Dean supporters respond to "Is Dean Too Hot?" by David Kusnet.

Published November 15, 2003 7:46PM (EST)

[Read the story.]

Mr. Kusnet,

You worked for Mondale and Dukakis and they both lost -- Dukakis to elder Bush's dirty campaigning. Well, yesterday conservative Dartmouth students showed up at a Dean rally with Confederate flags. The truth is, Republican dirty tricks work.

What we have now is media blasting hate 24 hours a day, a mostly scared spineless opposition, and lots of highly educated pundits who inspire the mind but not the heart. The only historical reference I can find to a situation like ours today is in the '30s in Germany.

We are losing our democracy. The treasury is being looted. We are losing a war. We're abusing our soldiers. We are denying our children and old people a future. We are in more danger than before 9/11. We are a divided nation, and only passion will get us out of it.

You will never read an article like yours in a conservative publication, because the conservatives are united. We are divided, and guess who will win under these circumstances?

I don't know if Dean is the man, but his passion is what we need. We don't need to circle the wagons; we need our own Karl Rove.

I am not religious, but I keep thinking of Christ bullwhipping the money changers. Would you advise Jesus to be less angry?

-- Jeanne Doyle

It puzzles me that centrist Democrats such as Mr. Kusnet have significant anger issues themselves, strangely directed more against Howard Dean than against President Bush. They seem far more concerned with what they seem to see as a loss of power for themselves (in what is increasingly a powerless party) than about the possibility of a Bush victory in 2004.

I wish these centrists would ponder the fact that they have brought us nothing but a string of dazzling electoral defeats since 2000. "Bush Lite" politics certainly haven't worked for us, and worse still, they've made our own Democratic Party complicit in some of the most destructive governmental policies of our time.

It's time for these tired Dems to pass the torch -- with far more grace than they have demonstrated thus far -- to those who can take a serious stab at redefining the Democratic Party.

-- Monica Mori

This article offers some much needed therapy for marginalized Democrats. One only needs to recall the 2000 Nader vote debacle to note that Democrats have to keep strategy, as much as idealism, in mind during this campaign. People on the left need to declare an end to selfish voting; we need to recognize that the way to win is to be part of a successful coalition that extends beyond our own interests. This inevitably requires some compromise with the center of the country, which (bafflingly) still has some fondness for Bush.

Still, what Kusnet didn't address was the midterm election disaster. The Democratic Party elders instructed everyone to play it safe and ignore Bush's abuses; Democrats were to be sunny and optimistic. The result? We lost even the minor edge we had in Congress. In many ways that post-9/11 election was a special case, but still: How should the left proceed if confrontation makes us look shrill and antagonistic while conciliation makes us look irrelevant?

Perhaps vision is the answer. I've come to believe that Dean (and perhaps a couple other candidates) do have a compelling vision for the country. Ideally this vision can harness the majority of polled Americans who believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Still, given the current ABB (Anybody But Bush) mind-set, it's difficult for a strategically oriented Democrat to know which candidate or approach to favor.

-- Rodkangyil Danjuma

Your lead article this morning, concerning Howard Dean and his "blaze of Bush hatred," reminded me once again of the power of the neocon propaganda machine, and the baffling willingness of sophisticated pundits to let themselves be manipulated by it.

The "Bush hater" meme was invented by the neocons this past summer to maintain their control of political discourse. By classifying opposition to Bush as "Bush hating," they get to dismiss its legitimacy and denounce it as a bizarre psychological phenomenon. This is just their latest rhetorical device for avoiding real debate -- by keeping the populace from seeing any opposing opinions in print or on the air, they give people a reason to ignore these opinions if they do hear them.

If it is Salon's editorial intention to promote clear thinking and serious political debate, Salon needs to expose propaganda devices whenever they appear and do whatever it can to combat their influence. This would include not letting obvious and dangerous clichis of this sort appear in your own articles and headlines.

-- W. Frank

We do not merely disagree with the Bush administration: They have fundamentally changed foreign/environmental/education policies, not to mention putting us in Reagan-like deficits to pay for tax cuts and Iraq, in which they lied to get the military to attack.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove would love to use the brush that we are haters, and not simply looking for massive change. So maybe we hate. That's a powerful motive too!

Democrats, and especially DEANocrats, may be angry, but pieces like this are missing a crucial part of the Dean phenomenon: Dean knows policies. Small business, education, college tuition assistance, not to mention healthcare for all those not covered. The man has a plan.

Remember -- we may be pissed, but we're organized too.

-- Michael Hager

Your article discussing the debate between angry criticism of Bush's character and positive, idea-oriented campaigning fails to consider the third option: Attack Bush's character without actually attacking Bush.

Instead of going after Bush, the Democrats should attack his friends: step up criticism of special interests, corrupt corporate executives, polluting chemical companies, wealthy tax dodgers -- groups everybody hates and which the public associates with Bush. Reminding everyone of Bush's character flaws without actually mentioning his name is the key to winning this election.

-- Michael Love

David Kusnet makes many strong points in his article on the riskiness of "personal" attacks on President Bush by Democratic contenders, but he fails to recognize that one of Bush's most likable attributes is also one of his most vulnerable: his honesty.

Yes, the American people are more likely to rally to the aid of a "friend in trouble," but that friend can only lie to them so many times before he starts looking less like a friend and more like a user. The American people remember what they thought they were buying in 2000 and in the aftermath of 9/11, and the more Bush fails to live up to that bill of sale, the more his former supporters will turn on him.

Dean, on the other hand, seems to have an aura of common sense and simple honesty about him that has been compared to 2000 primary era McCain, but is also spookily reminiscent of 2000 campaign era Bush. He seems to speak from the heart rather than out of political expedience, and his gaffes, such as the Confederate flag comment, are dismissed by his supporters as further evidence of his unpolished and unrehearsed honesty. "We know what he really meant," they say, "and anyone who says different is just being political."

The 2000 campaign was presented by the media as a fight between Gore, a savvy politico who was intelligent but had no heart and couldn't be trusted, and Bush, a simple man motivated by simple truths, occasionally clumsy but still likable and trustworthy. Given the ample supply of Bush deceptions, combined with his cuts of Head Start, veterans' benefits, etc., and given Dean's Teflon quality and his aura of common sense and personal responsibility, this is starting to look like campaign 2000 in reverse.

-- Jeremy Robinson

It's not the left, but the far right that risks a backlash, by inching Bush and Co. ever closer to an election on wedge issues like the Federal Marriage Amendment. In its attempt to feed the gays to this shrill and hateful wing of the Republican Party, Bush and Co. will paint themselves as the campaign of fear and loathing. And we will win, as the campaign of hope and healing.

-- Chris Cooper

If the American people are so moronic that they continue to "like" Mr. Bush, then they deserve the cinder of a country that will be left after his second term.

-- Ira Hozinsky

By Salon Staff

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