O.K., if you won’t nominate this man, at least keep him around for a while.
Despite the recent NR cover urging the nomination of Howard Dean, I always thought it was wrong for conservatives to root for Dean. His nomination in itself would shift American politics to the left and, once nominated, there would always be some outside chance that he could win. But now that his chances of winning the nomination have sunk toward the vanishing point, it has become safe to root for Dean. Get me an orange ski cap and a weblog. I want to be an honorary Deaniac.
In continuing the fight against John Kerry, the former Vermont governor will inevitably have to point out how Kerry’s anti-Washington, anti-special-interest rhetoric is an affectation. Dean was already doing this, fairly gently, in New Hampshire. More will almost certainly be on the way. When he was down and out, Kerry argued that Dean was phony. Turnabout will now be fair play.
The Democratic establishment will realize this and push to get Dean out of the race, but with his base of activists and his network of Internet donors Dean has the capacity to resist pressure. And he has plenty of motive, because he thinks he was done dirty. Asked by Brit Hume last night about Terry McAuliffe’s test that a candidate should have won something by Feb. 3 to stay in, Dean said basically that McAuliffe should stuff it, recalling that the DNC chairman had done nothing to stop the negative attacks against him. Attaboy Howard! You wuz robbed, robbed, robbed!
Dean has recently taken to complaining that his rivals in Iowa had game-plans to try to dissuade caucus-goers from supporting him. Oh, the outrage! What has the democratic process come to? Don’t stand for it, Howard. Fight back–in New Mexico, in Arizona, in South Carolina, in North Dakota, in Missouri, etc., etc. It is time for the politics of paranoia and grievance to devour its own. Since you helped create John Kerry–his message has been to a significant extent Deanified–who better than you to point out his inadequacies and contradictions?
Is there a chance that Dean could somehow upset Kerry? Very unlikely. He would need a significant assist from Kerry himself, but the Massachusetts senator has proved more prone to sagging than imploding, and an implosion is what Dean needs. At his worst, Kerry has seemed uninspiring, never stupid or un-presidential–Dean’s faults. While Kerry can be beaten by Bush, it may well be close, which is why the president can use early help from Dean softening him up. Maybe an arrangement can be made to get Dean on the payroll as an RNC surrogate.
For these purposes, Dean seems to be regaining his stride at just the right time. Tuesday night, he let the crowd work itself up, instead of trying to yell it into a frenzy. He turned his anti-Bush litany into an uplifting pep talk ending with the refrain, “We will!” He seemed determined and energetic, but not manic or out of control. His message was pitched to the TV audience as much as to his fans in the room. Good. Very good.
Go, Howard, go!
–Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.
(c)2003 King Features Syndicate