June 16, 2005

Mort Kondracke Explores "Deanism"

A great column from Mort Kondracke:

Polls indicate that the public is dissatisfied with the performance of both the Republican-led Congress and President Bush. But the ability of Democrats to capitalize on it is being hampered by rampant Deanism. "Deanism," the trademark behavior of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, is the tendency to attract publicity for name-calling attacks on Republicans while offering almost no positive alternatives for governing.

Dean has been chided by various Democrats for over-the-top statements — that he "hates" Republicans, that they're "evil," that many of them don't work for a living, and that they're "the white Christian party" — but Deanish critiques are common among Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has called Bush a "liar" and a "loser." He apologized for saying "loser," but not for "liar." Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who's shrewdly extended her appeal rightward from the party's liberal base, recently lapsed back into Deanland, charging that "there never has been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda." More than the Nixon administration, whose abuses — burglary, wiretaps and attempted subornation of the FBI — have just been revisited with the unmasking of "Deep Throat"? Sen. Clinton knows better: She once worked for the House Judiciary Committee as it considered Nixon's impeachment. During debate on Bush's judicial nominees, various Democrats accused him of pursuing "absolute power" and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., attacked nominee Janice Rogers Brown by asking "does she want, a theocracy? What does (Brown) want to be nominated for? Dictator? Or grand exalted ruler?"
Dean claims to be trying to extend the Democratic Party's appeal to red states, but he can't possibly do so by declaring Republicans "evil" and saying that they don't work for a living.
All this evidence suggests that what the public wants from Washington is action on the issues that concern it most — the economy, gasoline prices and Iraq. Bush has policies and proposals for dealing with the problems, even if the public doesn't necessarily like them. To the extent that Democrats do have alternatives, no one knows about them because they spend so much time going negative, and, going over the top. If there's one thing that turns off independents and moderates, it's negative name-calling. It may work in the thick of a campaign, but Deanism is a turnoff for party-building.
My thoughts exactly
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