The Angry Party
: When Howard Dean was running for President, I said that his real goals were not just to take over the White House but also to take over the Democratic Party with his army of young turks and the power of citizens’ media and the lure of. Well, he failed at the first, but he’s about to succeed at the second.
When Dean is elected by acclamation as the new head of the Democratic National Committee, I won’t be one of the Democrats jumping with apparent joy. Yes, I’ve made cracks about the wisdom of choosing a loser to head the party. And, no, I did not support Dean as a presidential candidate. And, sure, I’ll be delighted to see him try to shake up the power structure of campaign fundraising with his army of young turks and aggregated fortune in $25 contributions and experience in using the tools of citizens’ media to change the world. None of that is my problem.
My fear is that the takeover by Dean and the Deaniacs cements our unfortunate position as The Angry Party.
It’s not just that Dean was the angry candidate — which, I said then, was my biggest problem with him as a candidate — and that the Deaniacs were the angry young people. It’s that the left has turned into the mad side. Our states shouldn’t be painted in cool blue but in fiery red.
When I read blogs from the left or read comments here and elsewhere from that side (and remember that I manage to piss off both sides and so I have a basis of comparison), I hear a predominance of two tones when there is disagreement: the rage of a rabid dog or the moan of a resigned Eeyore. The blogs and commenters from the right — who, lord knows, can be just as venemous — sound, nonetheless, a bit calmer, more in control, more mature, even. Oddly, I don’t see the exact same pattern in TV punditry: The O’Reilly’s are still spitting angry. And perhaps the left is still trying to emulate that under the theory that, hey, it worked for the other side: It got them elected.
But there are three problems with this:
First, we set ourselves up as the party in permanent opposition: Our role is to be angry with the guys in power rather than saying what we’d do if when are in in power.
And that leads to the second problem: We’re against more than we’re for. Iraq: Nothing good ever happens. (See Tom Friedman — a Democrat of my ilk — this morning on four things in Iraq Democrats should be excited about). Social Security: Some even say there’s no problem and nothing to do. These are both problems that need fixes; we’ve already heard the complaints. That’s not a way to win elections.
Then there’s the third problem: It’s no fun hanging out with angry people. I’m sick of certain people people saying I’m not their kind of Democrat; when did we become the party of exclusion? During the recent kerfluffle between Kos and Zephyr Teachout, we were reminded of the bile of the Deaniacs. This is why they didn’t win Iowa; it wasn’t the hats, folks, it was the fangs. People who are constantly mad (see: Alterman) and politics is about making friends.
Finally, here’s the fourth problem: It’s about winning the next election. See today’s USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll: Hillary Clinton is leading the polls (40 percent v. 25 for Kerry — God forbid — and 17 for Edwards). And on the other side, Rudy’s No. 1 wth 34 percent and McCkain’s second with 29 percent. This is going to be an election won at the center — I hope — and so the last thing the Democrats should be today is The Angry Party.
Let’s hope that Dr. Dean prescribes himself and our party a few tranqs.