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June 12, 2005

Divider, Not Uniter

Has my memory failed, or is Howard Dean THE single most divisive politician in history?

"I hate Republicans and everything they stand for."
--Howard Dean, January 2005

"This is a struggle between good and evil and we're the good."
--Howard Dean, February 2005

"[Bush voters] haven't worked an honest day in their lives."
--Howard Dean, June 2005

"The Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party."
--Howard Dean, June 2005

Republicans love Dean because they know that he's the best player on their team, to put it facetiously. This is a guy who is driving a huge wedge between the Democrats and the rest of the world. He's making certain that as few Republicans as possible will vote for any Democrat in any election, and he's driving independents away from the Democratic party. Who, after all, wants to be affiliated with someone like Dean? Well, not the independents, but there is one group: far left Democrats. One Liz Polson put it this way:

"The fact is Dean's rants are exactly what the majority of Democratic leaders in this country are thinking. Dean says in public what Democrats say to other Democrats behind closed doors. Dean is an insightful look into the inner workings of your local liberal's brain. And this is a huge plus for the GOP. When your opposition is exposed and especially when your opposition clearly has rocks for brains and can't learn from his mistakes, it makes it easier for you to continue handing defeats to him. Howard Dean is making the job of Republican strategist[s] almost unnecessary."
--Liz Polson

I've noticed that some liberals consider Dean to be the Democratic party's answer to George W. Bush. They seem to think that Bush is at the far right, while Dean expresses the point of view of the far left. I suppose that might be true. But you don't ever hear George W. Bush making statements which offend people like Dean makes. Bush is an effective politician. You may not feel that Bush sides with your positions, but you never feel insulted by him. Dean, on the other hand, should have his picture in the dictionary next to the term "abrasive".


I have just found that Peggy Noonan has made my point two days earlier, and much more colorfully:

Knowing that, let's do a thought experiment. Close your eyes and imagine this.

President Bush is introduced at a great gathering in Topeka, Kan. It is the evening of June 9, 2005. Ruffles and flourishes, "Hail to the Chief," hearty applause from a packed ballroom. Mr. Bush walks to the podium and delivers the following address.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I want to speak this evening about how I see the political landscape. Let me jump right in. The struggle between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is a struggle between good and evil--and we're the good. I hate Democrats. Let's face it, they have never made an honest living in their lives. Who are they, really, but people who are intent on abusing power, destroying the United States Senate and undermining our Constitution? They have no shame.

But why would they? They have never been acquainted with the truth. You ever been to a Democratic fundraiser? They all look the same. They all behave the same. They have a dictatorship, and suffer from zeal so extreme they think they have a direct line to heaven. But what would you expect when you have a far left extremist base? We cannot afford more of their leadership. I call on you to help me defeat them!" [My emphasis slightly different from Noonan's.]

Imagine Mr. Bush saying those things, and the crowd roaring with lusty delight. Imagine John McCain saying them for that matter, or any other likely Republican candidate for president, or Ken Mehlman, the head of the Republican National Committee.

Can you imagine them talking this way? Me neither. Because they wouldn't.

Messrs. Bush, McCain, et al., would find talk like that to be extreme, damaging, desperate. They would understand it would tend to add a new level of hysteria to political discourse, and that's not good for the country. I think they would know such talk is unworthy in a leader, or potential leader, of a great democracy. I think they would understand that talk like that is destructive to the ties that bind--and to the speaker's political prospects.

Posted by Jeff at June 12, 2005 05:51 AM


You know, I chuckle when Americans write about the "far left". You have no idea, no idea whatsoever about what constitutes the "far left".

The American 'liberal' makes me feel nauseous. It's a kind of middle class guilt trip where everything is "okay" and excuses are offered as REASONS why everything and everyone should be brought down to the lowest common denominator.

As much as it pains me to say it, if I were an American I'd probably be joining the Republicans in jeering at what constitutes the 'left' in American politics.

Posted by: kenny at June 12, 2005 06:14 AM

Sam Watterson's character in Fritjof Capra's movie "Mindwalk" (a green party type dialogue) said that non-Americans say that America is based upon the two party system: the conservative party, and the other conservative party.

The two party system in the United States forces us to prioritize issues and vote exclusively based upon that which is the most important.

Michele Catalano, a self-described "reformed Democrat" and "9/11 Republican" wrote in what has come to be referred to her "Buckle Up" speech the day after the last elections, the following:

"If you don't mind, I'd like to address the throngs of Chicken Littles who seem to be out in full force on the net today. I just want to clear up a few things, as you all seem to be pretty misguided in more than one area today. I voted for George Bush. I am not a redneck. I do not spend my days watching cars race around a track, drinking cheap beer and slapping my woman on the ass. I am not a bible thumper. In fact, I am an atheist. I am not a homophobe. I am educated beyond the fifth grade. In fact, I am college educated. I am not stupid. Not by any stretch of facts. I do not bomb abortion clinics. You will not be thrown in jail for the sole reason of being a liberal. Your child's public school will not suddenly turn into a center for Christian brainwashing. Your favorite bookstore will not turn into puritan central. This is not Nazi Germany in any way. You will not be forced into concentration camps. You will not be burned in human-sized ovens because of your religion. We will not be forced to wear uniforms and march in line every day. You will not live in fear.... What does the (presumed) election of George Bush mean to you, as a member of the left? It means you and your party have four years to get yourselves together and figure out exactly what you stand for. It means you have a couple of years, max, to come up with a viable candidate who represents the majority of you and doesn't pander to every knock off group of your party.... What did you all believe in this year? Hate? Anger? You ran your own campaign, one filled to the brim with bile and acidic spittle and you wonder why you feel so black today? You were pinning your hopes on the the wish that the rest of America harbored the same intense hatred as you and would vote with their clenched fists. Now that you are left without the hoped for victory party as an outlet for your rage, you have to direct it somewhere else. If not at the candidate, then at his voters, right? What I am seeing today makes me pity you, and it's a pity tinged with disgust and should not be mistaken for empathy. It means the same things for us moderate Republicans. Maybe in this time we can produce a candidate who doesn't alienate the social liberal in us, yet speaks to our concerns about defense, security and the war on terror. I am not completely enamored with the Republican Party. There's a lot of work to be done within the ranks. I'd like to see a full stop of the move towards the religious right. Perhaps there is the perfect candidate out there for both of us, someone just making his or her way up the political chain right now...."

Peggy Noonan, in the article which I quoted above, said:

"In America there is a lot of political integration. Democrats and Republicans are friends. Life forces them to be if they need to be forced, which most don't. They know each other from the office, Little League, school meetings, the neighborhood. Actually America is mostly filled with people who say not 'I'm a Democrat' and 'I'm a Republican,' but 'I voted for Bush' and 'I like McCain' and 'I voted for Kerry.' They identify by personal action more than political party, at least in my experience."

The point being is that the real left and right, the real people in the American population, are probably much more alike than they are different. The appearance of extreme differences come from our candidates, not the people, regardless of which party they tend to support.

Posted by: Jeff at June 12, 2005 07:35 AM

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