World Wide Dean
Howard Dean, the Blog for America, and the candidacy of the self.
11:00 PM, Jan 8, 2004 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
The Dean camp clearly thinks of itself as revolutionary, but browsing the comment logs, you get the idea that perhaps they mean it in the Bolshevik sense.
Frequent poster Charles Grapski wrote recently:
Our meetup went quite well in Gainesville Florida.
A good group of people--several new people which is always a good thing.
And what was great was the conversation. Extremely high level of discourse. This is what it is going to take to get our country back. . . .
The greatest strength of this campaign is its re-creation of a POLITY (a political community in the truest sense of the word).
WE really do have the POWER.
And that power has never been more needed to be implemented and applied until now. . . .
WE are Dean.
Getting the young involved in the revolution is a key. "Judith" recounted a story from National Meet-Up Day: "My favorite part of the night, though, involved the 8-year old son of a couple who came to their first meet-up. They had brought activities to keep their son busy while they participated, but after seeing the DVD, the third-grader had other ideas. He rose his hand and said, 'I really want to write a letter to Iowa. Is that OK?' So three cheers for Alex!"
Of course, like all true revolutions, the Dean project has international ambitions. Canadians are frequent contributors to the Dean message boards. "Anna" asked one of our friends from the North, ". . . have you guys out there in Canada considered connecting with HQ and promosing [sic] the following idea: citizens of foreign countries writing letters to Americans to explain their concerns about where the U.S. is headed under George W. Bush?"
It's a strategy that's never been tried before in American politics--a letter-writing campaign from citizens of a foreign country to persuade voters to dump their sitting president--but who's to say it won't work?
Yet even in the Dean comment sections, all isn't paradise. Again, like good revolutionaries, there is some pushing and shoving about who the "real Dean people" are.
When Slate suggested that some Deaniacs in New Hampshire might have played a prank on Wesley Clark, "Rose" worried that it was unbecoming of the Dean campaign. "Garry in Dallas," who indicates that his title is "Minister of Shrubbery Removal"--how clever!--concurred, saying "NO real Dean supporter would have done this on his/her own." ("Garry" further explained, "I smell a Karl Rove incident.")
But another Deaniac had little patience for "Rose": "The incident you describe was an example of the kind of thing needed to win a campaign--if you don't like it, maybe you should find another campaign to work for. This is a knife fight now, Rose, and we don't need the faint of heart."
Ultimately, "Rose" wasn't airbrushed out of the picture because Charlie Grapski vouched for her, offering, "Don't worry--real Dean people know you are not a troll. I would not be surprised if that was a troll who made those comments to you."
This last point--the issue of "trolls"--is of particular concern to the Blog for America community. People who express contrarian or questioning viewpoints are quickly labeled trolls (as in, if you don't feed the troll, he'll disappear) and much sport is made wondering for whom these operatives work. The knee-jerk response seems to always blame the Lieberman campaign, but cooler heads normally prevail. As "Sitka" recently summed it up, "The trolls all work for Bush."
IF NOTHING ELSE, these comment logs provide an interesting window into the mind of a Dean activist.
Following the December capture of Saddam Hussein, Best of the Web reported some troubling posts:
* "Carrie B": I can't believe this. I'm crying here. I feel that we now don't have a chance in this election.
* "Leslie in SF": I think it is shameful that the ACLU has not commented on the obvious mistreatment Hussein has suffered at the hands of the American military.
* "Muslims4Dean": If the Death toll mounts--good. It will teach the American people not to support Nazi Republicans who invase [sic] Muslim lands.
* "Johnny Smith": Muslims4Bush [sic]--don't think we can put it that way. We don't want Americans to die. But if Bush will not bring our boys home--then they're going to have to die so that Howard Dean can win.
But these are just anonymous rants, and, troubling as they may be, they don't necessarily indicate anything worse than what one finds on a daily basis in the San Francisco Chronicle's letters page. Charlie Grapski, whom we've met already, is a different matter.