Howard Dean had no shortage of anger, to be sure. But what really drove him and his supporters, it turns out, was hatred and disdain. As we saw Monday night in Iowa, disdain doesn’t win you elections.
Dean regularly showed this unattractive quality with supercilious, flat jokes on the campaign trail. In December, when asked about his comments regarding 9/11 conspiracy theories, Dean dismissed the ruckus by saying it all came from an interview on “fair and balanced Fox News,” said with sarcasm and an eyebrow raise.
Dean would rail about “taking America back from the Jerry Falwells and Rush Limbaughs,” with a tone of voice that displayed his absolute hatred of these folks. He worked hard to hide that he sees George W. Bush as an absolute moron.
As Bill Clinton was “the man from Hope [Ark.],” Howard Dean is known in some GOP circles on Capitol Hill as “the man from Hate.”
Dean recently turned his disdain on family and religion. “From a religious point of view,” he said earlier this month, “if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people.” This will likely go down as the dumbest comment of the 2004 race–unless Dean manages to top himself. The comment showed (along with his saying Job was his favorite New Testament book) that Dean thinks he is smart enough–and Christianity simple enough–that he can fudge it, like the cocky kid who comes to English class without having read the book.
Then on Sunday, Dean showed his disdain for family. The former Vermont governor brought his wife before the crowds for the first time in Iowa. Typically, she has stayed home in Vermont. But in the near-eleventh hour, Dr. Judith Steinberg came out for a few hours and proclaimed, laughing, “My name is Judy Dean.”
No, it’s not. It’s Judith Steinberg. But this was all a joke to them. The Deans thought it absurd that the media expected her to take a break from her job to help him in the greatest undertaking of his life, or to adopt her husband’s last name. Dean angrily told an interviewer that he refused to “use his family as props.”
Dean doesn’t get it. He really is out of touch with America–with the families where women often work outside of the home because they have to. He is out of touch with the millions of Americans who read the Bible every day and hold it dear.
As George W. Bush is to Europeans, Dean is to Americans.
Because Dean is out of touch, and doesn’t really know any of these people–the people who have built America–he is unable to simply disagree with these folks. He instead disdains their values, because he doesn’t know good people who revere God and family above all else.
C-SPAN Monday night showed a telling scene. The cameras in a Dubuque caucus went into the room where the Dean supporters were gathered. Completely absent were the exuberant youth, the idealistic, energized brand-new voters who Dean was supposed to draw out.
The room was full of middle-aged men and women who looked like they had come from the Upper-West Side of Manhattan. They were not energized to “Take America Back.” No, they were lining up behind Dean because he expressed their utter disbelief that a buffoon such as Bush could be our president.
Rich Lowry was right to say that Dean was mostly about selling attitude. His product was not anger, as much of the media said, but disdain. Monday night, there weren’t many buyers.
–Timothy P. Carney is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.