It's not about anger….

<![CDATA[A number of friends whom I respect a great deal are writing extensively about Howard Dean's speech in Iowa. Almost to a man, everyone is focusing on the angry man meme, as David Weinberger puts it, which says that media is propagating a false image of the former Vermont governor based on a long-lived theme […]

<![CDATA[A number of friends whom I respect a great deal are writing extensively about Howard Dean's speech in Iowa. Almost to a man, everyone is focusing on the angry man meme, as David Weinberger puts it, which says that media is propagating a false image of the former Vermont governor based on a long-lived theme in media coverage, that Dean has a bad temper (George W. Bush has a bad temper, but no reporter focuses on that).
I did not see his speech as angry, though he did fall back on trying to tap his supporter’s anger at George Bush — it was a pep talk given at the wrong time. He should have used the national TV time to address his success in shaping the debate in Iowa and talked of taking that success into New Hampshire and on the the other states. He needed, at that moment, to speak in full sentences, because a lot of voters were looking at him to see how he dealt with adversity, which says a lot about what kind of president he might be. Instead of a calm and positive talk about the reasons he should be president, the TV audience saw what he should have done after the cameras were off. Governor Dean could and should have used the camera time to talk then plunged into the crowd to do the pep talk with the shouting.
Jon Lebkowsky says:

My guess is this: what media and corporations and the political establishment fear most about Dean is that he’s his own guy, and his movement is populist – his campaign organization resists the command and control model and tries to be truly democratic. Dean represents an approach that could result in a redistribution of power within the U.S., and any redistribution of power is threatening to those who are powerful today.

I would agree with Jon, if Governor Dean’s campaign was not so reliant on the anti-Bush meme. A populist movement is not founded on grassroots fund-raising, at which the Dean campaign has excelled, but on a coalition of coalitions developing into a parade that a leader appears to represent rather than lead. My favorite populist is Sockless Jerry Simpson, a Kansas congressman who exemplified a type of populism in the 1890s. He wasn’t a national leader per se, instead he led a part of the populist movement to the extent that he represented Kansas populists. It took a William Jennings Bryant, an ego maniac of the first order who buried many populist issues beneath his pet issues, like the gold standard, to stand at the front of a national populist movement as a presidential candidate — and Bryant never won. Sockless Jerry was one guy among millions, not just his “own guy” but a guy of the people. Howard Dean ignored most of the people in the country — many who were watching him for the first time — on that night in Iowa, which was a mistake.
Dave Winer, who was at Dean headquarters that night, tells this story:

I was at Dean headquarters on the night of the Iowa caucuses, and I watched the Dean rant on TV in the office, with the other Web programmers. A few minutes before the speech they had a staff meeting in the conference room. Everyone was there except me and another guest. Not being a staffer, I didn’t belong in the staff meeting. Several times during the meeting a loud crazy-sounding scream came from the room, everyone was doing it, and it was really frightening. The stuff of nightmares. This was before Howard Dean’s rant. I asked Jim Moore what that was about, he said it’s an Indian war yell or something like that, they used to do it in United Farm Workers rallies, and they adopted it at Dean For America. A few minutes later Dean let out the famous scream, it was the same scream I heard in the conference room.

Unfortunately, no one votes based on this insider view. A president belongs to the whole people (except our current president, who is firmly in the pockets of a very few), and the people expect him or her to represent that at all times. Dave says he is more sure than ever that Dean will emerge from New Hampshire a viable candidate. I am certain Dean will not be the nominee.
Doc Searls wrote about Dean’s speech as a Whitmanesque “barbaric yawp.” Beautiful idea, but the yawp vote is not enough to offset the vast center that votes against the yawp. I’d like the United States to awake to the genuine voice of rage and despair that is the barbaric yawp. So much of what made and still, as an echo, makes this country great has been gutted with astonishing speed by a band of radicals who pose as representative to the vast middle. We need a change. Unfortunately, because the Dean campaign has been built primarily on the strength of its fund-raising prowess and has not engaged this massive following in a dialogue that would have made the planks of a Dean platform absolutely critical to a winning Democratic ticket, there is very little to salvage from the efforts of so many people.
I remember when I was a Gary Hart delegate at the Washington State Democratic Convention in 1984 (my first election as a Democrat, where I had been an Anderson Republican in 1980). We had taken the state for Hart and while standing on the convention floor, I watched the Democratic brass, including Rep. Norm Dicks, who is still in Congress, negotiate that victory away for the more “reliable” Walter Mondale in exchange for a guarantee of the 1988 nomination for Hart. I was deeply disappointed and, at 23, had the few ideals I had left about politics after Watergate smashed. That deal led Hart to think he was invincible and resulted in his squandering the 1988 nomination for a tumble between the sheets with Donna Rice.
What will the post-Deaniac feel, realizing that they have had little impact on the actual tone of the Democratic campaign? I don’t mean they haven’t made a huge impact, but that they will have little negotiating power when it comes to setting policy. That may alienate a lot of voters who will take this experience as the definition of politics. Think about the many quotes from Dean workers in Iowa, who expected great things and told reporters “What did I get for all my hard work?”
If politics is about immediate results, which it is for many people, unfortunately, 2004 will be a disappointment that scars them and prevents them from becoming activists, again.
This may sound like I am damning Dean and his staff, but I am not. Howard Dean made a mistake. The huge weight of hopes many people had laid on him will translate the result of that mistake into a judgment that, whether fair or unfair, decides the fate and legacy of the Dean For America campaign.]]>