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Monday, August 25, 2003

That is, the So-Called Liberal Dean. Daniel P. Welch has written a good article about not only why Dean isn't a liberal, which has already been well documented, but why pretending that he is one is dangerous.

The Democratic Leadership Council, the right wing of the Democrats, until recently touted Dean as "just the kind of centrist, New Democratic governor" needed to reform the party (i.e., move it, in Young's turn of phrase, 'so far into the orbit of its rival as to render itself meaningless'). This is, of course, anathema to the left wing of the party, such as it is, not to mention the left in general. But far from being the man of the moment to rescue the country from this asphyxiating me-tooism, Dean is instead the very epitome of it-every bit as much as the bulk of his rivals for the nomination. By trying to portray his agenda as more "left" than it actually is, Dean is delegitimizing exactly the kind of challenge from the left that might revive anti-Bush forces. While the press is generally focused on Dean's "anger at Bush," or his willingness to "take on Bush," few delve more deeply.

Dean's faux-left image is dangerous, and, despite his supporters almost fanatic belief to the contrary, is actually a hindrance to building a coalition that will "take back America." Go ahead and be 'tough on crime' if you are deluded enough to think it can buy a few (white) votes in Texas (or worse, if you really think the problem with the greatest Prison Nation on earth is that we are somehow incarcerating too few people). Just don't pretend it's something it's not. Try to keep in mind, though, that we live in an age where the extremist cabal in Washington stole the election, in part, by exploiting the disenfranchisement of ex-felons, real and imagined, to get where they are. Scrubbing these disproportionately minority voters is a key element of stealing and keeping power in the GOP grand strategy-in Florida it alchemized a loss into a win, and casts the same, long racist shadow over much of the Old Confederacy. With more black men in prison than in college, "tough on crime" has long been establishment code for institutionalized racism.

This reminds me of the video about Noam Chomsky called "Manufacturing Consent." Chomsky argues that by having the New York Times, Dan Rather, Sam Donaldson and the like labeled as "liberal," the debate has been safely locked in a box where no outcome will be truly objectionable to the corporate powers. Progressive ideas like universal health care and cutting the defense budget are never mentioned in the mainstream media, and people who suggest such things are written off as radical whackos (or "non-viable candidates"). The technique worked like a charm with Bill Clinton. By boxing him in from the left (actually the center-right) by constantly attacking him and his wife as liberals, the right was able to get NAFTA, the WTO, welfare reform, a continued powerful military, unfettered corporate and media consolidation, and something they could never get on their own--a balanced budget. They also had the pleasure of continually picking on the guy who was doing everything they wanted and who did much to set the stage for the neocon takeover.

Dean as president would stop some of the worst excesses of the neocons, but he would do little to change the system in such a way that another neocon takeover in four or eight years wouldn't be possible.