Howard Dean Is a Genuine Hero: Taking on Corporate 'Centrists' Like Lieberman
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But here's the thing: It's not like Barack Obama won't be president and Democrats won't control Congress tomorrow. They can go back to the drawing board right now and have the same political topography before them when they come back to the House and Senate floors. And last I checked, when this bill was in more progressive form (ie. with a public option and Medicare buy-in) I didn't hear any of these voices in DC say the bill needed to be on a "must pass immediately" track - only when the bill was gutted are these voices now screaming for it to be immediately passed...hmm...
All of that said, wherever you come down on the substance of the Lieberman-gutted bill, it's clear Dean has created a new progressive dynamic here. He has made it more likely that something better will come out of the Congress either now or in the near future than the monstrosity Lieberman has created. How? By doing his part to create the political space and leverage for us to demand more.
Dean's move, not surprisingly, is being lambasted by the sycophantic Washington press. As just one example, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza -- one of the most perfectly calibrated barometers of Beltway conventional wisdom -- lashes out at Dean as a "health care reform spoiler" (Cillizza, of course, never said this about Lieberman, Landrieu, Nelson, or any of the other conservadems who were threatening to filibuster the bill over the last few months). And tellingly, Cillizza insists Dean's principled stand is "entirely in his own self interest" - an attempt to completely dismiss the substance of Dean's criticism. Of course, if Dean criticizing the administration was "entirely in his own self interest," he would not have been cheering on the bill before it was gutted. And so Cillizza's refrain is yet more proof that in Washington's "Church of the Savvy" movement participants taking principled stands are seen as selfish, petulant, stupid and unserious while politicians who exchange votes for industry campaign contributions (Lieberman, Baucus, etc.) and former politicians who are literally paid to lobby for Big Money (Tom Daschle, as an example) are depicted as thoughtful, selfless, "moderate" and "pragmatic" team players.
I have to say, Dean's multi-year transformation is amazing. I remember when I worked for Bernie Sanders how Vermont had a DLC-ish governor named Howard Dean. To look at him now is to stand in awe, because today's Howard Dean is not that Howard Dean. And I believe his transformation is entirely genuine because he had absolutely nothing to gain from it in the way we cynically define "gain" in today's politics. There are many things to "gain" from shutting up and going corporate -- there is little to "gain" from championing a progressive cause from a place of authentic conviction. Little to personally "gain" -- but much to gain for the country.
Here is a person who has decided not to pull the usual post-retirement dance of worshiping the Establishment and joining The Club. Here is a person whose motives cannot be attacked and who has built an independent base of power the old fashioned way - not through Big Money or through insider connections, but through grassroots organizing, unvarnished policy credibility, and a willingness to stand for principles before party. Here is a person going on television to tell sitting Democratic U.S. senators the cold hard truth to their face: namely that they've sold out. Here is a guy taking on the same obsequious Professional Democratic Elites in DC that are saying we must pass any bill, no matter how destructive, just to give Democrats a political win (the same Professional Democratic Elite that told us to support the Iraq War and the bailout, by the way).