WASHINGTON -- On primary night in New Hampshire, Deaniacs gathered outside Kerry's victory party to hurl insults. The polls had been closed for more than an hour and Kerry's margin of victory was known to be somewhere around 20 points, yet these folks refused to be magnanimous in defeat. Kerry supporters were shocked into silence as they crossed this angry gauntlet.
A few weeks later, Dean encouraged this petulance. After slipping up and calling his opponent "President Kerry," Dean corrected the record. He rolled his eyes and scoffed, "President Kerry. Please, spare us." Over the next couple days, he would call Kerry "part of the corrupt political culture in Washington," a "candidate of no principle," a "special interest clone," and, worse, "just like George Bush."
Two weeks ago, back in New Hampshire, I saw a dread-locked hippie smoking a pipe with a weathered Howard Dean for President sign duct-taped to his backpack. As an added flourish, he'd scribbled, "Impeach Bush" on the worn sign. When will these folks give up?
NOT ANY TIME SOON. A group determined to see Dean's name on the November ballot is promising to use Democratic Party rules allowing draft petitions at the upcoming national convention in Boston to knock Kerry's VP choice off the ticket. The group has collected 7,000 signatures and is promising to deliver over 10,000 at the convention. This, the petition explains, is "Democracy in action."
"It only takes 300 delegates to mount a draft petition at the convention, and we believe we already have that level of support," said Michael Meurer, co-chair of the National Draft Dean for VP Committee (NDVPC). "Dean is the only VP candidate who genuinely excites the progressive base of the party."
Their sales pitch is that only Dean can neutralize the threat to Kerry from Ralph Nader. To hardcore Deaniacs, even after their hero's historic flameout, he is still the only one who can save the day. And the mythmaking continues: Only Dean stood up to George W. Bush. Only Dean has the integrity necessary to draw independent voters to Kerry. Only Dean relates to ordinary Americans. Of course, why Dean would want to serve in the administration of a man he called the "handmaiden of special interests" is a question that his fan club conveniently ignores.
The factors that brought Dean down -- his surly nature, his frivolous waste of $50 million in campaign funds, his knack for shoving his foot down his throat -- are all ignored, as is his obvious distaste for Kerry, McAuliffe, the Clintons, and the rest of the Democratic establishment throughout the campaign. Did he really believe none of this would ever come back to haunt him?
The hubris here is maddening. When the NDVPC's trumpets Dean's "proven appeal to crucial Nader supporters, independents, moderate Republicans and disaffected Democrats" and claims that only Dean can mobilize a "base of 700,000 progressive supporters," one doesn't know whether to cry for these poor creatures or to slap them upside the head and tell them to read a newspaper. "Proven appeal"? Did they even bother to watch primary night returns anywhere besides Vermont?
DID DEAN BRING A LOT of new people into politics? Sure. They just weren't people who vote. I'm sure he helped a lot of mopey college kids, smoking clove cigarettes, to hook up. But there was a downside to Dean's "Take America Back" rhetoric. His campaign suggested that no non-Dean supporters had a clue what was really happening to the country. And only Dear Leader Howard Dean could lead the battle against the forces of Beezlebush.
The Deaniacs were told they were the vanguard of the second American revolution, and then we wonder why they behave so badly? We wonder how thousands of them could sign on to deny John Kerry the courtesy of choosing his own running mate? There's a simple psychological explanation for all of this, and we're not talking Freud here. The leaders of the Dean movement are very much like the researchers who took brown eyed elementary school children and told them they were superior to their blue-eyed classmates. Within the course of a single recess the mockery and sadism began.
As part of the recruitment sales pitch, the Deaniacs were told they were superior to the rest of us -- they had insights that the rest of us were too dumb to realize. It should be no surprise that they start acting like the little elitists they were bred to be when they got out on the playground of politics. To this legion of little Howard Deans, the idea of compromise is as foreign as the shores of China.
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