Now that Howard Dean has dropped out of the race, I can turn the television on again. I just couldn’t stand to watch the downward spiral that began in Iowa, picked up speed in New Hampshire and was sent into supersonic speed by the right leaning pundits. Of course, Howard didn’t a vry good job stopping it. The firing of Trippi was seen as the final nail in the coffin. Hanging on until Wisconsin was just a formality, or a way to save face if you choose to look at it that way.
I can watch television again because I know what I’m going to see. There will be no surprises, just another boring race between a very vanilla Democrat and an out of touch rich man who feels the world would be better if we would just accept that most of the money rest in the hands of a few and should stay that way. During the Dean era of the race, it was like watching the Cincinnatti Bengals beat Kansas City last year. It was exciting. It was vindicating. It was inspiring. I could barely believe that a man who shared my New England values was beating everyone else. I have always said America would be better off with a Yankee in the White House, but I never thought I’d see it anywhere besides NBC and Bravo.
His values were pragmatic and compassionate, not touchy-feely or condescending as many “liberal” candidates are portrayed. He felt that the tax system was nothing more than citizens pitching together to supply the things they individually could not afford. He beieves in taxes, as do I, and was immediately pegged as a loser because many Americans do not. If you can’t afford it, fuck you. No food? Fuck you. No money for medicine? Fuck you. Compassionate my ass.
Howard Dean was also the only candidate to truly care about improving the lives of American women. Health care for all children effects both genders, but more so low-income women who must choose between caring for their children full time and keeping health benefits. Dean had plans to improve family leave benefits and reduce child abuse, plans he knew would work because he tried them. Other candidates discuss “women’s issues” as atherially as they speak of “ending racism” or “fighting for equality for real.” Well, no shit. Who is going to be openly against these things? No one. Knowing who will actually do something about it is a different issue.
So at this point we have Edwards and Kerry duking it out over who will beat Bush. Neither, I suppose. Edwards is slightly more interesting than Kerry, just because of his youth, good looks and charm. And his rookie-Senator-rises-to-the-top run for president makes a good story. Kerry bugs me, though. He is one of the Democratic leaders who during BushII’s administration has been a yotal pussy. Since when has bipartisanship meant, doing whatever the Republicans want? Now Kerry has absconded Dean’s message and has repackaged it nicely for moderate, middle-class whites. For Kerry fans, television is their after-work activity of choice and most of their judgements of other people are made quickly and are based mostly upon looks. “He just seems so, well, Presidential.”
I come to this unflattering over-generalization from observing Kerry volunteers at various NH primary events. As mentioned in the previous entry, the Kerry people were mostly blue-collar men and their wives. Whenever I was at a Kerry event, surrounded by supporters, I always felt like I didn’t belong.
I have become more aware of wanting to belong as I reach my 30’s. Not that it is the same self conscience feeling it was when I was 15, but more a wanting to see people like me where ever I go. If there are young, intelligent, artistic people (espessially female) around I feel more at home, but I also feel that the world is no longer against me and “my people.” For a moment, I can stop fighting who I really am.
But before I got off on this tanget, I wanted to discuss the snooze fest we are about to endure. What possible surprises can arrise for a Kerry-Bush race, or even an Edwards-Bush race. Either the country is sorta pissed, but feels insecure, or the country is really pissed and feels insecure enough to change things. Unfortuantely, I don’t see Americans having enough faith in themselves to get up off the couch to fight for true improvements to the country.
That was the genius behind the Dean campaign, not the internet or the grassroots effort. Those were just by-products of his message: that Americans have the power to change the direction of the country simply by working together. This was the message that gave Dean his “ultra-liberal” label, despite the fact that he was far more fiscally conservative than any of the other candidates, including the president. His signature on the civil unions bill was partly about civil rights and partly from the New England Republican ethic of staying the fuck out of your neighbors business.
Dean says in his farewell email to his web supporters, “I want an America where men and women have an opportunity to go to college, get good jobs, and maybe even start their own businesses -- regardless of their background. Where the kitchen table is a place to share dreams -- not to worry and struggle over paying the credit card bills, the mortgage, the tuition payments.” This was the motivating factor of his campaign. If you don’t like what you see, or where we’re headed, join us. He adds later in the email, in the style of a 1920 populist, “I want an America where we are more than cogs in a machine, where there is nourishment for our human souls. Where there is true community, and we recognize and affirm that we are all in this together.”
Reading this line I can see why right wing pundits peg Dean as a liberal. He has an emotional style that evokes a wimpy image from conservatives. “Eww, a man with feelings for others. How weak.” What lies deeper than his sentimental prose, however, is the right wing trend to label the belief in the power of the collective as liberal. Unions are out, these days, since they belive the theory of collective labor. Brash individualism is lauded as heroic and good for America, both economically and politically. Things like television, the internet, gated communities and industrial parks have separated us from any sense of community and have left us to fend for ourselves.
Howard Dean thought this was wrong; that at the end of the day, our family and our neighbors are all we really have. I believe this too, and that is why I voted for him. That is why I am sad he lost.