A profound sense of hope gives way to frightening despair when I think about the golden opportunity the Democratic party is about to pass by. It seemed too perfect for Democrats. The economy was sputtering out of control and the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq were degenerating into anarchy. President George W. Bush looked vulnerable to defeat for the first time since September 11. All America needed was an alternative around which to rally.
Some people consider this alternative to be Howard Dean. Starting from nothing, Dean has used the war in Iraq and widespread Democratic anger with President Bush to catapult to the top of the Democratic field. Dean’s no-nonsense attitude and decidedly liberal leanings has drawn praise from across the Democratic ideological spectrum. His sudden rise to the top of the primary field has left Democrats salivating and many thinking Dean is the man to beat President Bush. Unfortunately, he is not.
Sadly for Democrats, President Bush is a visionary leader. Although his vision is based on a grossly distorted and inaccurate perception of reality, he speaks with such conviction that many people are compelled to follow him. In 2002, Democrats had no vision of their own and were caught simply sniping away at President Bush, and the American people handed Democrats a devastating defeat.
The 2002 election made it clear that bland, inside-the-beltway moderates like Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle were poisoning the Democratic Party. Enter Dean.
Anyone who has watched Dean talk about President Bush can attest that he is full of rage. His face gets bright red and he begins speaking at an incomprehensible pace. This blinding charisma, at first glance, is a welcome change. It initially seemed as though Dean is everything that Democrats lacked in 2002. Unfortunately, Dean is merely a perpetuation of the Democratic Party of 2002.
Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), lost in a campaign without direction, offered some wise words at Iowa’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. In an obvious swipe at Dean, he said that anger would not win Democrats the presidency in 2004, and he is absolutely right.
Americans do not need an angry man telling them how bad their lives are; they need and want someone to tell them how great their lives can be. They know the economy is terrible. They know many of their friends are losing their jobs. They know America is hated around the world. They know American servicemen and women are dying in Iraq for a cause that appears more and more fabricated as the days pass. They know their lot is bad. To make things worse, Dean continues to drum up these images. His solution to America’s problems is to repeal Bush’s tax cuts and get out of Iraq.
Instead of merely reacting to Bush’s atrocious domestic and foreign policy, Dean should formulate a vision of his own. Sure, he thinks we should get out of Iraq. But what then? Does he have a plan? Dean, a foreign policy lightweight, must come to grips with the United States’ preeminent position of power in the world. He must come up with a way to reconcile America’s security interests while at the same time creating an America that discredits ideologies that teach people to hate, instead of love, America.
Dean must stop telling America that repealing Bush’s tax cuts and instituting universal health care will magically solve its domestic problems. While both are instrumental in returning America to prosperity, these policies are not the end-all, be-all in achieving this goal. Dean needs to develop a real plan to create jobs and tangibly improve the lives of ordinary Americans suffering under a president who cares more for those with the most money than those with the least.
After formulating this vision, Dean must do all he can to sell it to the American people. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that he, or any other Democrat in the race, is capable of either formulating a vision or selling it. Unless Dean or someone else provides a compelling vision, Democrats will find themselves continuing their free fall, and Americans will suffer as a result.
–The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet contributing editor.