Monday, February 07, 2005
by Wayne Besen
I haven't written much about the Democratic Party since Election Day, because I never aspired to be an obituary writer. But up from the Democratic dead floats the political poltergeist Howard Dean, who has risen to the helm of the graveyard known as the Democratic National Committee. As one of the foremost critics of Howard Dean during his ill-fated presidential campaign, it might surprise some people to know I applaud his resurrection as good for Democrats, gay people and America.
In July 2003, I wrote a scathing column, "The Dean Delusion"
, that predicted a Dean implosion at a time he was riding high as the clear Democratic frontrunner. According to my column:
"Dean seems unable to control his emotions or his mouth on the campaign trail....Any honest appraisal will show that Dean so far is a gaffe-prone politician who has shown a penchant for self-destructive comments that may ultimately prove his demise."
My reward for such brutal honesty was a ton of nasty e-mail from Dean sycophants that questioned my political savvy. Of course, the history books are closed and we all know Dean crashed and burned in Iowa, punctuated by his infamous "Scream". I don't mean to gloat and sound prophetic, but pass the swami hat and crystal ball, baby, and let me savor my Nostradamus moment!
Now that my Homer Simpson end zone victory dance is over, let me explain why I now support Dean.
I admire his determination and perseverance. Most politicians would have quietly slipped away and moved to Mozambique after they became a punch line for late night comics. The next time I expected to see Dean was on VH1's "Where Are They Now". Or maybe in a decade some rapper might have used his "Scream" as a sample in a hip-hop song.
However, while critics were counting on Dean's demise, he was counting the number of ways he could stage a comeback. Following his loss, he helped raise a whopping $3.5 million for Democrats across America. He even raised an estimated $250,000 for a recount in the governor's race in Washington State that led to a Democratic victory.
Dean is clearly a scrappy pit bull, which is exactly what the Democrats need to battle the ruling demagogues in the Republican Party. More than anyone else, I think he will stand up to Republican excess and clearly articulate the difference between the two parties.
During Dean's presidential bid I suggested that he might have an immutable character flaw where he was unable to control his emotions. Here is what I wrote:
"At times, Dean seems to suffer from logorrhea - which is defined as the inability to shut up. He has had to offer apologies at least five times in recent months for either reckless statements or for insulting fellow Democratic presidential nominees."
Since I wrote this, I think Dean has shown maturity and the ability to learn from his mistakes. I caught him on television a few times and he appears more thoughtful and deliberative. The big challenge for Dean is to keep energizing the Democratic base by speaking his mind without mindlessly speaking.
In recent months, Dean has also learned to smile and appear more affable on television. His angry-man routine during the Democratic primaries appealed only to angry people. If voters were generally content, or at least well medicated, Dean's fury fell flat. We can only hope that Dean stays optimistic and remembers that "sunny sells" in American politics.
Dean also has won me over with his loyalty to the gay community. Sure, it was easy for the Vermont Governor to support gay rights during the presidential campaign when the gay community was showering him with money and manpower.
But how would he react after 11 states passed Constitutional Amendments prohibiting gay marriage? Would he abandon a minority group that was largely responsible for his mercurial rise as a national figure?
"I was sickened in this election when on the ballot in 11 states, there was an amendment that was completely unnecessary - every single one of those states already outlawed gay marriage," Dean said. "The only reason to put gay marriage on the ballot in those states was to scapegoat a minority that was unpopular in order to win an election."
These are words from a man who clearly understands the value of friendship, trust and loyalty - rare commodities in the dirty game of politics.
Finally, the charge of Dean being too liberal is a conservative fabrication - much like Saddam's stockpile of WMD. As Vermont's governor, he was pro-gun, cut taxes, reformed welfare and balanced budgets. George W. Bush could only wish his record was as fiscally conservative as Dean's is.
It is too soon to tell if Dean, the ghost who wouldn't fade away, will help or simply haunt the Democrats. Based on his resilience, personal growth, allegiance and toughness, I believe Dean has earned his shot to lead the Democratic Party.
Thanks Wayne - great commentary.
I think Dean (along with Harry Reid's war room) are just what we need to shoot down the Republican talking heads -
He'll energize the base and stop us from looking for a 3rd party alternative -
posted by , at
I couldnt agree with you more. We need Howard Dean. Can he be President in the future, who knows? Who would of thought a Texan who was raised with a "silver foot in this mouth" could be President.....
Go Howard Dean...
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