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Explaining Howard Dean

Posted on 2005.06.15 at 11:34
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Current Music: Chuck Berry - Come On
Lots of people have been squeaking and beeping lately about Howard Dean, how he is out of control, how he is hurting the party, etc. Even some of the pundits seem puzzled by his behavior, and some Democrats are acting worried. Don't worry. Here is what is going on.

Basically, Dean is doing a slightly toned down version of something that the GOP has been doing for a long time now. It involves what I heard a British journalist call 'dog whistle politics;' that is, saying things that are attuned to the ears of a certain group, who have been waiting for someone to say these things, but which are said in such a way that the population at large doesn't hear them, or at least that there is deniability.
The GOP generally uses plants and shills to do this kind of thing, like when they had the Swift Boat liars charge that Sen. Kerry had faked his war record and that his combat injuries were a sham, or when they had weirdo former Senator (and former Democrat?) Zell Miller say at their convention that Kerry would arm the soldiers in Iraq with "spitballs." Another tactic is just to wait until some reliable crackpot says something stupid and then run with it. Trent Lott's praise of Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist platform is a good example of this.
What then? This stuff is out there, and it is red meat for those that like it. It went a long way towards solidifying those elements in the South that still resent the civil rights movement (and if you don't think there are any, just look at Jesse Helms' new book), and those Americans who needed a reason to think that a liberal couldn't be a war hero, or that there must be SOMETHING wrong with Kerry's military background, since he wasn't a conservative. So that helps.
But here is the tricky part. Then, people get to DENY it! The material is out there for those who like it, but then the party bigwigs get to deny that they had anything to do with it, and they can even contradict the claims, and look like moderates! W. somehow managed to look statesmanlike and magnanimous during the campaign when he said that he didn't think that Kerry was a traitor who had falsified his entire war record. And it worked!
So now Howard Dean is taking a page from this playbook. He is generally going more on a road of generalized insults rather than out-and-out lies, but the effect is the same. He gets to talk tough about Republicans; sometimes fairly, and sometimes not, but he appeals to those Democrats (of which I admit I can be one) who like hearing someone really go off on Republicans, and point out that they really are thralls of the Christian right. Then, other voices in the party, the Bill Richardsons, the Hillary Clintons, the Joe Bidens, get to go on the talking head shows. All they have to do is deny that the Republican party is made up entirely of white Christians, and they get to look like moderates! Nobody cares about their positions, they get to look like they are adult, sober, centrists fighting the bickering partisans even in their own party.
And that's how the game is played. I am glad to see that the Democrats are playing on the same field that the GOP has been on at least since the Lee Atwater days.


Release the Kraken!
delerium69 at 2005-06-15 16:22 (UTC) (Link)
Owe that hurts my brain.
theservant at 2005-06-15 16:24 (UTC) (Link)
Oops. Sorry!
(Anonymous) at 2005-06-15 20:58 (UTC) (Link)
But, that may go over well with democratics..but not with those that you are trying to reach out to. I mean, I am one of one of those "white christians"..so what Dean has said is that I should vote republican..when, if he did ANY research..or you for that matter..then you would know that there are MORE Christians who are registered as democrats! See, ignorance..that's all I see from the democratic party.
metalclarinet at 2005-06-16 02:41 (UTC) (Link)
Personally, I don't see much Christian about the Republican Party. The foreign policy is to do unto others, first. The domestic policy is to render unto the rich. I see a lot more of the authoritarian God of the desert than I see turn the other cheek compassion. The Republicans say their Party is a big temp. They have room for hypocrites of every religious stripe.

Perhaps Dean is employing the old saw that if you throw enough mud against a wall, some of it will stick. Let them howl. They are screwing up big time in Iraq and their political supporters are harvesting billions of war profits -- much of it outright stolen. Domestically, the treasury has been buggered and real wages are stagnating for most. They run the government and it ain't pretty. No matter how much they howl, the messenger is not going to be the story.

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