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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Poor Deluded Peeps

After reading Matt Taibbi’s second straight Rolling Stone column about the satanic conspiracy I am apparently working for here at the DLC, I’ve decided he’s a lot of fun, much like a particularly twisted roller coaster ride. You never quite know where he’s going next, but he gets there pretty fast, with all sorts of dizzying upside-down turns.Taibbi’s Big Insight, with which I suspect he will bludgeon readers regularly, is that American politics generally, and Democratic Party politics in particular, are fundamentally rigged by “the holy trinity of the American political establishment — big business, the major political parties and the commercial media.” In Taibbi-land, moreover, this Establishment is not simply benighted or corrupt; it is fundamentally determined to destroy democracy by denying actual voters any say in the political affairs of either party.And here’s where the roller coaster ride gains momentum. Taibbi goes off on a loop-de-loop suggesting that the Holy Trinity is the only thing standing between Hillary Clinton’s obscure primary opponent, Jonathan Tasini, and a Lamont-style upset. And then, suddenly, he goes upside-down:

It’s a simple formula for running one-half of American politics; you decide on John Kerry two years before the presidential vote, raise him $200 million bucks, and let CNN and The New York Times take care of any Howard Deans who might happen to pop up in the meantime.

The People, according to Taibbi’s logic, would have chosen Dean as the Democratic nominee if the Holy Trinity had not already decided on Kerry.This hypothesis is pretty interesting, to say the least. Maybe I’m just old and have a fading memory, but I seem to recall a very different situation in late 2003, the period just before The People had any say over the Democratic nomination for president in 2004–when the Holy Trinity really had a lot of power, and it was all about buzz and conventional wisdom and money.This last, pre-voter phase of the nomination contest was actually the high point of the Dean campaign and the low point of the Kerry campaign. Unless I’m just imagining this, Dean was kicking butt on the money front; he was raking in endorsements; the mainstream media had all but crowned him as the nominee; even Al From and Bruce Reed felt compelled to make it clear they would loyally support him if he won. Kerry had been gleefully, joyously left for dead by a Media Establishment that never liked him to begin with. Those bigfoot political reporters who had not already called the nomination for Dean, before a single vote was cast, were hyping Edwards or Clark.Then the Iowa Caucuses happened, in a state and on a terrain that were entirely friendly to the kind of activist-based, antiwar, energized People Power of the Dean campaign. Yet the Doctor began his decline while John Kerry rose from the dead. You’d have to be stone crazy to think the Holy Trinity scripted this series of events two years in advance.Don’t get me wrong: I’m not bashing Dean here. His 2003-2004 take on Iraq–it was a mistake, but one that the U.S. was morally required to carry through to victory–would today put him on the right wing of Democratic opinion on the war. Moreover, Dean’s campaign was very important in changing how campaigns are organized, run and financed, largely for the better. We’ll never know whether he would have been a better general election candidate than Kerry.But what we do know is that for whatever reason, the Democratic electorate consistently chose John Kerry over Howard Dean, even when money, media, and the party establishment dictated otherwise. And we also know that people like Matt Taibbi who respect The People when they agree with him, and consider them disenfranchised and deluded when they don’t, are just as elitist as anybody in DC. But Matt has to take us on quite a crazy ride to square that particular circle.

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