Wednesday, January 7, 2004

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Howard Dean -- Democratic insider

The narrative about the Democratic primary over the past month has been that Dean represents an insurgency that threatens established Democratic party elites. In this post I said, "It's already clear that DC Democrats loathe and fear Dean."

This AP story suggests some revisionism may be in order:

Self-styled outsider Howard Dean holds the first lead in the chase for delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he can thank party insiders for the early advantage, according to an Associated Press survey.

The former Vermont governor holds endorsements or pledges of support from 86 Democratic "superdelegates" elected officials and other Democratic leaders who will help nominate a candidate at this summer's convention.

Rival Dick Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader who has served as Missouri congressman for 28 years, has the backing of 58 superdelegates. Four-term Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has the support of 53....

In the survey, 598 of the 725 superdelegates listed by the Democratic National Committee were contacted. Of those, only 270 had endorsed a candidate. Another 328 said they were uncommitted or declined to answer, while 127 could not be reached.

Superdelegates are spread out across the country, so this does not necessarily reflect an absence of DC animus. At a minimum, however, it suggests that the Democratic establishment in the rest of the country feels sympatico with Dr. Dean.


UPDATE: It's a good day for Wesley Clark as well.

posted by Dan on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM


“In this post I said, "It's already clear that DC Democrats loathe and fear Dean."”

How does one define “DC Democrats?” Is this not merely a term to describe the Bill Clinton of 1992, Robert Rubin, Brad DeLong, Laura Tyson, Larry Lessig, and other New Democrats? If so, these people are rapidly being marginalized out of the power positions of the Democrat Party. The trade protectionists are rapidly taking over. Free traders are considered to be no more than mealy mouth Republicans. Yup, Professor DeLong is Bush Lite! Ain’t that something? The world can often be very cruel.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

I beg to differ. The New Dems aren't really being marginalized within the party. Sure, protectionists like Gephardt might make you think that, but many of the Dems that came to town with Clinton never left. As soon as a Democrat becomes President, they'll come out of the woodwork. So yes, many of these New Democrats are inside the Beltway, making them "DC Dems." But I would argue that this very fact places them, in large part, in positions of power. They've not been pushed to the margins, they're just in hiding on K Street and the 1700s block of Mass Ave. If you want examples of Dems with "harder" power (that is, elected dems - although, as I just said even DC Dems that don't hold office have more power than people outside the beltway may realize) you'll find many that aren't protectionists, Nancy Pelosi, for one.

posted by: Philip J. Brinkman on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

Politically free trade is a tough sell, even in times of prosperity: It helps most people a little and hurts some people a lot, which is the stuff special interest groups are made from. Clinton and Gore deserve more credit for pushing NAFTA through Congress in the first place.

Dean is signaling that he'd push to include labor and environmental protections in our free-trade agreements, which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of free trade - but it's more defensible than Kucinich's "out of NAFTA tomorrow" promise, Gephardt's creeping protectionism, or Bush's "how many electoral votes do you have?" approach.

If we can dictate copyright terms for the rest of the world, then we should be able to agree on a framework for international environmental agreements (perhaps we'll call it "Kyoto") without destroying free trade. I can live with that, and apparently the "DC Democrats" are leaning that way too.

posted by: Scott Forbes on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

The "Dean isn't like other politicians" meme has been exploded today with the dual stories on the revealing overheard phone conversations among Deanies and Bradley and Dean's little trick to make Dean look taller for the press photos.

posted by: HH on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

I wouldn't read too much into this. Many Democrats are behind Dean because he has the momentum and seems like a winner. Does that make him an insider? Hardly.

The DC insiders can be affected by "proximity blindness" (i.e. being too close to see the big picture) so they fail to recognize a clear trend.

posted by: uh_clem on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

What is being missed here is that Dean is hardly criticizing each and every Washington Democrat individually. What disappoints the "base"—and Dean, I think—is that the Washington party in the whole has been ineffective. Every one of Bush's major initiatives needed Democratic votes because of defections in the GOP. And every time, some Democrat (not just mole Zell Miller) came forward. That speaks to an institutional failure in the party leadership.

I was impressed with the discipline the Republicans showed in 1994, thwarting all of Clinton's efforts to pass health care—Republicans even voting against their own bills for the good of the party. Until the Dems play by the same rules as the Republicans (redistrict Illinois, anyone?), our future as a minority party is assured. Some Democrats seem downright resigned to that, but not all, and they're coming out for Dean. (The DLC's future is hardly any better if Clark were to race past Dean.)

posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

At a minimum, however, it suggests that the Democratic establishment in the rest of the country feels sympatico with Dr. Dean.

