For the 5th of July, a little frivolity and a small celebration of that All-American obsessive tradition: Celebrity Dating. When it comes to the battle for the attention span of the modern American, J-Lo & Ben trumps Ho-Ho & Bush, or for that matter, Bush & Ken (Lay). Because, let's face it, this stuff is far more important than a little war in Iraq, or whether Bush and Co. lied about WsMD or California energy. Now, if he'd lied about sex....well, you get the picture. Know thy enemy, for they are Demi and Ashton -- whom I simply just adore.
Freedom and Liberty and Justice for All
Robert Price, probably the best-known columnist at my local paper The Bakersfield Californian, gave our Dean Meetup group some great ink today, Independence Day, July 4, 2003. In a conservative town like ours, you really can't hope for coverage that gets better than this. It also happens to be very well-written and pretty damn funny! Registration required for link above, entire text of article appears below. With this post, I'm winding down for the long weekend. Happy 4th, talk to ya'll on Sunday or Monday. Take it away, Bob:
Dean's list growing via the Internet by Robert Price
The waitress couldn't have been pleased. Party of seven, one dinner order, one dessert, a couple of iced teas and water all around. The seven of them tied up two shoved-together tables at a Bakersfield restaurant for a couple of hours, talking politics at the peak of the dinner hour.
These things will occasionally happen when you're in the restaurant business. They generally don't happen 16 months before the general election, or seven months before the first meaningful vote is cast -- 1,700 miles away.
But this is July 2003 and these are the Howard Dean fedayeen, a T-shirt-wearing collection of disenfranchised but hopeful Democrats -- assembled, by and large, via the Internet. If seven seems like a meager turnout, consider this: Thirty-seven-thousand people just like them were presumably annoying waitresses all over the country at the same approximate time.
Howard Dean, the 54-year-old former governor of Vermont, has fired up tens of thousands of Americans, not unlike the way the Texas governor did four years ago, or the Arkansas governor eight years before him. Between 37,000 and 40,000 Dean supporters, by one estimate, gathered around the country for "national meetup night" -- and the Bakersfield Seven were among them, alone but in good company.
If John Kerry or John Edwards or Dick Gephardt or Joe Lieberman (remember him?) are creating this kind of grass-roots passion this early, they're being awfully quiet about it. Dean is getting the press and, more important, the money. He was fifth in fund-raising with $2.6 million following the first-quarter reporting period -- then, astoundingly, shot up to No. 1 for the second quarter. He raked in $7.5 million during that time, helped by one legendary 24-hour fund-raising performance: $600,000. All told, about a third of his money is directly attributable to the Internet. Once upon a time, Al Gore was going to be the first Internet president.
The Bakersfield Dean Team is led by Scott Moore, a writer and Bakersfield native who recently returned to his hometown after a decade-long absence. He notes with glee that the Bush camp seems to have singled out his favorite candidate. That's akin, he suggests, to acknowledging that Dean is the Democratic front-runner.
"I think it's a good sign that the right wing is starting to attack Dean so vociferously," he told the six approving Dean-ites seated around him Wednesday night. "It means he has their attention."
"Meetups" and $25 donations won't get it done, though. Not with President Bush's campaign team having set its fund-raising target at $170 million, and Bush having raised more than $34 million in the last three months alone.
Bush might be rooting for Dean anyway, in much the same way that Gray Davis wanted Bill Simon rather than Richard Riordan. Dean has solid credentials as a moderate, but his support for gay and lesbian civil unions won't play well in the Midwest, never mind Bakersfield. And his tendency to fire off ill-conceived retorts, followed shortly afterward by regrets or apologies, will be a liability.
Still, with support for the war in Iraq waning slightly and the federal deficit leaving the political door ajar for Democratic critics, anything is possible.
So much depends on the Jan. 19 Iowa Caucuses. A victory there, followed by a strong showing in New Hampshire eight days later, could pave the way for big-money contributions. Love is wonderful, but corporate sugar daddies pay for the network time.
That's way, way down the line. "Meetup" night was, at least in Bakersfield, as much about social interplay as anything else.
"I'm here to find friends who don't offend me politically," said one of the Bakersfield Seven, to knowing laughter.
"I'm vacillating," said another. "But I'm starting to put my eggs in Dean's basket. Just don't ask me to go door to door."
Nobody's asking. Not yet.
Gosh, you'd think that this guy would get it, and I must say that I'm not sure he gets it -- at all. From today's Inside Politics, Chris Suellentrop, deputy Washington bureau chief for Slate.com:
WOODRUFF: Chris, first of all, people are still agog, I think, at what Howard Dean's done, not only the $7.5 million that he raised in the second quarter, but the fact that so much of it apparently came in over the Internet. How do you explain that?
SUELLENTROP: Well, Dean is better organized on the Internet than the other big-time candidates, than Edwards or Kerry or Lieberman.
The question is why. I think part of it is that the campaign works harder at it. They've been aware of it, and they're trying to, you know, create that. But I think it's also that his supporters, for whatever reason, are -- have a facility with the Internet. They use the Internet. He has a lot of Silicon Valley supporters. If you look at the blog culture, which are these personal Web sites...
