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The Death Knell of the Democratic Party By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 27, 2003

Once dismissed as a hopeless case supported only by northeastern Democrats and Rob Reiner’s Hollywood coterie of limousine liberals, the presidential campaign of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has accumulated “Big Mo” in recent weeks. Dean’s gravel-throated denunciations of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq have set his party’s grassroots afire in speech-after-speech. However, most commentators have missed the importance of the Dean phenomenon: his popularity sounds the death knell of the Democratic Party.

In the nearly two months since the fall of Baghdad, candidate Dean has steadfastly refused to admit the obvious: the Iraqi people are better off without Saddam Hussein in power. During last Sunday’s disastrous appearance on “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert asked Dean to expound upon the following comment: “We’ve gotten rid of (Saddam). I suppose that’s a good thing.”1

Given the chance to clarify his views, Dean stubbornly surmised, “We don’t know whether in the long run the Iraqi people are better off.”2

If Dean represented only an aberration within the Democratic Party, one might overlook the matter. However, recently elected House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who endorsed Dick Gephardt) recently echoed Dean’s sentiments. On CNN’s Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff asked Pelosi if “the people of Iraq are much better off today without Saddam Hussein than they were before?

“Certainly!” Pelosi beamed, hoping to get a toehold on right side of history. Suddenly realizing she had just repudiated her own position on the war, she hastily justified herself: “Wuh-well, it remains to be seen how we will conduct the peace.”3

How do these esteemed Democratic leaders suggest America might “conduct the peace” to create a worse Iraq than Saddam’s Ba’athist nightmare? What do they think we’re going to do, bring back rape rooms? Rev up the Black-and-Deckers and start torturing children in front of their parents again? It apparently eludes them that even if U.S. forces stooped to such unthinkable atrocities, they would but equal the inhumanity of the very regime Dean, Pelosi, et. al., refused to topple.

A clue into their warped, anti-American viewpoint was provided this week by Edward Said, scholar, faux Palestinian refugee and rock-thrower extraordinaire. In an essay published Monday, he wrote of:

“the awful, the literally inexcusable situation for the people of Iraq that the U.S. has now single-handedly and irresponsibly created there. However else one blames Saddam Hussein as a vicious tyrant, which he was, he had provided the people of Iraq with the best infrastructure of services like water, electricity, health, and education of any Arab country. None of this is any longer in place.”4

In this claim, Said is neither alone nor original. While protesting the sanctions against Iraq, far-left activists constantly parroted the lie that Saddam spent massive sums of tax dollars buying food and medicine for the suffering people of Iraq. (Of course, we now know Saddam diverted much of the Oil-for-Food money into private palaces for himself, and, it seems occasionally,  bribes for left-wing British politician George Galloway.)

At last, one sees how the Democratic Left can claim that Iraqis were “better off” before their enthusiastic liberation. For the Left, morality is best expressed in terms of government spending. Sure Hussein tortured women and filled mass graves with children still clutching their toys, but he proved his “compassion” by increasing federal handouts. Excusing Saddam became but the latest effort in the Left’s pathology of defending collectivist despots; they understand that the Supreme Leader “must” abuse human rights on occasion to safeguard the workers paradise. For Said and his fellow “Progressives,” Saddam has become hallowed through his socialism, sanctified through spending. A Bush-inspired democratic regime in Iraq will embrace capitalism, and that, for leftists, is the worst human rights abuse.

This viewpoint, held by the party’s extreme-left activists, is reflected only opaquely in Dean’s rhetoric. However, his studied ignorance of American defense mirrors their hatred of it. Dean publicly remarked that America “won’t always have the strongest military.” Although he backpedaled from the statement, previous candidates (McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis) made this their platform en route to successfully capturing the Democratic Party’s nomination. Although viewed as a major gaffe by the press, the party faithful are likely to reward his comment in the primaries. Dean is their kind of man, so focused on creating a leftist domestic order that he doesn’t even know the number of active duty military officers to the nearest million. On “Meet the Press,” he replied the number must be “somewheres (sic.) in the neighborhood of one to two million people.” (The official transcript cleaned up Dean’s awkward grammar; one wonders whether this courtesy would have been extended to George W. Bush.)

It is precisely this stance that inflames the Democratic Party’s activist base. The only campaign speeches inspiring a visceral reaction are those criticizing the war (Dean), insisting President Bush lied to/mislead Congress about WMDs (Kerry), or hinting that Bush had advance knowledge of 9/11 (Bob Graham’s only applause line).  Dennis Kucinich had to publicly question the military’s heroic rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to generate headlines.5

Dean captivates the party in a special way, though: He appears to be auditioning for John McCain’s understudy. He shoots from the hip and never looks back. He is charismatic, swaggering, and cocksure. His bellicose orations and unrepentant “liberalism” recall Michael Douglas’ character in The American President (perhaps accounting for Rob Reiner’s financial support). However, Americans were attracted to McCain for his biography, which alone lent credibility to his “straight talk.” Americans won’t buy a hard-boiled style chained to an anti-American agenda. At the end of the day, Howard Dean is a loud left-winger whose off-the-cuff remarks are knotting his own noose.

Moreover, Dean has electoral problems apart from the military issue. He has promised a tax increase upon election, still a surefire recipe for political disaster. He also happens to be the only governor to legalize homosexual “civil unions,” granting them the full civil protection of marriage. Although hardly a prejudiced or "homophobic" people, Americans will not endorse gay civil marriages in 2004. Neither will they vote for a candidate with seeming indifference for the military in the first election after 9/11.

All of which adds up to a major problem for the Democratic Party’s activist base: Howard Dean passionately espouses views popular within the party, which are repudiated by a broad majority of the general populace. The two successful Democratic presidential candidates of the last 30 years were both Southerners who campaigned as pro-military centrists. Dean is neither, and he has made that difference his calling card. Like Walter Mondale, he is “further left than America.” Short of an economic depression or another similar catastrophe, Dean would put his party on the McGovern track at precisely the moment the GOP is strategizing for permanent dominance of the political landscape. But if he makes a good show in Iowa and wins New Hampshire, the nomination could be his to lose. If the Democratic Party nominates Dean in 2004, like Narcissus, they will die contemplating their own reflection.


1. “Candidates to debate party’s divisions,” Donald Lambro. The Washington Times. May 3, 2003, p. A2.

2. Read the full June 22, 2003, “Meet the Press” transcript at http://www.msnbc.com/news/912159.asp.

3. “Pelosi: President's tax plan 'reckless.'” Transcript of Judy Woodruff’s interview for the April 30, 2003, episode of “Inside Politics.” (http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/04/30/cnna.pelosi).

4. “The Meaning of Rachel Corrie: Of Dignity and Solidarity,” Edward Said. Counterpunch. June 23, 2003. (http://www.counterpunch.org/said06232003.html).

5. “Kucinich: Release unedited Lynch rescue tape,” Associated Press. June 3, 2003. (http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/06/03/sprj.irq.kucinich.lynch.ap).

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).

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