Dean is the democratic front-runner

By Andrew Hammond

Tonya Southard’s article (“Howard Dean Has What It Takes To Be President,” 10/31/03) highlighted many important issues that will confront the American people in 2004, but she was not able to answer any of my questions about Dean’s weaknesses as a candidate. First, her premise was fallacious. I am incredibly optimistic about the coming presidential election. For the first time in three years, President Bush’s numbers are soft. His mishandling of the economy and Iraq are showing the public what we liberals already knew—that preemptive military action in the Middle East and tax cuts for the rich are simply wrong. I think Bush can be deposed in 2004 and it is precisely for that reason that I believe that our party must be unforgiving when examining our potential nominees.

Southard’s article didn’t address Dean’s weaknesses. First, Southard writes that being reelected five times by the state of Vermont “should say enough.” As I pointed out in my first article, Vermont has only 600,000 citizens and over 95% of them are white. I refuse to accept that any minute minority could serve as such a blanket recommendation for the entire country. Moreover, that logic could have been used four years ago to support the candidacy of a certain Texas governor whose reelection by his state could have shown that he was right for the country.

Southard seemed to misread the premise of my first article about Dean’s chances of winning the general election by talking about his chances of winning the primary. I completely agree with her that Dean is the frontrunner in the Democratic primary. That’s not what I’m worried about. Nevertheless, no matter how many polls show Dean beating the other Democrats, I won’t be convinced until I see a poll showing Dean beating Bush. Thus, although Southard gave great evidence of how Dean can win the primary, she ignored any polling numbers concerning the general election. Also, New Hampshire may have been a swing state in the eighties, but the state’s four votes in the Electoral College are insignificant. New Hampshire won’t matter if Dean can’t win the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as well as making a stand in the South.

Moreover, I’d like to remind Southard that Bush was not elected in 2000. He did not win in Florida—he won in the Supreme Court. However, I completely agree with Southard that Dean is campaigning on the right issues. I agree with her that the Democratic Party should move to the left, not to the right, if they want to win elections, but I don’t think Dean is the spokesman of the Left that he is purported to be. For instance, when Southard was extolling Governor Dean’s record in Vermont, she neglected to mention that Dean received the highest ranking from the NRA for his defense of states’ rights when it comes to gun control, or that when Dean signed the bill granting civil unions for homosexuals he did so without public ceremony, angering the gay community. Most importantly, Dean has said that his top domestic priority is balancing the budget, which is certainly not a progressive priority.

The second half of Southard’s article is confusing to me. She lays out an excellent list of issues for the disenfranchised people of our country. She touches on the failures of the Bush administration, domestic and foreign. She brings to light the importance of making gay rights, healthcare, and the environment national issues. But aside from claiming that “Dean speaks” to these issues, she makes no causal link between Howard Dean and how he addresses these issues. Instead of saying how Dean will address these people, she simply specifies what needs to be addressed. In terms of issues, Southard outlines why the Democrats have an advantage, but not why Dean does. So although Southard makes a case for what will matter in 2004, she does not address Dean’s weaknesses as a candidate nor does she defend his strengths. And that’s why I remain unconvinced that Dean can beat Bush in 2004.