Vermont Governor Howard Dean is a master of timing. His appearance
in Jacksonville, Florida on election day 2003 served several purposes.
It signaled very clearly to the incumbent president that Dean,
the putative frontrunner for next year's Democratic presidential
nomination, believes that Florida is in play in 2004 and that
the Bush team can't count on Florida this time around despite
its obvious institutional advantages. An audacious move, given
that last time around Jacksonville was beset with election irregularities
like prohibitively long lines and misplaced voter registrations
in precincts near the city's urban core.
said, Dean's Jacksonville "Breakfast Meeting" visit sends a message
to people besides Karl Rove and the other G.O.P. professionals.
Dean understands that Bob Graham's recent withdrawal from the
campaign opens a door to the Democratic base that had previously
been closed to the insurgent. When Graham was in the running,
polls showed that the Senator had upwards of 50% support among
likely Florida primary voters. Running a distant second was Connecticut
senator Lieberman, who seemingly maintained residual loyalty and
support from his failed VP bid three years ago especially in the
southern part of the state. Many professionals assumed it was
best to leave the state to the Lieberman machine.
Howard Dean is not your typical professional politician. The biggest
political story of the 2004 Campaign, Dean has parlayed a series
of longshot bets into frontrunner status [such as his opposition
to the Iraqi invasion and his support for civil unions].
just when Dean was being
defined by party moderates as too left-wing for the general election,
Dean resourcefully took the initiative and redefined himself before
the criticisms stuck. The former Governor repeated time and again
his support of military action in Afghanistan [effectively repeating
time and again that "they killed three thousand of our people
so US action in Afghanistan was justified"]. Despite hiring former
AIPAC president Steven Grossman as head of his campaign fundraising,
Dean took heat across the board when he called for an "even-handed"
approach to the Israeli/Palestinian issue. Further controversy
ensued when the candidate said that he sought to represent people
with Confederate flags in the back of their trucks; Senator Kerry
chided Dean for appealing to atavists, then piously intoned his
desire to be the NAACP candidate. Whatever can be said about Dean,
he doesn't shy away from what more conventional minds interpret
as glaring contradictions; arguably, he embraces them in a manner
not seen in American politics since Carter in 1976 [another small-state
Governor who came from relative obscurity to score the Democratic
so far, Howard Dean has not suffered for taking idiosyncratic
stances. The 100 people in attendance at the Omni Hotel represented
a fairly broad cross-section of the Democratic Party. Well-heeled
middle aged women mixed comfortably with members of the International
Union of Painters and Allied Trades [IUPAT]. The retired Service
members in attendance that this reporter spoke with, tellingly,
were hopeful that a Dean/Clark ticket would emerge from the 2004
Convention. A self-identified gay man I spoke to who was holding
a Dean For America placard said that he thought the Confederate
flag flap was "pathetic desperation"; a black community college
student in attendance expressed the same sentiment. [Given Dean's
waffling on his minority outreach initiative in the last few days,
it could be argued that these supporters had more faith in Dean's
words than did the candidate himself].
Carter, it could be said that Dean has a Southern Strategy, one
that seems predicated on certain reasonable assumptions. For Dean
to win, certain conditions would have to prevail. The War on Terror
will have to appear botched and the economy wrecked, for starters;
uncertainty in those areas will erode Bush's "Heartland" base
more quickly than anything else. Also, Dean would be well-advised
to gain a majority of delegates before going to Boston this summer;
a brokered convention [as this column has argued] would augur
poorly for him as compared to a "compromise choice" like Senator
Hillary Clinton. The primaries themselves may be rigged in the
favor of insiders, but a brokered convention would be undoubtedly
worse for an insurgent candidate like Dr. Dean.
can it really be said that Dean is still an insurgent? Representative
Corrine Brown [a Congressional Black Caucus mainstay who does
not back losers] offered a tacit endorsement, soaking in the applause
with Dean after he finished speaking. And when asked if he had
a Southern Strategy by this reporter, his response was blunt:
"to win." Howard Dean is a candidate to take very seriously, as
all elements of the traditional Democratic coalition seem able
to overlook their differences and unite behind him, a full year
from the general election and months before the March 9th
recent column by Anthony Gancarski
a Good Ol' Boy?
Noam Chomsky Hate America?
Into Putin's Soul
Uncertainty: The Price of Losing the Terror War Is Unthinkable
Ledeen, 'Man Of Peace'
the War on Terror and the Prostitution of Faith
on the Run
Tale of Two Democrats
of the Congressional Black Caucus
Bloviations in Washington
Iraq Hell on Earth?
Historians, Then and Now
Revolution It's What's for Dinner
Evening with Ann Coulter
Team AIPAC's 2002 Season
the author of Unfortunate
Incidents, writes for The American Conservative, CounterPunch,
and LewRockwell.com. His web journalism was recognized by
Utne Reader Online as "Best of the Web." A writer for the
local Folio Weekly, he lives in Jacksonville, Florida.