The Nation’s Katha Pollitt is not always my favorite colmnist (nor is The Nation always my favorite poltical rag), but she’s for Dean– and how. In her article Selling Dean Short she has one of the best and most rousing grafs in recent memory:
Every time the press pooh-poohs his chances, every time they gloat over some trivial misstatement, every time they make fun of Vermont and describe his supporters as “Birkenstocked” “Deanyboppers,” I think about the free ride the media give Bush, who says more false and foolish things in an afternoon than Dean has said in a lifetime, who is unmaking everything good about this country from Head Start to habeas corpus, who is stacking the government with faith healers and fanatics, my fingers itch to write Dean another check.
She fairly well debones the current media idée fixe that liberals will defect from the Dean camp when the realize that he’s actually a centrist. (Which creates, in the big picture, this weird contradictory argument when you think about it–the mainstream media deem Dean “too liberal” to win, but it is his “centrist thinking” that will eventually scare away his hard-core supporters. Hmmm.)
Anyway, Pollitt closes with this point, which can’t be made too forcefully to anyone who doesn’t get Dean’s appeal:
Right now, Dean is the only viable candidate who speaks to the anger, fear and loathing a large number of ordinary citizens feel about the direction Bush has taken the country, while the mainstream media blandly kowtow and the Democratic Party twiddles its thumbs. He has gone out and actually asked for the help of these citizens, rather than taking them for granted. That is why 70,000 people have sent him money, and why 84,000 have shown up to work for him, and why tens of thousands of volunteers wrote personal letters to Iowa and New Hampshire Democrats and independents urging them to support Dean. His willingness to challenge Bush without looking over his shoulder at the last undecided voter in Ohio is the big story–not whether he signed Vermont’s civil union legislation in a private ceremony to avoid publicity, or even whether he insisted on balancing Vermont’s budget at the expense of worthy social programs.
In other words, Dean is so engaging–and so threatening to the status quo that has the media so blinkered–because he has based his campaign around truly democratic (that’s small-“d” democratic) principles instead of poll-tested tinctures of party platform. Perhaps the best model for this is not an American politician at all, but Lula, the former labor-union leader now running Brazil. Both are reformers who are rescuing human-scale politics from the jaws of media spectacle, and both have policies that put the needs of real people ahead of the niceties of ideological categorization.