Friday, February 18, 2005

Keeping It Real Politik: Krugman, Dean, & The Fighting Moderates

An outstanding editorial from outstanding New York Times columnist Paul Krugman may help to frame Howard Dean’s term as DNC, and more than that, it may set the Democrats' course out of the woods and back to power.

Think two words: Fighting Moderates.

”The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there," Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. "But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe."

Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.

I disagree with the premise that the Democratic Party must move rightward to survive. It's been lurching right for years and has seen steady losses in recent years for it. Everyone says that the Dems must "stand for something." Moving rightward seems more like a capitulation than a stand.

It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a "Clintonesque Republicrat," someone who, as governor, tried "to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required."

Even on Iraq, many moderates, including moderate Republicans, quietly shared Mr. Dean's misgivings - which have been fully vindicated - about the march to war.

Finally, we have someone who can bolster Dean’s right as a politician and U.S. citizen to take a rational position without being shouted down with inane – and untruthful – labels.

For a while, Mr. Dean will be the public face of the Democrats, and the Republicans will try to portray him as the leftist he isn't. But Deanism isn't about turning to the left: it's about making a stand.

This is a point that I have been making for weeks, though not as eloquently as Mr. Krugman does here. Dean’s legacy for the Democrats will be that he revived his party’s voice and backbone. He did this in the dark days of 2003 and he will do so again in 2005 and 2006.

That’s why Dean is perfect as DNC, better than anyone else at this moment in time. He’s a fighting moderate in a neocon / social conservative age, and he has the gumption and smarts to lead his party – and the perhaps the nation – to a better, more rational, and stronger place.


The Sore Loser said...

I think that Dean's ascendancy is less consequential than you or Krugman believe. As far as I can tell, the DNC chairman's job is not really to set the agenda or to promote the party's platform but to raise money. Or at least that's all that McAulliff did. Dean might redefine the position and assert himself more into politics. But if he just assumes the responsibilities of his predecessors, he'll be spending all of his time on the phone begging for money.

Eric Berlin said...

McAulliff was and is an expert at raising money, so that's what he concentrated upon as DNC. There's no set-in-stone job description for DNC aside from improving the overall health and prosperity of the party.

I think for where we're at in 2005, Dean has the best chance of doing that.