NEW HAMPSHIRE — The speakers on my laptop erupt into a cacophony of hiss and garble, bass and drums. A banner materializes on the screen — I am being treated to the soothing sounds of the Blood Drained Cows. A picture of a large tattoo on a man’s forearm loads up next. On pale skin a full color, meticulously detailed portrait has been rendered: Two bluebirds holding up a banner, eternally. It reads: “Truth. Hope. Dean in ‘04.”
Somehow the pampered son of a Wall Street tycoon has gained enough street cred that members of the pierced, dyed hair set are burning his name into their flesh. And this is no isolated incident. Punx for Dean — the website I found these pictures on — boasts a membership of 13,000 worldwide. They’ve even got a compilation CD to help raise money for Dean called “Taking Back America.”
Like most Deaniacs in the blogosphere, these punk rockers have a burning desire to be taken seriously. “Punks have a real good idea about what goes on in the world and keep up with current affairs,” the site contends. “You can’t go to a punk show without hearing about lying politicians, citizen sheep, bible thumpers and corporate scum. We are very much aware and now we have a chance to really hurt their wallets and spoil the right-wing agenda.”
It’s not terrorism or healthcare or the deficit that has got the punks ire up. Instead, they are sick of the “crap the music industry has forced on us” and after the election they will turn their minds to getting “local bands the attention they deserve.” Apparently George W. Bush (a.k.a. “The Man”) is responsible for Britney Spears.
I stumbled onto Punx for Dean and several other bizarre websites while investigating some intemperate e-mail the more fervent Dean’s followers have sent me. They seemed hurt and flabbergasted that anyone could not see the halo around the good doctor’s head. So, I set out into the electronic jungle to weave my way through the land of the true believers, and the obsessive blogs they run in honor of their beloved Frontrunner, M.D., to find out what makes them tick. It turned out to be a pretty strange journey.
TAKE A GANDER AT Dykes for Dean, for example. (“Men are asked to please not join this group.”) Just who are the Dykes for Dean? “We are women who identify as lesbian or bi. We are your sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and we want our country back!” their website announces.
The ladies are currently asking for cash so they may join the campaign in Iowa. If you are willing to donate a bit of your “gay money” to the cause, Dykes for Dean will send you a copy of either Dean’s Winning Back America or Ellen DeGeneres’ The Funny Thing Is. There’s also an explanation of “Why every lesbian should vote for Dean.”
Straight women and gay men out there aren’t left out of the love parade, however. Crushies for Dean is a site dedicated to those who find Dr. Dean attractive for entirely non-political reasons. The site has pictures of Dean shirtless, as well as a diary page for exhibitionists.
“Meeting him [Dean] in person is even better,” one Crushie writes. “Those eyes melt you into the floor. He kind of glides through the room and his hand, when you shake it, is warm and soft. OK… I’ll stop.” Another writes simply: “Dean is hot and Bush is not.” Larger questions are addressed as well, including “Can a happily married heterosexual male contribute on CrushiesForDean???” Girls Gone Wild For Dean takes it one embarrassing step further, listing their “turn ons” as “balanced budgets, universal health care, multilateralism” and “turnoffs” as “quagmires, deficits, Republicans.”
Songs for Dean provides the soundtrack to the revolution with mp3s of soon to be classics such as “The Howard Dean Rap,” “People Powered Howard,” “Dean, Dean, Dean for Democracy,” and, of course, “I Want My Country Back.” The whole thing is reminiscent of Puff the Magic Dragon’s insurgent candidacy for the Democratic nomination back in ‘72.
Christians for Dean formed because “Jesus wasn’t a Republican.” These Deaniacs get around the pesky issue of Dean’s love affair with Planned Parenthood and abortion by encouraging Christians to “consider all the issues and embrace a consistently pro-life position as it relates to peace and foreign policy, compassion for the poor, capital punishment, access to health care and education, creation care, economic justice, and racial reconciliation.” Just so long as you don’t embrace it with regards to the unborn, it works.
Kids for Dean has that icky feeling of adults trying to pose as children. Take for example this excerpt from an first hand report by 11-year-old Rian Watt from a Dean rally: “On that wonderful afternoon I managed to shake Governor Dean’s hand and get a signature, and by the time he was finished speaking, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was going to be their Democratic Candidate for President. It seemed as if even the weather was for him, for as soon as he left, the sky exploded with an earsplitting bang, and rain drenched the giddy crowd with a perfect end to a midsummer’s day.” The site also features a video game where kids can go out to Iowa and canvas for Dean. That may be the kind of family friendly video game Joe Lieberman can endorse, but it certainly isn’t a kid’s idea of fun.
THE BEAT GOES on. Deadheads for Dean operates on the belief that “if every deadhead voted, elections would come out very differently.” There are three Mormons for Dean blogs. Don’t forget Nurses for Dean. Or Expats for Dean, where you can keep up with the Tokyo4Dean movement. There are Disabled Citizens for Dean, because “If there is one thing the disabled can definitely do, it’s vote.”
None of the hundreds of sites are affiliated with the official Howard Dean campaign, though the Dean website links to most of the sites. A strange subculture has grown up around this angry ex-governor, and one wonders how they will take re-entry into civil society if their hero crashes and burns. Ten years from now, how many times will that punk rocker have to answer the question “Who’s Dean?” while serving java at a cafe in Seattle? At least Deaf Americans for Dean have an excuse, and there’s always laser surgery to get rid of those embarrassing tattoos.
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