Sunday, February 13, 2005

Let the Healing Begin
With Howard Dean's easy win yesterday in the race for DNC chair, both Dean and his erstwhile critics seem to be determinedly making kissy-face. And, say I, God bless 'em. Here's the Moose, offering congrats and good luck (though also, I think, pretty clearly hedging his bets against a possible "told ya so" moment), and here's Salon's take on Dean's first steps:

At his press conference today, Dean joined Hillary Clinton in moving for middle ground on abortion, expressed an interest in engaging with evangelical Christians, and made it clear that he'll be spending much of his time working in the red states. That doesn't mean that Dean is swinging right; he ripped into the Bush administration in his acceptance speech, and he said that Democrats are going to fight to take the country back from Republicans who "can't be trusted with taxpayers' money."

But Dean spoke with more determination than emotion. And when reporters tried to provoke him at the press conference with the worst that has been said about him -- Newt Gingrich has said that Dean's election amounts to a Democratic "death wish" -- Dean refused to take the bait. He laughed off the comments and said he hoped to prove them wrong. Asked whether he has changed his style, Dean laughed again. "I'm not a 'Zen' person, so it's hard to answer stylistic questions," he said. "I am who I am."

Now, think about the phrase "can't be trusted with the taxpayers' money" for just a moment. That's a *very* different kind of critique from the off-the-shelf liberal line of attack against Bushism, e.g. they're immoral, bloodthirsty, intolerant corporate jackals.

Then think about what Dean said last year--not how he said it ("Confederate flag decals"), but what he said--about engaging conservative white southerners on the grounds that Republican economic policies that redistribute wealth upwards don't serve them.

And remember that this is a guy who, for all his rhetorical fire and the liberal boogeyman he offered, isn't really all that liberal--he supported the first Gulf War, hedged on gay marriage, and pretty consistently pissed off the progressive community in Vermont. Now ask yourself if maybe Dean's message, carried by a messenger who isn't a blue-blood northeasterner actively courting an infuriated liberal base, might not be an electoral winner for Democrats. If Dean the personality/caricature can stay out of the path of Dean the political thinker/organizer, we might just have something cooking here.

I've been a bit sick this weekend and slept for something like 13 hours last night, but it's been far from a total wash. Friday night's episode of "Battlestar Galactica" was nothing short of spectacular, a tremendous hour of television by turns riveting, funny and profound. If you haven't checked it out yet, you should, and I'm sure that Sci-Fi, with its paucity of programming, will re-air the whole run at some point this year if you want to start from the beginning rather than jump in mid-season. And yesterday I took Annie and my mom to "Avenue Q", probably the most enjoyable Broadway show I've seen in 10 or 15 years. Extremely funny, very sweet and guaranteed to get any twenty- or thirty-something head nodding in agreement at the exigencies of life it presents. If you see one show in NYC this year, etc...

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