Iowa 2004: Where Next?

I just listened to Howard Dean’s Iowa speech from last night and was reminded of one of my favorite politicians, the late Paul Wellstone. Dean’s fire was eerily similar to the one caucus I attended in 1990. Back then the conventional wisdom gave Wellstone little chance against the incumbent, Rudy Boschwitz. Wellstone stormed into the caucus hall and gave one of the most insipiring political speeches I’ve ever seen. But it appears that everyone in the media echo chamber thinks this kind of passion isn’t presidential. It may indeed be true but it is a shame. The reactions to the Wellstone memorial amply demonstrate this antipathy toward liberal passion. The conservatives are much better at spinning this passion as some kind of madness or anger. And people buy it. Why? There’s just as much passion on display on the rightward edges of the ideological spectrum. I’m beginning to accept that the political media won’t give someone with Dean’s passion a chance to become an electable president; it’s just another example of the media defending the status quo. This disappoints me but I too will persevere.

So if Dean is out as the electable candidate what happens to the organization behind Dean. All of the discussions about the failure of Dean’s organization to reshape politics makes me wonder what will happen to the real innovations he has made in online organizing and fundraising if he loses the nomination. Does it become just another part of the machine? Can the blogosphere really open American politics? Despite how much I wish it were true, I think it unlikely. I’m just as mystified about how all this will come together as Britt Blaser at Escapable Logic.

I don’t think there will be a serious third party movement in 2004. Nader could still run but I think the Greens and other progressives feel burned enough by Bush to jump onto the Anyone But Bush campaign. But what happens after that. Congress will probably remain Republican, as this Robert Kuttner article “America as a One-Party State” at the American Prospect amply demonstrates. There is an undeniable conservative trend in American politics over the last few decades. The Republicans have, despite their differences, managed to create a successful coalition to block government from raising taxes or doing much to help our fellow citizens. I’m afraid that the only way to turn it around will be through disaster, whether environmental, fiscal, or otherwise.