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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The Pledge

Look like the wild roller-coaster ride that was the Howard Dean campaign is finally over.

I'm in a mild form of mourning over this fact, but I've had a bad feeling about how things were going since Jan. 13, the night Dean failed to gain a majority in a "beauty contest" primary from which the other major candidates at the time (Kerry, Clark, Edwards, Gephardt and Lieberman) had opted out, leaving only Sharpton, Mosely-Braun, Kucinich, and a cast of even more marginal players, including Renaissance nutcase Lyndon LaRouche and the notorious Vermin Supreme.

Dean's signs were all over town, and his volunteers (including yours truly) were dropping literature and appearing at polling places across the city, and yet, it didn't seem to matter much as the city's African-American majority overwhelmingly went for Al Sharpton instead.

I thought that was a bad sign but fellow Deaniacs were more sanguine than I, and I suppose there was cause to believe in a movement that brought an obscure presidential candidate from asterisk territory to the top of the heap in a few short months.

Then came Iowa, where it seemed that Dean's people had no idea what they were doing when it came to navigating their way through the Iowa Caucuses. His campaign spent a lot of money running ineffective TV ads attacking Dick Gephardt. What ultimately happened was that Gephardt's campaign imploded, and in a sense took Dean down with him, as Gep's considerable support in Iowa broke late for Kerry and Edwards and not for Dean.

The resources spent in Iowa were designed to deliver the knockout blow, and it was a missed punch that left the campaign thrown for a loop. After the endorsements (Al Gore, Tom Harkin, Bill Bradley, Carol Mosely-Braun) came rolling in, there was an air of inevitably around Dr. Dean, and it seems silly to second-guess the strategy (if not the tactics) now.

Then of course came the infamous "Iowa Scream." Was it overhyped in the press? You bet. But the fact remains that Dean had to have known by then that the media didn't particularly like him and that they were going to play up any chance to portray Dean as "angry" or "crazy."

Then came New Hamsphire, and Kerry just rode the Iowa momentum through the Granite State, as a fair number of Clark and Lieberman (and Gephardt, who had dropped out) backers switched to Kerry in the final week. Dean held on to a good deal of his prior support, but it wasn't enough.

In other years, it would have been easier to recover momentum lost in those first two rounds, but with primary season so frontloaded now, that's not the case anymore.

Dean had to by and large sit out the Febuary 3 contests (MO, AZ, SC, OK, NM, DE, ND) , in large part, amazingly, due to lack of funds. They by and large weren't good states for Dean anyway, but with better resource allocation early on he could have picked a state from the group besides New Mexico (Arizona, most likely) to sink money into.

Kerry scored big victories in 5 of those states, losing only Oklahoma (to Clark, then Edwards) and South Carolina (to Edwards) and was able to parlay this aura of supposed invincibility straight into weekend bouts in Michigan, Maine, and Washington. Dean put up respectable numbers in Maine and Washington, but it wasn't enough.

With no pretentions of being competitive in Virginia and Tennessee (in retrospect, these contests will probably be seen, Virginia in particular, as where Edwards was mortally wounded) by this point, Dean chose Wisconsin as his last stand. The polls were grim, and the returns were scarcely better. Saturday's caucus here in D.C., where Kerry got nearly half the vote and Sharpton edged Dean for second, were a grim harbinger of things to come in the Badger State.


It's decision time for Dean as to what to do with his future, and his role in this year's election. As for me....tonight seems as good a time as any to take
The Pledge.
We hold this truth to be self-evident:

Having George W. Bush as President has been and will continue to be a disaster.

We will not let our partisanship towards any particular candidate for President cause us to lose sight of this basic truth. As such, we pledge ourselves not to become enablers of any campaign designed to divide us in our struggle to remove Bush from power. We pledge that no more will we be:

Tools of those who would disrupt the Anybody-But-Bush movement.

Partisans who would rather bring down the other guy's candidate than find reason to elevate our own.

Dupes who will automatically assume that anything negative about the other guy's candidate is more likely to be true than the negative things said about our guy.

Fools who lose sight of the ultimate goal: the defeat of George W. Bush on November 2nd, 2004.

We will uphold this pledge to the best of our ability.

We will encourage others to do the same.

So there you have it.


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