WASHINGTON -- Let us turn our eyes from the reports that the economy is growing vigorously again. Let us avert our gaze from terrorists and the Middle East. Consider the Democratic presidential nominating process. For comic relief, all that would improve it would be the presence of Arianna Huffington, and she might make her entry yet.
Things have been going swimmingly for Dr. Howard Dean's presidential campaign until a thick gray storm cloud floated over his shiny oval of a head the other day. In New Hampshire, scene of the first presidential primary, he had forged ahead of his nearest opponent, Senator John Pierre Kerry. Last month, it was the Francophone senator who was ahead, 25 percent to 22 percent. Now, Dr. Howard Dean is ahead 38 percent to 17 percent in New Hampshire. Vast crowds have been turning up all over the country to hear him. In Seattle, 10,000 showed up in another of what the New York Times reports are "seemingly spontaneous crowds." You know, word spreads from Starbucks to Starbucks, from health food shop to health food shop: "Dr. Howard Dean is coming!" All of a sudden, 20,000 Birkenstocks are stomping toward Dr. Howard Dean's venue.
There they will hear Dr. Howard Dean, attired in button-down dress shirt and a nice tie -- he never wears a jacket, sports jacket or otherwise. That is part of his message: "Don't be stuffy." So he leaves the jacket in the plane. He does wear pants, usually the suit pants to the jacket that he does not wear, and he wears leather shoes, but rarely wingtips. Nixon wore wingtips. A lot of Dr. Howard Dean's supporters remember Nixon, not with fondness. Nixon lied to the American people.
Dr. Howard Dean's wardrobe is only part of his magic. He is very angry with President George W. Bush. In fact, of all the Democratic candidates, Dr. Howard Dean is the maddest. This seems to be the reason for the large crowds. They are really mad, too. They love it when Dr. Howard Dean says things such as, "When this president talks, sometimes the opposite of what he says is really the truth." As with Nixon, so with George W. Bush, liberal Democrats do not like to be lied to. That is one of the things they admired about Bill Clinton. He never lied to the American people … unnecessarily.
"He's not running a campaign, he's running a movement," writes Natasha C. on the Dean Web site, if the New York Times is to be believed. "These are protest-size crowds, these are not politics-size crowds, and that makes a critical difference," Ms. C. asseverates. Indeed it does. Join the first protest of the Twenty-First century. The only problem this protest movement faces is that there is almost nothing to protest. Yet Dr. Howard Dean can face up to that problem later. For now he has that storm cloud overhead.
Just as he is forging ahead in the polls and his fund-raising appeals are enriching the campaign so handsomely that he is considering eschewing federal funds by ignoring spending limits, comes devastating news. One of his opponents among the nine Democrats seeking the party's coveted nomination, former Senator Carol Moseley Braun, has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women's Political Action committee and by the National Women's Political Caucus -- two in one day!
"We are particularly pleased that out of a field of strong progressive candidates, the strongest feminist candidate turns out to be a woman," intoned the president of the National Organization for Women upon announcing her support of former Senator Braun. I suppose this is another first, a woman Democratic presidential candidate who is also a feminist, or is it a feminist Democratic presidential candidate who is also a woman? At any rate, former Senator Braun was equally obscure. Said she: "Together we are going to take the 'men only' sign off the White House door." Possibly she does not know how big the White House is. It has many doors, and I cannot recall any with a "Men Only" sign on it.
So it looks like Dr. Howard Dean is not going to get the feminist vote. In his party, that is a large percentage of the vote. Now what if Senator John Pierre Kerry takes the gay vote? And what if the environmentalists go to Congressman Dennis Kucinich? We know that the unions lean toward other candidates, and very few African Americans appear in Dr. Howard Dean's spontaneous crowds.
The problem the clever Dr. Howard Dean faces is that his party is a mélange of one-issue enthusiasts. Dr. Dean has reached for the anti-war crowd, but what about the other groups? He hopes to corral them by striking the one chord that holds them all together, hatred of President George W. Bush. Democrats get very mad when they think someone other than a Democrat is lying to them.