Friday, October 24, 2003

Cudahy calls for restoration, not revolution

Over at Greater Democracy, Michael Cudahy posted a very thought-provoking essay about how the Democratic primary race may be losing its focus. More specifically, I think, he’s arguing that the focus — on Democratic partisans to the exclusion of Republicans and Independents — is broken and will inevitably lead to a Democratic defeat in November.

I’ve been swapping e-mails with Jock Gill (also of Greater Democracy), Josh Koenig, and Michael over the past day and Jock (quite rightly) chided us for not having this conversation in the open. So here goes…

I’m not sure I understand the thrust of Michael’s message. On the one hand, he seems to be implicitly rejecting Dean’s message of “taking our country back”, while at the same time indicating that the Republican party has manipulated the system into a shadow of the republic it was meant to represent. If we’re not “taking it back” from them, then what, exactly, is Michael asking for?

On the other hand, he is saying that as a disenfranchised Republican he feels that he doesn’t have a home because the Democratic candidates aren’t eagerly pursuing his vote. This seems a short-sighted complaint: the primary season is about the party choosing its candidate; the general election season is about the country choosing its president. Many states are closed primaries and don’t let disenfranchised Republicans vote for a Democrat (unless they change parties, which is unlikely to be an attractive option), so what value in the primary season do disenfranchised Republicans represent to a Democrat?

I come back to Michael’s essay. He concludes with an assumption I’m not sure I buy: that the current crop of Democrats is only interested in listening to the echo chamber, that the innovations in technology are being abandoned as the primaries approach and that the conversations are increasingly deaf to bi-partisanship. I’d like to see evidence of this before I challenge his conclusion… as this doesn’t really match my experience (I’ve personally spoken with a number of Republicans who are attracted to Dean’s fiscal conservatism, and I met last night with my county’s Clark campaign coordinator, who reported that 1/3 of their attendees at MeetUps are Republican and Independents).

Bottom line? I may be reading too much into this, but it reads like Michael wanted to come out and say he was no longer supporting Dean (Cudahy published a well-circulated essay, To Dare Mighty Things, in which he expressed support for Dean), and instead chose to write a more general piece that framed the issues in terms of a worrisome trend among all candidates.


  1. geez, i just went over and sped-read the Cudahy article ... huh?

    what planet is he talking about today?

    hey, i'm a bigtime Deanite and HD is doing everything i've been wishing for from a Dem candidate for decades.

    the Cudahy article is just more pundit-babble-a-gogo ... the Dean campaign and Deanites just keep expanding, building the organization, and reaching out to the approx 40%-50% of voters who have either never registered, or, just drifted away.

    hey friends and neighbors, HD has a 12 yr record as gov to stand on, a conspicuous postion against the Iraq war from long ago, and positions across the board that stand for social justice and multilateralism.

    Take Our Country Back? You bet we will. Already, 54% of HD's contributions are $100 and under - the activist little guy.

    Let's not mince words here. We are the closest we've ever been in this country to control by corporate fascist (let us speak plainly) interests - if in their day the Bushites had been in Germany, Italy, Argentina, etc., they would have been Nazis, Fascists, Peronistas, etc.

    Take Our Country Back? We better. No whining, please - there is, you know, a Republicans for Dean group.

  2. Oh Happy happy joy joy. The Howard Dean-nites getting their country back are at the same time calling 50% of the population of America 'Fascist, Nazis.' It's no longer Bush = Hitler. It is now, "Anyone that supports President Bush" = Nazi. And you wonder why we fight to make sure that the American Flag and the American Country is for 'EVERYBODY.' And has always been for everybody. This idea that you liberals 'want your country back' is nothing more than rhetoric right out of Adolf Hitler's book.

  3. I've got to agree. Got no idea what this guy is talking about. This is the Democratic primary season. Dean is kicking butt in both closed process states (like say, Iowa), and open process states (like say, New Hampshire). Yesterday's Zogby poll shows Dean stomping Kerry by 25 points among Independents.

    I'm sorry that there is no Republican nominating process this cycle, but that's how the party political process works. As a soon to be former Republican myself -- I understand the frustration with Bush -- but don't see why any of this is Dean's fault.

    Everything I see about Dean say HUGE appeal to Independents and disaffected Republicans. To list just a few (to the chagrin of his liberal friends)... He is a fiscal conservative, having balanced budgets each of 11 years as Governor. He has a very moderate position on Guns, an A rating from the NRA -- which will help him in places like say, West Virginia and Louisiana. He is for the federal death penalty -- avoiding that political liability. Quite an impressive profile for a "liberal" Democrat.

    Perhaps most importantly -- Dean is free of special interest money. He's raised $25 million dollars at an average contribution less than $100. This is unheard of in the history of American politics. Unheard of.

    To cite a recent example -- the movie star Governor of California said one thing on the campaign trail over and over and over -- "I want to get the special interests and the money out of Sacramento". Of course, that was not true -- but that fact alone propelled him past all reasonable opposition.

    In the Presidential campaign, Howard Dean is clearly the candidate who earns the mantle of "outsider, free of special interests". That has a ton of Perot appeal, Jerry Brown appeal and yes -- McCain appeal.

    Republicans for Dean will have their day. It'll just begin after the Democratic convention in Boston next August.

    Go, Howard, GO!

  4. The disaffection of 'SOME' republicans from Dean's camp directly relate to some limited attacks on Clark's voting for republicans in the past and praising Bush in particular. If you criticize republican voting, then you criticize some republican supporters who have always voted that way. Not so much what Dean himself is saying (although one republican supporter specifically wrote that he detested the way Dean went after Clark for not being a democrat and left the Dean camp), but many on the hard left of the Dean camp (Green/Nader) are quite vocal about everything republican. An uneasy alliance at times.

    Some of us older people keep saying that while Dean listens to his supporters more than most candidates, Dean will always do what Dean wants and will not be affected by any left or right threats. IMHO and is one of the main reasons I like him so much. But the republicans are sensitive on this issue.

  5. Terry from Killingly, CTOctober 28, 2003 at 5:40 AM

    Regarding Clark and sensitve disaffected Republicans, Clark is running for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination. The Democratic Party should choose a Democrat, not a person who has voted Republican when they were an adult and praises the current Republican Admin while they are looting our Treasury.

    If Clark had a record as a Democratic civilian politician prior to switching from registered Independent, which he did after announcing his run for the Presidency, then Clark's past Republican voting record would be moot. Clark has no public record that can be scrutinized as a Democratic leader, so the Republican-pretending-to-be-a-Democrat label will stick with Clark whether he and his supporters like it or not.

  6. Hi Rick,

    The reason you had trouble understanding Cudahy's essay was because it was largely meaningless. Could he have used any more 'high fallootin' language,' trite phrases or vaguer muddle-headed thought(s)?

    For example about the "reminding," "reshap[ing]," "hunger for change," thing requiring "innovation, integrity and intellectual audacity," the "agent of change," that will "reconfigure the landscape," and is "a new approach," that of course will produce "a new American politics" he has this to say:

    "This restoration must be built upon a willingness on the part of our leaders, and citizens alike, to anticipate, cooperate[,] innovate [and not squeeze the Charmin]."

    OK, I'm the one that 'squeezed the Charmin' -- but I swear he's responsible for the rest!

    This isn't to disparage Cudahy -- I don't know his work, and I really hope that some of it is a lot better (I welcome smart analysis). And I'm not perfect -- I've written some awful stuff in my life too -- but really, take a pass on this one.