Pity Howard Dean.
Just when it looked like he was getting somewhere, with the polls showing him moving decisively ahead in New Hampshire and Iowa, and starting to climb out of the cellar in South Carolina, in steps Al Gore with his endorsement.
The Judas-like electoral kiss of death.
What on earth does Howard Dean, the self-styled opponent of the Democratic Party powerbrokers, want with this sell-out has been?
The New York Times opines that Gore would somehow bring blacks into Dean’s camp.
Excuse me, but wasn’t Gore the guy who, when running for the Democratic nomination, chose to trash black voters in the New York primary in 1988, with the help of Mayor Ed Koch? This guy, who couldn’t stand up and demand a Florida recount based upon the blatant disenfranchisement last election of hundreds of thousands of black voters, is the African American’s friend?
Others suggested that as a southerner (while he was raised mostly in Washington, D.C. by his senator father, he was born in Tennessee and resides there sometimes) he would help Yankee Dean there, forgetting that Gore in fact lost every single state in the Old South, unless you count the stolen state of Florida (though Florida, with its right-wing Cubans and its relatively liberal population of northern retirees, hardly fits the Old South demographic).
Still others suggest that Gore’s endorsement will suck union votes away from Dick Gephardt? But whoa! Isn’t this the same Al Gore who so ardently backed and continues to back President Clinton’s crooked NAAFTA job destruction treaty?
So far, nobody’s been so silly as to suggest that Gore–whose spouse Tipper has made a career of trying to promote censorship of rock and roll–will help lure young people back into the Democratic fold. He had no success in that area in 2000, and is unlikely to be much help this time either. And we won’t even talk about environmentalists, since Gore sold out on that issue so long ago it’s an old story.
So what does this ardent militarist bring to the anti-Iraq war Dean campaign?
Arguably what Gore brings to the table is the one thing that Dean doesn’t need: a link to the Democratic Leadership Council–that group of Republicans in Democratic clothing who brought us the Clinton presidency, welfare "reform," the Effective Death Penalty Act, NAAFTA, deregulation of the power industry, the concept of pre-emptive strikes (remember the illegal bombings of Sudan and Afghanistan?), etc., etc.
The proof of what is really going on is the widespread observation among the punditry that the Gore endorsement primarily hurts the candidacy of Joe Liberman, Gore’s 2000 running mate. Why this concensus? Because the lackluster Lieberman has been the favored candidate of the DLC. By endorsing Dean, Gore is taking that mantel off of Lieberman, and draping it on Dean. Dean has plenty of problems–a record, as Vermont’s governor, of backing cuts in Medicare, and supporting the death penalty for example–but up to now he has shown one characteristic that made him stand out from the rest of the so-called Democratic "front-runners" — John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, Put simply, he has not been the candidate of big corporate interests. There was even the hope that, by sticking with a populist campaign and relying on his burgeoning network of small contributors, Dean could battle his way to the nomination and then on to the White House without becoming beholden to those interests.
Gore’s endorsement betrays, and probably ultimately dashes those hopes.
A corporate whore of the first order, Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign took money from pretty much all of the same powerful groups that bankrolled the Bush campaign–oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, physicians, hospital companies, the insurance industry, the communications and power industries. Indeed, the difference between the two campaign contributor lists of Bush and Gore was really a matter of emphasis, not substance. Bush got the big oil bucks, Gore got the big medical bucks. They both got big defense industry bucks. More generally, they both got big contributions from big business, which is the main point. Dean can still refuse this Judas kiss and the purse of silver coins that will follow, but he hasn’t done so yet (and indeed as Josh Frank noted in this space yesterday, he has already started collecting some of those tarnished coins, from the likes of corporate outsourcing providers IBM and Hewlett-Packard and recently-SEC-sanctioned Wall Street investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Indeed, the Gore endorsement, more than anything else, has to be seen as a coded message to the big corporate interests, which have no doubt been watching the Dean bandwagon in some dismay, that it’s okay to back the former governor of Vermont; that despite his occasionally anti-corporate rhetoric, he’s "one of us."
One has to wonder why else the Dean campaign would have turned to Al Gore. If the Dean campaign to date has stood for the "real" Democratic party (a highly questionable assertion in the first place, since Dennis Kucinich already had that spot pretty well occupied), Al Gore, throughout his political career, has willingly stood among the usurpers, the fake Democrats, the posers who toss off a few populist lines during campaigns and then do the bidding of corporate interests while in office.
It will be interesting to see how Dean’s enthusiastic minions, the youthful activists and 30-somethings who see in their candidate someone who is outside the corruption of the Democratic Party apparatus, react to seeing him slowly sucked into its greasy clutches.