Dean Was Right
by William Rivers Pitt
know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could
wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm,
and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
-- Revelation 3:15-16
the leadership qualities of those in charge of the national
Democratic Party could be squeezed into a shampoo bottle,
the directions on the back of the bottle might read something
like this: “Make tentative statement. Offer equivocation
to avoid appearing adamant. Scramble for cover when colleague
offers stinging critique of opposition. Stab colleague in
back in public. Palpitate and fret, hem and haw. Lather, rinse,
Quite a recipe for success, yes? Not lately.
For the last several years, the Democratic Party has been,
for the most part, leaving skid marks on the street as they
have retreated from confrontation after confrontation with
the radicals who now control the Republican party. This retreat
has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime to the utterly
Here and there resistance has been put forth - on the Social
Security issue, on the stem cell legislation, on the nomination
of Bolton as UN ambassador - but all too often the most effective
resistance to these and other disastrous policy initiatives
has come from other Republicans, and not from the Democrats.
It was the eloquence of Republican Senator Voinovich that
threw sand in the gears of the Bolton nomination, and it was
Republican Senator Specter’s promised override of any
Bush veto of the stem cell legislation that has made that
issue a problem for the White House.
And then along comes Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, outspoken
and uncompromising, swinging Willie Stark’s meat ax
with a will and a purpose. He dared to say that he hates Republicans,
that the leadership of that party hasn’t worked a day
in their lives, that the GOP has become a radical hothouse
of right-wing Christians, almost all of whom are white, and
that House majority leader Tom DeLay should go back to Texas
and get his looming prison sentence over with. Insert palpitations.
Suddenly, Democrats like Joe Biden and Bill Richardson start
knocking over furniture and old ladies in their rush to get
to a microphone so they can distance themselves from the wild
Yes, yes, lather and rinse and repeat. The problem with all
the equivocation is that it obscures a simple fact that requires
exposure and discussion in this country: Dean was right. Ninety
nine percent of Republicans in the state legislatures in all
50 states, and in Congress in Washington DC, are white. Even
in states and districts with large minority populations, the
Republican representatives for those places are almost uniformly
Of 3,643 Republicans serving in state legislatures across
the country, only 44 of them are minorities, amounting to
1.2%. Texas, with a minority population of 47%, has 106 Republicans
in the state legislature. There are exactly zero African Americans
and exactly zero Hispanics serving in that body as Republicans.
In Washington, 274 of the 535 elected Senators and Representatives
are Republican. Exactly five are minorities.
Of course, there are ethnic and religious minorities within
the rank and file of the GOP, but every demographic analysis
of the party’s makeup clearly shows the vast majority
of Republicans fit exactly into the description offered by
Mr. Dean. His point, by the way, was not that white Christians
are bad people. His point was that, in this pluralist society
made up of so much diversity, the Republican Party does not
represent the true face of this country. He was also pointing
out that the GOP has been taken over by that small, radical
minority of white Christians who believe separation of church
and state is evil, and who believe Biblical law is a better
tool of governance than that pesky Constitution.
As for hating Republicans, the employment record of the GOP
leadership, and DeLay’s date with a Houston cellblock,
there is method to the supposed madness here. Those who question
the wisdom of Dean firing broadsides like this look to the
old lawyer’s maxim: When you have the law on your side,
pound on the law, and when you have the facts on your side,
pound on the facts, and when you have neither the law nor
the facts on your side, pound on the table. On so many issues
facing us today, Dean and the Democrats have both the facts
and the law on their side. The question becomes, then, about
why Dean is pounding on the table.
The answer is straightforward, and appropriately bold after
several years of ineffective limp-noodle Democratic leadership.
Every time Dean fires off one of his salvos, reporters flip
open their notebooks. Headlines get made, discussion begins,
and a whole lot of people start debating the facts and merits
of his statements. Is the Republican leadership run by right-wing
yahoos? Is DeLay going to jail? Controversy begets press.
Dean can see, as well as anyone else, how effective the moderate,
soft-touch, treading-lightly approach has been working lately
for the Democrats.
But how are we going to win those white Christian middle-America
voters to our side by having Dean basically call them out?
asks the ruffled Democratic leadership. The answer to this
lies at the heart of what the Democratic party has been failing
at for a while now. The voters who are supposedly going to
be alienated by this kind of talk are the very same voters
who look for guts, strength and straight talk from the leadership
of this country. All too often, Democratic leaders come off
sounding like they are saying seven things at once, leaving
the impression that their spines are somewhat slippery. Boldness,
on the other hand, begets confidence, even in disagreement.
These Dean statements also, coincidentally, whip the Democratic
base into a roaring frenzy as they hear an actual Democratic
leader speak their beliefs out loud and in public. One of
the things Dean is working on every day is to redirect DNC
fundraising away from the big-dollar donors who give equally
to both parties in order to hedge their bets. Dependence on
this breed of donor causes the party to crab towards the middle
and avoid anything resembling true opposition.
Dean wants DNC fundraising efforts to be focused on the common
citizen, the Democratic activist who has been screaming at
the party to say what must be said, and Dean’s inflammatory
statements spark the kind of donation avalanche that turned
his Presidential campaign into a financial juggernaut. He
may have lost in the end, but the manner in which he raised
campaign money changed the face of electoral politics. He
is porting those lessons into national DNC fundraising efforts,
and statements like these go a long way towards making those
efforts wildly successful.
Memo to Dean: Keep doing what you are doing. Lather, rinse,
Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling
author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want
You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.