Why Howard Dean Cannot Be Elected President

Aquarian Weekly 1/17/03 REALITY CHECK


Howard DeanHoward Dean will never be president. He is a bizarre amalgam of Michael Dukakis and George McGovern rolled into an unpolished, ornery fire breather built to appeal to the extreme left wing of a party currently lost on the national political scene. Union dinks, college kids, southern pick-up truck rebels with confederate flag decals or an Al Gore endorsement aside, an anti-war, radically motivated fiscal and social New England liberal will never win key independents in the mid-west or the south.

The last one to pull that off needed to cheat, and then had his head blown off before repeating the deed.

If the Dems have any hope of unseating this mediocre president, they need to reconsider the odds. But judging the field, and the insider intrigue of a party gearing up to be Hillary Clinton’s bitch, it is an unlikely hope at best.

With six weeks remaining until the New Hampshire Primary – an atavistic exercise as symbolically hyped, fiscally provoked, and strategically dead as your average college football bowl game – the governor of Vermont is the leading Democrat to challenge George Bush for the White House. This meant little for the last Democrat elected president, William Jefferson Clinton, who finished second in NH. But oh how things have changed in a decade.

The man who is likely to finish a distant second is Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, a man slated by party big wigs this past summer to be the front runner. In ’92, Clinton was a laughing stock entering NH, and came to view his eventual second place standing as a victory. Kerry cannot and will not survive second place.

If the Dems have any hope of unseating this mediocre president, they need to reconsider the odds.

No one else in this endless pack of candidates is close. Dean will win NH and all indications are he will make a strong showing in the Iowa Caucus, which will effectively put Missouri Congressman, Dick Gephardt on ice. Gephardt’s campaign has staggered since Dean grabbed key endorsements from major cash-cow unions and has publicly called Iowa a “must win”.

Gore’s endorsement of Dean all but buried Joseph Lieberman’s campaign. The Connecticut Senator, and former Gore running mate, dutifully postponed announcing his candidacy until Gore decided not to run, and now he has to eat shit.

Most of the anti-Hillary power people in the party apparently convinced the formerly “retired” vice president that to boost Dean’s run gains solidarity with the present 2004 momentum allowing Gore safe passage past Hillary for a ’08 run. In essence, Gore and the party ostensibly concedes the White House to fend off an inevitable Clinton power play.

This may all be fine and dandy in Democratic command circles, but on the national scene Gore is an anathema. He has the stank of defeat on him, and what appeared to be a simple beltway backstabbing of a former running mate is a tolling bell of doom for a man trying to accomplish what Gore could not.

Don’t be fooled. Dean’s people are already looking beyond the primaries. The candidate’s recent performances in these interminable debates have the air of a tune-up. He has segued nicely into a smoothing of his national campaign rhetoric, bypassing his opponents to begin playing off Bush.

As for the White House, there has been no secret the Bush people are giddy at the prospect of taking on Dean. Quotes of him winning a mere five states in a general election are a bit severe, but not far off. They cannot believe their luck. There was legitimate concern about General Wesley Clark, but he has failed to build any momentum and seems unwilling to slice into Dean’s aggressive stance. And then there is his Arkansas connection that has the anti-Hillary people wary of his ultimate motives.

Dean has balls, deep steel things that allow him to be bold on gay marriages, pot smoking, draft dodging and a wild reconstruction of every government program. This works only if you are a southern Democrat with a robotic focus on one issue. Clinton hammered away at the first Bush’s putrid economy for ten months. Dean is all over the map, what with trashing the war, tax cuts, the recent Medicare mess and a myriad of social issues, and without a Ross Perot around to suck 10% of the independent vote, he will lose. Dukakis and McGovern did not have a noisy independent, and they lost. Badly.

And like those doomed candidates, Dean’s type of campaign works beautifully 10 months before crunch time, but a year from now with an economy slowly shifting upward and the Bush war machine having a full year to stabilize, it tends to appear stale with time.

The old adage that you campaign in the primary to appeal inwardly and then unfurl a different strategy for the national campaign is a faint hope. Perhaps once faced with a national debate Dean will loosen his tether to the type of special interest fops needed to gain the nomination. Barely into the primaries in 2000, Bush appeared willing to champion any extreme right wing whim, but once he defeated John McCain he pulled to the left and maintained a slim lead all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.

But that was the closest election in a generation and no one on either side of ’04 wants that kind of grind.

And neither will get it.

I’m not sure anyone else fits the bill, but one thing is certain, if its Howard Dean, it’s four more years.

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