After all they have been through, they still don’t get it. The Democrats are as inept a political opposition as George W. Bush is at running his daddy’s oil companies. DNC Chairman Howard Dean has just finished a long 30-state trip across the country, during which he met with thousands of enthusiastic Democrats looking for some way to challenge the Republican Party.
"There are Democrats everywhere," Dean exclaimed in Vermont on August 8 at the finale of his barnstorming tour. Still taking the lead from George Lakoff’s assessment that the Democrats don’t get the language right, Dean announced, "We need a message. It has to be clear. The framing of the debate determines who wins the debate. Running away from issues is how you lose elections.”
Sure, the rhetoric sounds nice. Issues do matter. But Dean’s vision has no teeth. As DNC chair he has run away from women’s rights by attempting to court anti-choicers into the Dem fold. He has also called for a prolonged occupation of Iraq.
So much for the “issues” that matter.
However, Dean hopes his populist mantra is enough to keep progressive Democrats well situated within the confines of the Democratic establishment. The Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) are also taking the same line, as they hope the progressive wing of the Democratic Party can gain some power out in Washington.
Sadly, the PDA has the blessing of several boisterous Green Party members, including David Cobb and Ted Glick, who are obviously disinterested in re-building their own struggling party. But the PDA, like DNC guru Howard Dean, is not to be trusted as an avenue for progressive change.
The best way to wage a fight against the Washington Democrats is to challenge them from outside the party. If PDA Democrats left in protest of their marginalization, change might be possible. That is, of course, if they don’t take the same stance as Cobb and Glick who continue to act as progressive Democrats and not Green Party leaders.
That’s wishful thinking, of course. Instead the Dems continue to act as the party of opposition but continually fail to distinguish themselves from the Republicans on a host of critical issues. Dean’s new call for a realigning of Democratic values is all for naught, as he is only talking about changing the failing rhetoric, not the failing policy.
Dean’s promise to change the way the Democrats talk about issues is a sure sign his party will never ever genuinely embrace the issues that matter most to progressives. They’ll only talk about the issues differently. The Democrats will never be anti-war. They will never be pro-living wage. They will never be in favor of real universal health-care; they’ll only pretend they are. So don’t believe the hype, for nothing could be more damaging to building a left alternative than believing Howard Dean and the PDA are avenues for legitimate change in the US.
Joshua Frank is the author of the brand new book, Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, which has just been published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted rate at www.brickburner.org. Joshua can be reached at Joshua@brickburner.org. Read an excellent review of Left Out! by Adam Engel.
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