Thursday, June 09, 2005

Come back to the five and dime, Howard Dean

Like many, I wish Howard Dean would shut up, or tone it down, or at the very least think before speaking. It’s true that Republicans are exaggerating and twisting his remarks. But if the Democrats want to win elections we shouldn't be talking about Howard Dean shooting his mouth off. A party chairman speaks both to the faithful and to the whole nation. When he speaks about the other side, the rhetoric should be cool and surgical, precise cuts made with a smile. Dean is using hammer instead of a scalpel and then striking himself in the foot.

The problem here is that Dean is speaking as a cultural liberal who believes that cultural liberalism is still the nation’s prevailing credo – but for the wool pulled down over our eyes by Bush and the Republican machine. In his mind, I guess, blunt professions of scorn for Republicans and Republican constituencies, real and imagined (white people, Christians, ne’er-do-wells, CEOs) is straight talk that will appeal to ordinary people – or it would if they had not been watching Fox News the past five years. This is, of course, dumb.

The problem probably reflects not only Dean’s personal style, but a conscious effort dating back to his campaign to out-Bush Bush: Shoot straight. Counter bluntness with bluntness. But Dean should know by now that content matters more than attitude.