From Oliver Willis:
Aaron Benson accuses me of giving out literary handjobs to Dean for slamming the party while deriding Lieberman for performing what he sees as a similar function.
Here’s the difference: Howard Dean is begging, pleading and cajoling the Democratic Party to act like Democrats. The Lieberman message is basically “let’s be just like them except in one or two ways”. We tried that last year, and it bombed.
In some ways, adding Lieberman to the 2000 ticket was the first attempt at that same mistake. Putting him on the ticket as a sop to anti-Clinton voters didn’t win Gore any more votes, and probably turned off a few who went for Nader. President Clinton succeeded because he presented himself and his party as a progressive alternative to the Republicans. If we don’t do that, no matter who the candidate is – we will lose badly.
I disagree, obviously. From the very beginning, Dean has tried to conjure images of do-nothing Democrats sitting in Washington, wringing their hands over Bush and doing nothing to advance the party’s agenda.
Dean’s Austin television ad underscores this ungrounded and combative angle: “Has anybody really stood up against George Bush and his policies? Don’t you think it’s time somebody did?” The cynical subtext is conveyed through the use of the word “really.” Sure, the other candidates may say a whole lot, but they’re not reallysincere about standing up for you.
Now, Willis spins this as “begging and pleading with the party” to be Democrats. I say Dean is perpetuating the despicable and opportunistic myth that the Democratic Party isn’t out there fighting for working-class America. There is a difference between losing fights on Capital Hill and not fighting at all, but Dean can’t be bothered with such nuance.
That meme intersects with the second argument: that any candidate who isn’t yelling louder than Dean is not being A Real Democrat. Because, of course, Real Democrats don’t agree with Republicans on anything. We have no common ground. And when a Republican advocates something, a Real Democrat reflexively pushes back twice as hard.
This movement, I think, is in no mood for a thoughtful candidate like Wesley Clark— someone who can articulate our opposition to Bush within a positive overarching vision for the country. Instead, we want someone to serve as a vehicle for our frustration, our anger, and our uncompromising disdain for the DLC and all things Bush.
I’ll echo a Dean line: “I’m tired of being divided.” But unlike the candidate, I don’t think the path is found by tarring any candidate with an iota of nuance and moderation as “Bush Lite.”
If Democrats don’t want to support Lieberman, then fine. He won’t win anyway. But I couldn’t disagree more with this noxious idea that speaking and acting like a Democrat involves combatively espousing positions that are always diametrically opposite to what the Republicans say. That’s not being a Democrat. That’s being a reactionary.