Howard Dean, the presidential candidate who has most effectively tapped the liberal hatred of President Bush, now finds himself the well-deserved target.
Dean’s equivocation on nearly every issue of importance would be enough to earn him scorn, but his latest gaffe is truly legendary.
“I want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,” Dean told the Des Moines Register Monday. By Tuesday, other Democratic candidates were flogging him.
By Wednesday, he was backtracking and apologizing.
Black leaders criticized Dean for saying he wanted racists in his camp. Southerners criticized him for stereotyping southern males.
The comments were ill-thought, at best. While not everyone who flies a Confederate flag is racist, its use as a symbol by racist crowds during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and by the Ku Klux Klan have soiled its image, much like the Nazis did to the swastika.
The mixture of race and politics is poisonous, as Dean should have known. President Bush deftly avoided controversy over the Confederate flag by preaching “states’ rights” when asked about South Carolina’s insistence on keeping it as a part of the state flag.
Dean should have done the same. But the resulting furor is indicative of why Democrats continue to lose one of the fastest-growing regions of the country.
An example: in Mississippi and Kentucky, where Democrats were hoping to keep two closely contested gubernatorial races, the Democratic candidates attacked their opponents as Bush’s cronies. Bush came to both states and campaigned for the Republican candidates. The Democrats lost both seats Tuesday.
If the Democrats wish to recapture the South, they should stop worrying about Confederate flags and the NAACP; they need to worry about President Bush. Bush’s popularity as a Texan is formidable. The qualities that make him hated by the Northeast and West Coast elites make him beloved south of the Ohio River.
In Kentucky, for example, Bush’s approval rating is 10 percent higher than his national marks.
If Dean and his non-racist-but-stereotypical remarks wins the Democratic nomination, Republicans will begin licking their lips for a Mondale or Dukakis-esque thrashing.
Current liberalism is blinded by hatred of a president generally liked by nearly everyone else.
When modern-day elitists get beyond their egos, perhaps a candidate with a chance, such as Joe Lieberman, will be nominated.
Until then, the Democratic Party is held hostage by far-left special interests too worried about the Confederacy and not worried enough about the economy’s imminent recovery.