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Saturday, 24 May - link

Early Election Size-Up: Howard Dean

Hunter S. Thompson infused drawing based on works by Chicago artist Ben GordonI love following politics. In my teens, reaching out through all of Hunter S. Thompson's works, through Hell's Angels, past Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I discovered Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. Frenzied chronicling of the great hopes of the liberals, wound up that year around McGovern, and McGovern's brilliant campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz. Thompson's expert antipathy for scheming, mistrustful Nixon was amusing and prescient.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 inculcated a admiration of the political process in me. The pageantry, the scheming, the high-speed media research and spin. In high school, I volunteered with my brother to do cold-calling potential democratic voters in New Hampshire on behalf of a Nebraskan Democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Bob Kerry. I didn't have much of a stake back then, I was more curious about the process. "Hello, I'm calling from campaign headquarters, will you be voting for Bob Kerry today?"

I have a hard time forming alliances - most people and parties are too complex to back whole-heartedly. But I admire the process-disruptors. Ross Perot with his crazy-talk. John McCain and his odd integrity. Often these people don't have much of a chance of winning, but they give the slicksters a hard time and change the overall tone of the campaign.

During the last election, I went to see Ralph Nader give a talk in Oakland. People in that auditorium wanted to see the creation of a viable American green party with more radical ideals. Dean Raises a Fist in San FranciscoNow it seems some of that energy from the liberal side of the discussion has coalesced around Howard Dean, in large part because he's outside of the compromising part of the Democrats, those people used to effective business in Washington. Howard Dean is from Vermont, which is a state seemingly populated by a higher percentage of independent voters. He didn't like the war in Iraq, and he doesn't like Bush's tax cut.

At the democratic debate in South Carolina he was uncompromising to the point of hilarity. I enjoyed very much his performance, especially in contrast to the conciliatory old buzzards he was mostly up against. Though as Jon Stewart pointed out, he did have a strikingly odd smile on his face at times.

Today I was heartened by this New Republic article, Campaign Journal: Dean.com, sent by fellow Dealership fan Ivy Clift. It appears that Howard Dean, or rather, Howard Dean's campaign manager Joe Trippi is making steady use of the internet, grassroots style. Howard Dean web-coordinated meetups. Howard Dean microdonations. Howard Dean interviews with bloggers. Howard Dean official weblog.

Bully for him. I'm all in favor of citizen outreach. Maybe he can parlay the admiration of web surfers into American's version of Korea's Roh Moo-hyun. Or at least invest webloggers in the political process, by demonstrating respect for their potential as opinion-makers.

Posted on 24 May 2003 : 14:01 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.