SUELLENTROP: ... amateur punditry, sort of, on the Internet. A lot of them, not the big-time ones that you read about that are professional journalists, but, you know, the sort of Joe Blow's blog, you'll find a lot of Howard Dean supporters there.
WOODRUFF: Is it because many are young and they are more familiar with the Internet? Although you wouldn't think they would necessarily have the income to be sending in these big checks.
SUELLENTROP: Well, the checks aren't that big, I think $112...
WOODRUFF: You're right, you're right.
SUELLENTROP: ... was the average check. So I think that could be part of it. I mean, we don't know. Is Dean -- is Dean popular on the Internet because there's something about the Internet that attracts Dean, or is Dean and his message the thing that they're responding to?
WOODRUFF: Which gets to my next question. Could the other candidates, if they really tried hard to play catchup right now on the Internet, could they duplicate what he's been able to do?
SUELLENTROP: That's a mystery. I don't know. John Kerry maybe. For example this MoveOn.org, which was an online primary they had on the Internet, Howard Dean got first in place, Dennis Kucinich got in second place at that was like 65, 70 percent of the vote, which tells you how liberal those voters were.
John Kerry was hugely popular among those same voters,
Uh............huh?? Come again?
not in terms of votes but in terms of 85 percent of them or more said, we would enthusiastically support John Kerry, much more than Edwards or Lieberman or Graham, all of whom are around 50 percent.
WOODRUFF: Do you believe, somebody who's looked at this pretty closely, that there is an untapped resource out there that a candidate, whether it's Howard Dean or somebody else, can make great use of to his advantage in the next year or so?
SUELLENTROP: I don't think it's going to -- it's not going to replace the 30-second television ad. That's what's going to drive the campaign. In a nine-party primary, can it give you a point...
WOODRUFF: Nine-candidate primary.
SUELLENTROP: Yes, excuse me. Nine-candidate primary can it move you a point here or there? Can it make a difference? Can it give you buzz? Because what it is, what -- Internet support serves as a proxy, it's a symbol of grass-roots support. It's a symbol of, Oh we've got new voters, young voters. People who haven't been in the party before. Whether that's true or not, we don't know. These are huge political junkies paying attention to a primary in June. But maybe.
WOODRUFF: And we've got to get used to all of this and got to get used to words like "blog" and all the rest of it.
SUELLENTROP: That's right.
Well, I think Chris needs to spend more time online and less time in the Beltway. But gee shucks, what do I know? I'm just an amateur pundit, not a proffessional journalist. I'm an angry Dean fanboy, an activist elite, a Star Wars cantina patron. Sheesh, do some of these folks even believe in Democracy? Can they even state that with a straight face? Maybe some of these folks should get back to attacking Howard Dean and not his supporters. After all, they may need them and come to regret such statements.
The most Dem party building attempted (or achieved) in ages, a whole new generation of activists? "Ah, them. Screw them! Who needs them?" The good news: in every major political reallignment, most of the "professional" pundits and establishment polticians never even saw 'em coming.
Well folks, gonna be really busy through tomorrow's Dean Meetup, but don't forget to check out Blog for America, the official Dean campaign blog, and Dean Nation, the unofficial Dean blog.
A piece on Howard Dean that you might not have noticed, but that I felt was incredibly significant. In a Los Angeles Times article about movie franchises that are changing directors, this regarding Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, director of Kissing Jessica Stein and the forthcoming Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde:
Taking a break from finishing the film's sound mix and special effects at a Los Angeles scoring stage, director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld dials into a conference call to discuss Washington campaigning, hoping to document on film the moments that define a politician's life. "We need to find out what feels real, what feels good," the director says. Except that the movie he's talking about doesn't star Witherspoon. It stars former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, for whom Herman-Wurmfeld is volunteering by making short documentaries about the candidate.
A longtime liberal activist but relative filmmaking newcomer, Herman-Wurmfeld is inheriting MGM's comedy from director Robert Luketic, who passed on making the sequel. It's a formidable assignment for Herman-Wurmfeld, who has had just one feature film released, 2002's indie romantic comedy "Kissing Jessica Stein," about a young woman who hasn't yet realized she's gay. [...]
As soon as he concludes his Dean conference call with the words "We're going to win," Herman-Wurmfeld gets back to work on his sequel. [...]
There are plenty of personal touches. Herman-Wurmfeld, who is gay, added several gay jokes. Among the gags: Woods' tiny pet Chihuahua, Bruiser, comes out of the closet, suddenly in love with a strapping Rottweiler owned by a conservative congressman. As he watches a scene of the two male pooches snuggling (the studio asked him to cut some more romantic moments), Herman-Wurmfeld admires the West Hollywood leather-bar outfits the dogs wear. "Oh," he says, "I'm going to get a lot of letters about that."
Oh, I just had to throw that last bit in, in keeping with Points West's strict, never-take-this-crap-too-damn-seriously policy. And yes, Charles, we are going to win -- and it looks like you are on board to help with that effort. What can I say? Awesome. Let's give it to the Washington establishment doggy style!