Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Wednesday, November 05, 2003  

Even as I was predicting a Dean victory last night, he might have been watching the implosion of his campaign. Due to, of course, the now-famous "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" comment. In American politics, you can survive almost anything--except being called a racist.

Is Dean a racist? More to the point, do the Dems who attacked him last night think he's a racist? No and no. They were playing the cheapest form of cheap-shot politics: punishing the person who broaches the topic of racism as a racist. Cue the cheap shots:

Sharpton: "First of all, Martin Luther King said, 'Come to the table of brotherhood.' You can't bring a Confederate flag to the table of brotherhood."

Lieberman: "Governor Dean ought to be more careful about what he says. It is irresponsible and reckless to loosely talk about one of the most divisive, hurtful symbols in American history."

Kerry: "It is simply unconscionable for Howard Dean to embrace the most racially divisive symbol in America. I would rather be the candidate of the NAACP than the NRA."

Gephardt: [Dean appears to believe] "that if we sacrifice our support for reasonable gun legislation like the assault weapons ban, we will win the support of those that disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil rights."

Edwards: "The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do."

You could almost hear them hooting with glee, so delighted were they to lay the race card on the table. But who's wrong here? Everyone knows Dean's not a bigot: no one has ever suggested it and there's no evidence of it. So the criticisms are what--that he wasn't polite? Actually, the criticisms are that he is a racist, though no one making them has the balls to admit it--they just want to smear him without having to come out and say it. And the reason they're making the accusations isn't because they give a shit about race--it's to tar Dean. And who suffers? Anyone who cares about the issue of race in America. The other candidates are determined that so long as the subject is on the table, it will be there as an inert, stable element, unable to rile emotions or cause genuine healing. Invoke MLK and stop--that's a "race discussion" in the Democratic Party today.

After the flap, Dean clarified what was already apparent: "This country needs to engage in a serious discussion about race and that everyone must participate in that discussion." Dean, clearly, is the only one willing to do so. (Inviting confederate-flag wavers into the discussion is a prerequisite to discussions on race. Would you hold a summit about the Israeli conflict and not invite the Palestinians? Everyone has to be at the table.)

In last night's debate, John Edwards apparently ran across the room and got in Dean's face, bleating, "Unless I missed something, Governor Dean still has not said he was wrong. Were you wrong, Howard?"

No, John, he was exactly right. You were wrong. You (and Al, John, Joe, and Dick) are the ones who owe the apologies.

posted by Jeff | 1:37 PM |
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