Thursday, March 03, 2005

Misinterpreting Dean: Matt Bai Gets It Wrong

In the New York Times magazine this weekend, Matt Bai had a short essay on 'What Dean Means'. It's a good topic, but his answers are way off the mark. I quote:

...Lashing out at Washington Democrats as timid and feckless during the primaries, he vowed to ''take back our party,'' and he did exactly that. The party's Congressional leaders could talk all they wanted about how Dean would be a mere functionary -- ''I think Dean knows his job is not to set the message,'' Harry Reid lectured -- but, like Kerry's welcoming e-mail message, such statements had the ring of self-delusion. The moment the votes for chairman were counted, Howard Dean became the de facto voice of the Democratic Party.

Dean would seem to be better suited to the chairman's office than he was to the White House...Inevitably, Dean's ascension has been seen in the familiar Democratic context of center versus left, New Democrat versus old. Dean, it has been said, is too far left to lead a party that suffers from an image of extremism. But what Dean's selection actually makes clear is that these distinctions have less meaning in today's party than ever before.

...Dean perfectly embodies the modern Democratic Party, whose ideology feels so muddled and incohesive that labels of ''left'' and ''center,'' at least in terms of governing philosophy, are almost irrelevant.

Bai then goes on to say that divisions, sparked by Dean's confrontational style, are just what the Democrats need to hone their message and define their vision.

Here's my alternative version of what Dean means, and why he's bad for the Democratic Party. Far from the united (even superficially) party that Bai conveys, today's Democratic Party is torn asunder, for lack of a better analogy, in a struggle between the children and the grownups. Dean is the children's candidate. His appeal is to the radical elements who want a revolution, now, and don't even know what they're revolting against. The Deaniacs are anarchic in spirit, not by philosophical choice, but rather in the absence of any coherent platform.

These are the people who are liberal because it just seems right. They throw around concepts like tolerance and diversity to mask the fact that their's is a world of moral relativism. There are no absolutes (save the right to drive-through abortions), because absolutes require blood, sweat, and tears. Go-along-to-get-along is easier, and might make one feel less 'judgmental'; it most decidedly will not bring about the incredible changes we are seeing in the Middle East, as just one example.

The Democrats that make the attempt to govern responsibly are reviled by this crowd - look at the abuse they heap on Lieberman. Dean's ascension to the head of the party reflects a divide that, I predict, will soon result in the splitting of the Democratic Party. It's blindingly apparent that the 'progressive' crowd is nothing more than a European-style Green Party hiding under the sheltering arms of their Democratic big brother. The time is rapidly approaching when one side or the other will have to reject the current arrangement, and take the plunge into three-party politics. The alternative, as exemplified by the Dean chairmanship, is to let the fringe direct the mainstream.

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