December 18, 2003

musings on howard dean

By the close of September 2001, I had begun to put the shock of the 11th day of that month behind me. It occurred to me then, as it did to many Americans, that out of this tragedy we might be able to rebuild more than the mere structures of steel and glass: We might be able to rebuild the dream which once was America.

Our ruling class wasted no time in grounding my flight of fancy. While on September 12th, the attention of America was riveted to public matters with a breadth and depth which we had not seen in over a generation, the political class was hard at work transforming our national unity into political capital. And now, a mere two years post 9-11, I find myself as disenfranchised and disillusioned as I was on September 10th.

It may be naive optimism to suggest that the window of opportunity has not yet entirely passed. Indeed, there has been little to suggest to those of us paying attention that anything of substance will change as a result of recent trials. But the optimist in me continues to hope for the emergence of leadership with character.

Which brings me to what prompted me to start this blog on this particular day: the Howard Dean campaign.

You see I don’t vote. Or at least, not anymore: I once was a faithful red, white and blue blooded American who pulled the lever faithfully. I’m a little slow, but I finally figured out that our two parties, that hold themselves out as some sort of patriotic structure right up there with Congress and the National Football League, are corrupt beyond redemption.

Grassroots is good and that reason, along with the excitement of some friends, kept me curious about Howard Dean. I have been longing for someone of stature to arise to the occasion and transform American politics by taking it out of the hands our ruling parties. I certainly don’t agree with Dean on many, many things, but I wondered if maybe Dean would be the One. I was pretty much dismissing him at a practical level given he has hitched himself to the Democratic party, but I still had a little faint vestige of hope.

The hope was of course shattered by the endorsement of Dean’s candidacy by none other than Al Gore. Anyone other than me hear the sounds of the withering of the grass roots?

If you don’t hear it, just give it time. And do yourself a favor and read the recent Wired (12.01) story on the campaign. In there they quote Dean, "If I give a speech and the blog people don't like it, next time I change the speech."

Lovely. Another soulless politician.

Perhaps more telling was a statement in the story that though not attributed to the campaign, sounds about right for things as they stand in the USA: "But for today, the Internet remains the key engine of Dean's election bid and he has yet to merge his grassroots movement with the traditional Democratic power structure."

Maybe that sound isn’t the withering of the grass roots. Maybe it is a DNC weed whacker.

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