Tuesday, December 30, 2003

What to Do About Dean?

I have a confession to make: I’m becoming mildly obsessed with Howard Dean. Straight out of Catullus, it’s a love-hate relationship (likewise with Bill Clinton). On one hand, Dean is extraordinarily inspiring: well-educated, successful, handsome, earnest, and high-tech. On the other, he’s incredibly scary: certainly for his comments about “re-regulating” the economy, Saddam, Osama, North Korea, and changing religion over a bike path, but also for his complete reversal from his “conservative” record as governor. As “civil rights activist” Rev. Al Sharpton has asked, "Will the real Howard Dean please stand up?" And, as David Brooks points out:

Other candidates run on their biographies or their records. They keep policy staff from their former lives, and they try to keep their policy positions reasonably consistent.

But Dean runs less on biography than any other candidate in recent years. When he began running for president, he left his past behind, along with the encumbrances that go with it. As governor of Vermont, he was a centrist Democrat. But the new Dean who appeared on the campaign trail -- a jarring sight for the Vermonters who knew his previous self -- is an angry maverick.

The old Dean was a free trader. The new Dean is not. The old Dean was open to Medicare reform. The new Dean says Medicare is off the table. The old Dean courted the N.R.A.; the new Dean has swung in favor of gun control. The old Dean was a pro-business fiscal moderate; the new Dean, sounding like Ralph Nader, declares, "We've allowed our lives to become slaves to the bottom line of multinational corporations all over the world."

So, who is Howard Dean? A dangerous liberal? The ultimate push-poll politician? “The Huey Long of the iPod set”?  Will he be able to capture the Democratic Party from the hands of the DLC, McAuliffe, and the current DNC establishment? For what? Could he really become our next President?   Or will the RNC and the CRNC finally wake up from their slumber and regain the nationwide Republican momentum?

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