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Liberalism and its Bounds: Election 2004 and Beyond...

By       Message Joshua Frank     Permalink
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 The amount of insult and betrayal the liberal-to-left spectrum is willing to swallow has few limits, if any. What follows is a survey of one election's worth of pre- and post-election betrayal from the Democratic Party. The time has arrived for all those that abandoned their movements in 2004 to root for John Kerry to now abandon Barack Obama and the Democrats on the national level and join those working outside of the party's stifling structure, as was recently called for by Ron Paul, Ralph Nader and other third party candidates running for president this year.

The Howard Dean Machine

The 2004 election year began with phony "anti-war" candidate ex-Vermont governor Howard Dean leading in the Democratic Party primary polls. Dean's pragmatic "anti-war" position was indeed conditional. Had the Bush administration produced better intelligence, or had the international community and UN backed the US invasion, Dean would have happily signed on to the Iraq undertaking. However, the conservative and rabidly pro-business Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) panicked in response to Dean's rise to the top of the primary pack, out of fear that his invigorated base could challenge party brass.

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The DLC's top choices, "war heroes" (the DLC's favorite term) Wesley Clark and John Kerry, lagged pathetically behind in the early primary polls. Both Clark and Kerry had difficulty articulating firm stances on the Iraq war, and Clark's criticisms of the invasion jibed poorly with prior effusive statements supporting not only the war effort, but also several right-wing Republicans throughout the 1980s and 1990s including Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. 

Kerry, meanwhile, took to baiting Dean's "anti-war" stance, a variant of which he would later adopt himself, and which the Republican Party (accurately) used to characterize him as a "flip-flopper." Even Howard Dean's followers caught on early to Kerry's equivocations when they made flip-flop Hawaiian sandals with John Kerry caricatures plastered on the bottom during the Iowa primary.


By summer 2003 Dean had earned undeservedly the "anti-war" label.  But Dean wasn't "anti-war"; rather he simply disliked the "unilateral" way in which the Bush Administration carried out the Iraq invasion -- bypassing the United Nations and NATO.

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Following the assault Dean argued that the occupation had to continue, in spite of journalistic and official reports on the impending difficulties and long-term hostilities to military occupation, permanent establishment of military bases, as well as private US contracting of Iraqi reconstruction. Dean stood by the notion that gun-point democracy was a gracious venture.

Still, Dean played his "anti-war" card marvelously, and his public persona admittedly contained more magnetism than the cardboard cut-outs of Kerry, Clark, Gephardt, and Joseph Lieberman, combined. Petrified, the DLC began a concerted campaign to take Dean down.

DLC machinations from many corrupt characters within the organization lasted right up to the disastrous Iowa caucus, in which Dean placed a miserable third, and derailed his chances of capturing the nomination and solidified his downfall when the media overplayed his histrionic rallying speech to his youthful supporters. 

As Dean recounted in his campaign memoir, You Have the Power, DLC co-founding member, star, and former President Bill Clinton placed a wave of influential phone calls to Dean supporters during the months prior to the Iowa caucus, urging them to throw their support behind Wesley Clark instead.

Clinton's rationale?  A homophobic one.  Dean, declared Clinton, had "forfeited his right to run for President" because he had signed a bill in Vermont as governor permitting civil unions.  Clinton's anti-gay position would repeat itself during the Kerry 2004 campaign, when Clinton urged, albeit unsuccessfully, Kerry to embrace the proposed federal gay marriage ban.

Other DLC elements also worked actively to portray Dean as an unstable radical.  The DLC's flagship publication labeled him "misguided," "an aberration," and an "activist" who was "defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home."

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Meanwhile, other DLC bankrollers founded an ad hoc group, with DLC fundraiser David Jones at the helm, to air negative ads in Iowa that attacked Dean from the faux-left, noting his NRA endorsements and support for NAFTA, among other positions that betrayed the "progressive" persona Dean and his campaign manager Joe Trippi whipped out from time to time in front of accommodating crowds.

The torrent of attack ads and underhanded DLC background activity from the likes of Clinton and his ilk effectively doomed Dean's candidacy, as did the fact that most of his supporters were unable to realize that political mobilization extends beyond the world of inane political blogs and button clicking.

Dennis was not, and never will be, a Menace

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Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State (more...)
 

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