the recent political history of race and class might just deliver Dean's mythic truck driver, along with the whole of American politics, to a more sincere discussion about equality.

A lot has been made of the fact that Dean is a "white patrician northerner" and thus an unlikely choice to be the standard bearer for this fight. I'm not so sure. Consider the fact that FDR was also a "white patrician northerner". Of course, FDR was a lot more eloquent than Dean, but then FDR never had to put up with 24 hour news channels. I wonder how Roosevelt would have performed on "Rock The Vote"?


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