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By David Podvin
Most highly placed Democratic officeholders are willing to appear in public with the execrable George W. Bush but not with the honorable Howard Dean. Party regulars are appalled that Chairman Dean has begun redefining American politics in stark terms that the Homer Simpsons of this nation can easily understand. From Dean’s perspective, the conservatives who subvert democracy are “bad guys” guilty of perpetrating “evil” and therefore must be “defeated”. The concept of confronting Republicans has long been anathema to corporatist Democrats, so the chairman is under siege by the morally compromised Democratic establishment that would rather have the party abandon principle and lose than behave ethically and win.
The internal opposition to Dean is being led by corporate strumpet Joseph Biden, who has publicly declared that the chairman does not speak for him. Tellingly, in the wake of 9/11 Biden announced, “President Bush now speaks for us all.” The senator represents business interests who resent that Dean is reorganizing the party to provide the rank and file with greater influence. Biden has long been a foil for the right wing, a man so unprincipled that as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee he allowed Republicans to ram through the Supreme Court nomination of the perjurious Clarence Thomas. Smiling Joe is extremely comfortable with the Democrats being a perpetual minority party because capitulation to conservatives is his preferred method of operation, and he vilifies any Democrat who plays to win.
Dean plays to win. The chairman is seeking to provide voters with a clearer contrast between Democrats and Republicans, advocating a populist approach that marginalizes conservatives as economic adversaries of the common citizen. He demands that the Democrats become more aggressive in challenging right wing demagoguery on social issues while refusing to concede the high ground on patriotism and religious faith. Dean is seeking to morph the Democratic team from passive victim into dominant aggressor, and the establishments of both parties hate him for it.
Inevitably, there will be a showdown between Democrats who want their party to serve the working class and those who insist that it serve the upper class. The difference between the populists and the elitists was highlighted by their respective positions on Corporate America’s cherished Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Dean derided the legislation as an assault on consumers by the rapacious financial industry. Biden and other mercantile Democrats embraced the bill as a way to prevent consumers from persecuting multinational conglomerates.
The Democratic congressional contingent is infested with Joe Bidens, amoral careerists who pose as liberals while doing the bidding of robber barons. It is a tragedy for which Democratic primary voters are responsible. Prior to defeating the Republicans, Democrats must first wrest control of our party from the Quislings whom we have elected.
For years, that seemed like a hopeless task, but when the grass roots made Dean chairman over the anguished protests of the Democratic hierarchy it signified things just might be changing. In order to win control of the party, Dean must somehow survive until the next presidential election and then gain an ally in the White House. Survival will not be easy because the Congressional Democrats have chosen the path of accommodation, which historically produces disastrous off-year election results.
If Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi guide their troops to an electoral drubbing in 2006, Dean will be the fall guy because the entire governing class is determined to see him go. Right wing spokesmen constantly say the Dean approach will destroy the Democratic Party, something that would never be said in public if they believed it were true. The last thing that conservatives want to face is actual opposition, so for many decades the mantra of Republicans and the corporate media has been that Democrats must be centrist or perish. Should the Democrats lose the 2006 elections, Dean will be scapegoated by the corrupt political/journalistic complex that seeks to perpetuate America’s de facto one party system.
It is therefore crucial for liberals to support the chairman aggressively. All contributions to Democratic candidates should include a note that future donations will be contingent on the recipient’s unyielding support for Dean. Progressive commentators should emphasize that the off-year elections are a Reid/Pelosi production. If things go well, the congressional leaders can claim the credit. But if next year their strategy of capitulation does not produce satisfactory electoral results, it is imperative that Howard Dean be inoculated from the blame so he can survive through the pivotal 2008 presidential campaign.
Dean cannot resurrect the party without the help of a president who shares his determination to transform the Washington Democrats into advocates for the average citizen. With Dean heading the DNC and a liberal reformer in the Oval Office, the Democratic Party would reassume its traditional role as champion of the underdog. Dean’s presence as chairman makes the next presidential nomination especially relevant for people who are disgusted with seeing Democrats defer to Republicans.
Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner for the 2008 nomination because of a concerted push on her behalf by the corporate media, a fact that should set off alarm bells for liberal primary voters who were conned into supporting John Kerry after mainstream journalists declared Dean “unelectable”. Nominating Kerry was a fateful mistake. The only way to have beaten Bush by a cheat-proof margin was to challenge the moral legitimacy of his regime and its benefactors. Dean was the one prominent candidate willing to make that challenge, so Bush’s corporate media allies contrived an absurd scandal involving the doctor being too peppy at a pep rally. Unfortunately, Democratic voters took the bait.
To gain the presidency in 2008, the Democratic nominee must be willing to challenge the moral legitimacy of the conservative movement itself, and that is something Hillary will never do. She is taking exactly the opposite approach, consorting with Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay to establish her credentials as a bipartisan centrist. While Dean was enduring the slings and arrows that accompanied opposing the indefensible conquest of Iraq, Hillary was eagerly capitulating to Bush. It cannot be seriously argued that such a bright woman actually believed Bush’s transparently deceitful rationale for the war. Clinton knew what was happening, and she knew it was evil, and for reasons of ambition she was willing to be complicit.
That ethical failure was no aberration. For all the palaver spouted by Republicans that she is a dangerous ideologue, Clinton is just another political climber as she has proven by advocating Democrats establish a dialogue with people who feel religiously compelled to murder doctors. Hillary’s career in public service has been characterized by relentless expediency.
It is insufficient for the Democrats to regain power. That power must be used for collective rather than personal benefit. In the unlikely event that Clinton were to win, a Hillary presidency would be about Hillary first, last, and only, leaving the atrophying Democratic Party to atrophy further still.
Most of the other potential Democratic presidential nominees are also woefully inadequate. John Kerry could not successfully make the case against an incumbent who was an abject failure. John Edwards could not successfully make the case against the most corrupt vice president in American history. Russ Feingold and Barack Obama have about as much chance of being elected president as they have of becoming Imperial Klan Wizard. Evan Bayh is a Democrat only because the Republicans consider him too conservative. And then there is Joe Biden, who is the choice of those nostalgic liberals yearning to relive the 1984 Mondale campaign.
That leaves Al Gore. As a child of the establishment, Gore spent most of his life placing excessive importance on the opinions of the Washington elite, but he has changed. Following the theft of his presidency, Gore has become a born again insurgent whose wisdom and candor make him America’s greatest statesman. The former vice president has repudiated his past unsavory links to the netherworld of the party. Gone is the Democratic Leadership Council Al Gore. In his place is Populist Gore, a fire-breathing champion of the masses who has boldly confronted the conservative menace while other Democrats have cowered.
No one in public life has spoken more forcefully against the reactionaries who are destroying the United States. Gore accused George W. Bush of “lying” about the Hussein-al Qaeda link that was used as a pretext for invading Iraq. Not “receiving faulty intelligence”, as Hillary contends. Not “making an honest mistake”, as Biden claims. Gore said Bush “lied”, and when the corporate media excoriated him for saying it, he unflinchingly said it again.
Gore has labeled as an “American heresy” the effort by theocrats to eliminate the separation of church and state. He has blasted the GOP for “poisoning democracy” with its recurring campaigns of character assassination. He has called the Bush Social Security plan “an immoral scheme designed to defraud taxpayers”. Most subversively, he has agreed with Dean that “corporations have too much power and people have too little”.
A subversive can realistically hope to gain the White House only if he has previously been deemed plausible by the electorate. As an erstwhile presidential nominee, Gore has passed the plausibility test, and his subsequent radicalization does nothing to alter that. He is the one person in America who wants to reform the political system and can convince the public that it must be done.
Gore is reportedly undecided about whether to run in 2008. He should be encouraged to run. Led by honorable people, the Democratic Party could become an instrument of change. The Democrats would still have to operate within the parameters of a society dominated by multinational conglomerates, but even an incremental shift in power back towards individual citizens would be a significant reversal of the prevailing trend.
There have been agonizingly long stretches of time when the Democratic Party has not had a single courageous leader. Now it has two, and that provides a precious opportunity. Given the chance, Howard Dean and Al Gore can reclaim the integrity of a once proud political movement gone astray. These fine men will provide winning leadership, but that is insufficient in the absence of winning followership. Democratic voters must reject the warnings of corporate acolytes and rally behind the agents of change. By supporting Dean now and Gore in 2008, liberals can first take back our party and then take back our country.
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