December 30, 2003


The Accidental Populist: Howard Dean vs. the democratic establishment (Steve Perry, 12/31/03, City Pages)

[T]here are many in and around the national Democratic fold who really do believe that Gore and Dean have it in mind to take the party away from the DLC once and for all. It's far too early to tell whether this is true in any meaningful sense (it's one thing to really mean it in December, another to stake your future on it in July), but a couple of observations may be safely made from here.

First, a serious run at taking over the party machine would oblige Dean to keep running against his own party not just through primary season but the general election as well. In that sense it would be very much like McGovern and '72 all over again--remember "Democrats for Nixon" and the more sub rosa means the Democrats used to undermine McGovern? To have any hope at all of winning such a race, Dean would have to take his Columbia speech on economic justice for all and make it the holy writ of his campaign. He would have to break the first covenant of our dysfunctional political family, which is never to involve outsiders in family business. The dirty little secret of the me-too Democrats is that they are really no more keen on appealing to "nontraditional voters" (traditional nonvoters, that is) than Republicans. And according to the Washington Post, Republican functionaries are beginning to grow scared of Dean's capacity to do just that.

Second, you can probably forget nearly everything in the foregoing paragraph, because the chances that Dean will pick such an audacious course and stick to it are surpassingly slim. The presumptive philosopher king of Dean's epic confrontation with the DLC, after all, is Albert Gore Jr. It's not hard to believe that Gore would like to seize the party apparatus from Clinton & Friends, but why should anyone get excited about the prospect of what he might do with it?

A few eternally masochistic Democrats are trying to make out that they finally have the new Al Gore they were promised for so long. One of the smartest consultants I know recently told me that Gore finally seems to have come into his own. "He seems to be at his best when he's had a chance to go away and just think," the politico said hopefully. "Like when he wrote his book." But the mirage of a bearded, far-seeing Gore foraging for nuts and berries with Tipper at his side faded after a mere few seconds.

We'd not wish such a fate on anyone, including those held in Guantanamo, but you really have to have read the wretched book to appreciate just how deranged that comment is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 30, 2003 7:33 PM

It is astonishing, to me, how little influence Bill Clinton has had both on American politics and, more specifically, Democratic Party politics. What is his legacy? What is left? Other than the needed cleaning up of the things he left behind.

As Charles Krauthammer noted, many of the policies of the Clinton Administration were "kick the can down the street ones" - hoping to delay the necessary decisions that would be made by future administrations.

There's no such thing as Clintonism. There's no there there, to paraphrase Getrude Stein. And if Dean gets the nomination, that will be the final blow to his legacy as the Vermont governor moves his own people into positions of authority within the party structure.

Clinton, it appears, papered over the fissures within the party; fissures that are now re-opening. The party, it seems to me, has never really dealt with the New Left elements that came out of the McGovern campaign and the 60s.


Posted by: SteveMG at December 30, 2003 9:35 PM

No fair, Ted Kaczinki thought it made sense (Well
he had in his cabin)

Posted by: narciso at December 30, 2003 9:41 PM

Clinton did give us NAFTA and welfare reform.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at December 30, 2003 10:56 PM

Those were both ideas that sprang either from the previous Bush administration or the Republican Congress - Clinton acceded to them because he had no other choice, either politically or economically.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 31, 2003 8:31 AM