"I knew I was the frontrunner," Howard Dean said last week, "because I keep picking buckshot out of my rear end all the time."
This happened on the set of CNN's made-for-TV presidential debate, in response
to John Kerry's assertion that Dean's "been endorsed more times by the NRA
than the NEA." Indeed, rivals have been trying to push Dean towards the Right
lately. They're trying to drive a wedge between him and hardcore liberals,
because, on the eve of primary season, every millimeter counts. Which is
why it's been open season on Dean ever since he told the Des Moines Register
he wants to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup
trucks." His opponents smell blood now. They're putting their bibs on.
For example, Dick Gephardt says, "I don't want to be the candidate for guys
with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks" -- not that he was going to
be -- because they "disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil
Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman's campaign director, Craig Smith, says, "It is irresponsible
and reckless to loosely talk about one of the most divisive, hurtful symbols
in American history."
Then there's Wesley Clark -- as new as New Democrats come -- who says, "Every
Democratic candidate for president needs to condemn the divisiveness the
Confederate flag represents."
And as for Al Sharpton, "If I said I wanted to be the candidate for people
that ride around with helmets and swastikas, I would be asked to leave."
So now some people are saying Dean hasn't done enough to apologize for his
so-called "Confederate flag flap." Apologize for what, though? Apologize
for courting a vast group of voters? If anything, Dean ought to apologize
for saying the following in response to his critics: "I want people with
Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic
-- because the need for quality health care, jobs, and a good education knows
no racial boundaries."
A few weeks back, Dean called himself a "metrosexual" despite not knowing
what the word means. Now he says he's going to earn the votes of Confederate
flag-wavers by giving them all sorts of neat stuff. Translation? Dean doesn't
get it. Again.
Backtracking at last week's debate, Dean said that, yes, "the Confederate
flag is a racist symbol." Yet folks in the South have been saying for years
that they cling to the flag not for hate but for heritage. Northeast elites
-- guys like Lieberman, Kerry, and Dean -- just haven't been listening. They
only hear what they want to hear. Just because a guy clips a rebel flag sticker
to the back of his truck doesn't mean he's making a statement in favor of
slavery, or even against civil rights. For some, it's a symbol of independence
-- a symbol of the do-it-yourself, self-rule mentality as opposed to Big
Democrats have been known to wonder lately why white, working-class males
-- i.e., NASCAR dads -- vote Republican. After all, it's a vote "against
their own economic interests," as Dean put it at last week's debate. But
would Democratic policies really benefit these people? And has it ever occurred
to Democrats maybe not everyone wants their help -- or any help -- at all?
These candidates talk about nationalizing healthcare. Who says NASCAR dads
want that, though? Maybe they don't want anything. Maybe the only thing they
want is to be left alone.
But that's not what Big Gov't does. It doesn't leave people alone. In fact,
it doesn't trust them alone -- which is why childproof bottles now baby-sit
And the Democrats aren't the only ones to blame here. Both parties exist
for the purpose of getting and keeping power, and both choose to do so through
human-interest fables and broad, impossible promises.
Big Gov't's saddled us with endless entitlements, intrusive agencies, and
oppressive taxes. Half the Bill of Rights have eroded. You can't sell a gun
or a Big Mac without someone, somewhere, taking their case to court -- or
worse yet, Washington. This is the social progress politicians talk about?
The death of free trade? Our so-called free country now demands 30, 40, or
50 percent of your paycheck, and that's before they hit you again at the
gas pump or check-out line. All this since the end of the Civil War.
You want to know why NASCAR dads aren't voting Democrat? Remember George
Bush's so-called tax cuts for the wealthy? Remember how Democrats painted
them racist? Well, put two and two together, and there's your answer.
What happened in America during the 1860s wasn't just "about slavery." It
was also about strengthening a central government -- and as civil rights
leaders sometimes point out, even Abe Lincoln said so.
Yes, the South broke from the North defending slavery, but they also did
so because their region was enslaved to exorbitant taxes. As Lew Rockwell
has put it on the dot-com bearing his name: "In effect, the South was being
looted to pay for the North's early version of industrial policy. The battle
over the tariff began in 1828, with the 'tariff of abomination.' Thirty year
later… the South [was] paying 87 percent of federal tariff revenue while
having their livelihoods threatened by protectionist legislation."
Sounds a lot like Lieberman's pledge to up taxes on the wealthy, doesn't
it? Or Dean's pledge to roll back Bush's tax cuts completely?
A lifelong Democrat, Georgia's Sen. Zell Miller recently said he'll vote
for George Bush next year because no one from his own party deserves the
nod. As he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Some want to raise our
taxes a trillion, while the others want to raise our taxes by several hundred
billion. But, make no mistake, they all want to raise our taxes." He contrasts
this with Bush, who he says "understands that tax cuts are not just something
that all taxpayers deserve, but also the best way to curb government spending.
It is the best kind of tax reform. If the money never reaches the table,
Congress can't gobble it up."
While Bush hasn't exactly curbed spending (in fact, he's increased it), he
has, indeed, come through with tax cuts -- and on the road to economic freedom,
that's one lap closer to the checkered flag. Miller gets this. Dean doesn't.
He can court NASCAR dads all he wants, but he misses the point by 500 miles.
Still, it's funny how the Confederate flag consumed such a portion of last
week's debate. Asked by John Edwards to answer, flat-out, whether his comments
were wrong, Dean said no. He then added many people only fly the Confederate
flag "because the Republicans have been dividing us by race since 1968 with
their Southern race strategy." This while eight Democrats sat on the stage
hurling racist accusations.
By most accounts, the Civil War North was as racist as the South. Today,
Democrats champion civil rights with policies built on the principle that
blacks can't succeed on their own. By those standards, up is down, down is
up, and racism only exists if and when we say so over and over and over again.
If the nation's poor and oppressed want to trust someone, it shouldn't be
Democrats or Republicans. It should be themselves. When it comes to our wallets,
we should all do the same. It can't be a coincidence, after all, that whenever
we're told we need Big Gov't to correct injustices or make us behave, we
end up paying through the nose.
Perhaps that's one of the "bedrock Democratic values" of which Dick Gephardt spoke.
Jonathan David Morris is a political satirist based in New Jersey. His website is Read JDM.