posted on Jan, 15 2004 @ 07:30 AM
Conservatives, you DO HAVE A CHOICE.
Facing an uphill battle against an incumbent president, party leaders resolve to pick a "middle-of-the-road" challenger. But a fiery populist
thwarts them, calling the rank-and-file back to their ideological roots - and capturing the nomination.
Howard Dean in 2004? No, Ronald Reagan in 1980.
By now, we've all heard the rap on Dr. Dean from Democratic moderates: He's "unelectable." His liberal platforms - especially on taxes and foreign
policy - conjure George McGovern, who back in 1972 suffered the party's worst drubbing. Even more, he's a phony liberal: running for president as a
left-wing firebrand, he governed Vermont as a cautious centrist.
But Mr. Reagan faced precisely the same charges from the mainstream of his own party in 1980. His chief rival for the GOP nomination, George H.W. Bush
(remember him?), ridiculed Reagan's radical tax-slashing proposals as "voodoo economics." Other Republicans denounced Reagan for his bellicose
anti-Soviet rhetoric, fearing a repeat of the 1964 election - when the equally strident GOP nominee, Barry Goldwater, went down to a landslide
And when Reagan was governor of California, his critics noted, he was hardly a blood-and-guts conservative. Just a year after he unseated liberal icon
Pat Brown, Reagan approved the largest tax hike in the state's history. During Reagan's eight years in Sacramento, in fact, public spending doubled
- from $5 billion to $10 billion per year.
On hot-button culture-war issues, meanwhile, Reagan sometimes governed as an out-and-out liberal. He signed the most permissive abortion law in the
United States, later claiming that he hadn't really understood its provisions.
By 1980, however, Reagan had refashioned himself as a right-winger - and, more astoundingly, as a born-again Christian. An infrequent churchgoer,
Reagan told a group of fundamentalist ministers that all of the world's problems "have their answer in that single book - the Bible." To the dismay
of mainstream Republicans, Reagan even demanded creationist instruction alongside evolution in the public schools. He also declared his allegiance to
"family values," although Reagan was divorced as a younger man and rarely saw his own children.
But it worked. Despite his enormous political and personal contradictions, Reagan rallied the ground troops of the Republican party - and many people
outside it. In January 1980, pollsters reported that two-thirds of Americans favored Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan. Ten months later, Reagan
defeated Carter by a healthy margin of 51 to 41 percent - with the remaining votes going to the liberal Republican John Anderson.
In his own transition from governor to White House aspirant, Howard Dean has undergone an equally stark - or, if you prefer, slick - ideological
rebirth. When Dean entered the Vermont State House in 1991, inheriting a budget deficit, he immediately endorsed his GOP predecessor's plan for cuts
in social spending. He also enlisted Republican businessmen as economic advisers, sparking charges of apostasy from within his party. ("At least
he's our Republican," one local Democrat quipped.)
Nor did Dean take the lead in Vermont's most important liberal initiatives of the 1990s - a share-the-wealth school-funding plan and a "civil
unions" bill for gays. Instead, he waited to see which way the wind would blow. When the civil-unions issue was before the Vermont Supreme Court,
Dean refused to discuss it; when the court threw the matter to the state legislature, he said he was "uncomfortable" with same-sex marriage; and
when lawmakers finally passed a civil-unions measure, he signed it behind closed doors.
So when Howard Dean's critics say that he's a Johnny-come-lately liberal, they're right. But when they say he's too "extreme" to win a
general election, they're wrong.
In April 1980, a failed mission to rescue hostages in Iran resulted in eight American deaths - and set the stage for Reagan's victory in November. If
more and more Americans continue to perish in Iraq, Dean might receive a comparable boost.
SO, Ronald Regan, the false god of the Right Wing, shares a Janus like duality with Howard Dean.
VOTE FOR CHANGE! Clark or Dean or Dean&Clark, either way, the ticket will be made up of contenders who campaigned for president. Edwards might even be
the Dan Qualye with a brain VP. Anyway you slice it, we're better off, by a large stretch, than having the Four Horseman .
[Edited on 15-1-2004 by Bout Time]