In the world of sound bytes and simplistic platitudes; when public officials of all stripes have virtually been forced to wear silly flag pins to prove their patriotism, it's hard to step out. That's exactly what Howard Dean has tried to do and it's precisely why his run for the Presidency seems to be loosing steam. Electability is the mantra of the day, and a multitude of forces have conspired to declare that he is not the winning kind. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be unhappy with Kerry, Edwards or Clark. I also think that any one of them might win; hope for all of our sakes that they will win. But it's another short term fix. Read Robert Reich's thoughtful Op Ed piece in today's New York Times. Like Dean, he is convinced that Democrats have to return to their core beliefs, have to stand for something, have to become a movement again.
Marketing is all about focus and consistently delivering one's message. Like it or not, marketing is what greases the mechanism of American thinking these days. The Republicans, specifically the Conservative coalition that is in control, have been brilliant at it since the days when Deaver and Company promoted the Morning in America Presidency. It isn't a matter of whether the media have a Right or Left bias, it's that the Conservative view of things has become politically correct, the default position. While opponents of the War are in fact deeply concerned about putting our young people at needless and unjustified risk, they are painted as not supporting the troops. Repeat that often enough in the current environment and the accuser gets away with a lie that becomes a perceived truth.
At this moment we are in the midst of an international quagmire where everyone seems to hate us, with 3000 plus American deaths and casualties (not to mention never to be counted Iraqi losses) and exit polls show only tertiary concern with the War (and thus with foreign affairs). Sure it's natural that bread and butter issues, health and education are given top priority, but it is also a mark of how successful the propaganda has been. Even David Kay, the dispassionate inspector, feels it necessary to caveat his conclusion that WMD's just weren't there with a defense of the President. It was all in the faulty intelligence and those guys (read scapegoat) owe him an apology. What happened to Harry Truman's buck stopping?
So we are sneaking off again to safe ground. We weren't ready for the Wisconsin Senator in 1968, the New Jersey Senator in 2000 and, much as it pains me, apparently for the Vermont Governor today. When will be ready?