Wednesday, February 16, 2005
( 6:52 AM )
Stand Up; Insert Backbone.
There's a lot of hee-heeing and snickering going on in Republican ranks over the election of Howard Dean to be chair of the DNC. But that nervous laughter and mockery is the same behavior a bully uses when he's scared of something and doesn't want to admit it. They try to find ways to demean Himself and the party, while the whole time realizing that this could very well be the beginning of the end of the Rightwing juggernaut on government - local, state and national. Krugman says it perfectly and clearly: this isn't about the Democratic party moving left (or right, for that matter), it's about it becoming an actual and effective opposition party - the role it should have been playing for 5 years now.
"The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there," Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. "But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe."
Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.
It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a "Clintonesque Republicrat," someone who, as governor, tried "to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required."
Even on Iraq, many moderates, including moderate Republicans, quietly shared Mr. Dean's misgivings - which have been fully vindicated - about the march to war.
But Mr. Dean, of course, wasn't quiet. He frankly questioned the Bush administration's motives and honesty at a time when most Democrats believed that the prudent thing was to play along with the war party.
For a while, Mr. Dean will be the public face of the Democrats, and the Republicans will try to portray him as the leftist he isn't. But Deanism isn't about turning to the left: it's about making a stand.
Some of my longtime readers will recall when I made the committment almost 2 years ago to support and work for the Dean candidacy - as a progressive, I was actually compromising on several things by supporting Dean because he wasn't as left as I would have liked. Most progressives came to his camp via this sort of compromise: we weren't sure we liked some of his more moderate stands (the whole trade thing being the biggest issue for me) and yet, he was the only one out there willing to take a stand on anything. I'm so proud about the time I put in to work for Dean's candidacy, that I got to meet him face to face and confirm my belief that he really is the real deal, and that he is about this country, not about himself. There is a reason why Dean became DNC chairman despite the protest of the big party leaders and powerbrokers: the people had a taste of popular power with Dean and they wanted that back in the Party of the People. It's the grassroots that made Dean chair, and that's the power that will make his leadership the most effective and transformative the party has seen in decades.
THIS is what the Democratic party needs - not a right/left shift, but a stand-up-tall shift. Already, the evidence is mounting that it's a winning strategy for Dems. Standing firm and standing together, Congressional Dems are discovering that even in the minority, they are finally weilding some power simply by standing firm together against the obvious thievery of the Bush Social Security "plan" and other Bush ideas that seek only to profit the rich of this country. The Democratic party DOES stand for something - many things, actually - and it's about time people started hearing what those things are, because at the bottom of it all, the Dems are the ones who stand for the citizens of this country.
And Dean, the great Himself, is the best vessel to pour out the Democratic truth to the country, dousing this nation in hope and realization that things can change for the better. The Rightwing is not laughing at Dean because they think he's a joke, they're laughing to cover their abject terror about what he really is: the frontal wave of a new opposition onslaught that won't rest until the country is taken back from the greedy grip of neocon irrationalism and corporate cronyism (something the power dems are also guilty of) and returned to the hands of the people.