Howard Dean's got troubles.
Dean's a lily-white guy from a lily-white state. If he can't win in lily-white Iowa (2.1 percent black), how can Dean expect to win in the far more crucial Southern primaries?
What will Dean do in South Carolina, where blacks total 29.5 percent of the population? Lose. Current polls show Dean with 25 percent in South Carolina; Gen. Wesley Clark, meanwhile, is breathing down Dean's neck with 23 percent. Al Sharpton receives 12 percent of the vote, and John Edwards takes 17 percent. With Dean's momentum gone, look for his lead to disappear into oblivion. If he can't get out the white vote, he's as good as cooked.
Howard Dean has a major race problem on his hands. He is from the benevolent white liberal school of thought: Back affirmative action and anti-racism bills, but keep those blacks out of my face.
For Howard Dean, blacks and browns are interesting to watch as a social experiment. Literally. In college, he specifically requested a black roommate, wanting to learn what black people were. His roommate, Don Roman, didn't know about the request. If he had, he says, it "would have been the kiss of death." As Roman put it, he didn't want to be "some white liberal's" social experiment.
As interesting as it was for Dean to room with a black person, he didn't want any black people on his Vermont gubernatorial staff. When Sharpton confronted him with this challenge, Dean acknowledged that he had neglected to put theory into use. Sharpton's analysis: "You ought to talk freely and openly about whether you went out of the box to try to do something about race in your home state and have experience with working with blacks and browns at peer level, not as just friends you might have had in college."
Even if he won't work with them, he'll pander to them. Dean's favorite song? Hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean's "Jaspora." The song's lyrics are in Creole. An excerpt from the translation: "Why do Jamaicans always say they are Jamaicans, but Haitians are afraid to say they are Haitians?" Try to imagine Howard Dean driving around Vermont, listening to this song. Try not to laugh.