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Monday, June 23, 2003

Attitude Adjustment

Fine blogs everywhere, these days. Mark Singer of this new (to me, anyway) group blog, Not Geniuses, writes about the MoveOn primary:

Alright, if you're one of those folks who has actually been writing blog-posts on why MoveOn is unnecessary, I recommend you read this post, 'cause, folks, MoveOn is clutch.

I’m not sure I agree that this primary is an absolutely essential win, but I do think that MoveOn is significant and should be closely watched by all the candidates.

It’s a mistake to tag MoveOn as a particularly “liberal” organization and I hope that the Party doesn’t make the mistake of dividing itself on this. MoveOn is a partisan organization --- it’s really not all that ideological. It was formed to try to put a stop to the impeachment charade and its focus is still on stopping the undemocratic power grab of a Republican Party that has become dangerously radical, increasingly unaccountable and verging on open corruption.

This is the reason that Dean is a favorite of rank and file Democrats and is likely to win the MoveOn primary. He’s not really all that liberal, either, but he is a partisan. He’s actually an iconoclastic Democratic centrist who takes some pretty bold stands outside party orthodoxy on both the left and the right. (I don’t think that is a bad idea at all because Democrats are presently such ciphers in the media that any change in predictable storylines is a good thing.) His rivals of both parties want to paint him as a wacked-out hippy Governor Moonbeam, but that’s just politics. And, it’s actually a good test to see how he holds up. Any serious Democrat has to show he can take a punch because if he has the personal misfortune to actually beat President Asterisk, the right wing is going to go completely apeshit. These guys aren’t the first to play dirty politics, but they are the first to privatize and then turn a profit at it.

More pertinently, Dean just doesn’t look like a wacked out liberal when you watch him. He comes off like a slightly cranky, straight talking, no bullshit, common sense, grown-up guy guy. Think Truman, Perot, Bogart, McCain, Sinatra --- he’s hot not cool. This is a good American archetype. (Or, using the Lakoff paradigm, he’s one of the strong father types who could make Junior’s inchoate, brittle gibberish look gawky and adolescent by comparison.)

I can’t think of a more conventional strategy than running to the left in the primary, yet everybody’s acting like that is some sort of bizarre, unprecedented move. And, he’s energizing the base which also seems to be interpreted as a grave tactical error, for some reason. You would think that after ’00 and ’02, where only a handful of votes changed the course of history, it would be obvious that motivating every single member to vote would be at the very top of the Democratic Party’s priority list. And, the rallying cry for Democrats is not going to be any particular plan or program, it’s going to be passionate, engaging partisan rhetoric. This is a red meat era and sober moderate statesmanship will be overwhelmed by a shitstorm of right wing fire breathing --- and that's if the torpid infotainers bother to cover them at all.

I don’t think the powers that be are aware of how hopeless many Democrats feel as they watch Junior get away with murder over and over again, particularly after the 8 solid years of brutal partisan attacks on Clinton. I get very worried that enough Democrats are going to succumb to the Rove juggernaut strategy to hand him the election with a low Dem turnout. If you get your news from television it’s very easy to believe that Bush is inevitable, even if you think he’s a menace, if only because the Democrats are almost invisible.

That’s why I think the grassroots are responding to Dean for reasons unrelated to ideology. (And, I think most liberal Dems concur with Jeanne D’Arc on this.) It’s a visceral reaction to somebody who seems willing to take on the Republicans and a belief that it will take somebody with balls, like him, to rouse the somnambulant electorate.

The vein of enthusiasm into which Dean has tapped is Democratic partisanship. I’m sorry if that word is considered unseemly on our side, but it’s pretty obvious that the other side doesn’t have any problem with it. It’s a shame we all can’t get along, but we can’t. Grassroots groups like MoveOn know this is a fight.

I’m not committed to Dean, but I’ve gotta say, I like his attitude.