Or they're just seeing the handwriting on the wall ...

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

This primary is a power struggle between Dean and the Clintons. The superdelegates are just picking who they think will be the winning side. It isn't about ideology or free trade; its about power and control of party institutions.

Lazarus, you crack me up - the poor Demmies are betting beat up by evil Republicans who don't play fair and have lockstep party discipline? The Dems play the redistricting game as well as anyone when they have control of legislatures(and you know it), and I have always thought the Dems had better party discipline than the Repubs. I would be interested to see a study, but I would bet Repubs cross the aisle to vote the Dem side of issues more often than the contrary.

posted by: R C Dean on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

R.C. Dean: The Dems never dreamed up mid-decade redistricting (at least not in literally 50 years). And we're constrained by the fact California redistricting requires a 2/3 supermajority.

You're welcome to calculate the party discipline statistics since the accession of Clinton.

And as I pointed out before, the Clintons might have personal reasons to support Clark, but his campaign is equally contemptuous of the Democrats' recent performance.

posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

The Dems never dreamed up mid-decade redistricting (at least not in literally 50 years).

Well, ignoring cases like North Carolina, which had new congressional districts about four times in the '90s. Of course, those were also in response to Court rulings. I believe that the courts did not actually draw their own lines in those cases.

However, the North Carolina Supreme Court DID draw their own lines for the NC General Assembly districts which were thrown out recently, and the Democratic majority General Assembly decided to overrule those court drawn districts and have an unusual mid-decade redistricting.

It's not surprising in either case that the Legislature tried to overrule court drawn districts. One can reasonably argue that since the normal process of legislatively drawn districts once per decade was interrupted by the courts already, and there were no legislatively drawn districts, that the unusual tactics were justified.

posted by: John Thacker on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

“...our future as a minority party is assured.”

Hey, all hope is not lost for the Democrats. Andrew J. Lazarus may very well be too pessimistic. The Democrats seem to be doing well with the prison population:

“As David Lampo has noted, a study by sociologists Christopher Uggen of the University of Minnesota and Jeff Manza of Northwestern shows that felons vote overwhelmingly for Democrats — at a rate approaching 70 percent. (In fact, this estimate may be low. In some Florida counties more than 80 percent of the felons who voted illegally were registered Democrats.) Therefore, had Florida's felons voted in the 2000 presidential election at a rate comparable to the rest of the Florida electorate, Al Gore would have won the state by more than 60,000 votes.”

posted by: David Thomson on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

It appears that Andrew J. Lazarus isn’t the only Democrat indulging in self delusion. The New Republic editors are endorsing Joseph Lieberman:

“By deriding Democratic support for overthrowing Saddam as "Bush Lite," (Howard) Dean threatens to define that tradition out of the Democratic Party. Reasonable people, including reasonable hawks, can differ about the wisdom of the Iraq war, especially given the apparent absence of an ongoing Iraqi nuclear program. But the nature of Dean's opposition suggests an old Democratic affliction: an excessive faith in multilateralism and an insufficient faith in the moral potential of U.S. power.”

Who in heck are they trying to kid? Senator Lieberman has about as much chance of winning the Democrat nomination as I do in kicking the rear end of Mike Tyson is a street fight! The New Republic folks have yet to realize that the goofy left run the show. Publisher Marty Peretz is now outside the Democrat mainstream of those who really choose that party’s standard bearer. Gosh, I also wonder if he still remains a member in good standing in Al Gore fan club? I am a subscriber to the TNR’s online edition. Have I perhaps missed Peretz’ criticism of the former Vice President for his backing of Howard Dean?

posted by: David Thomson on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

Kids, kids, please don't make me drag out the W-NOMINATE scores...

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

David T, unless the felon-voting study controlled for race and income (which I doubt), it's worthless.

You probably knew that, but such a good inflammatory number is too good to pass up, right?

Incidentally, who decided which voters were ineligible? The Republicans????? ROTFL.

posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

The Appeal of Howard Dean
by Stephen Moore

SEVERAL YEARS AGO an obscure Democratic governor from the politically inconsequential state of Vermont was the guest speaker at a Cato Institute lunch. His name was Howard Dean. He had been awarded one of the highest grades among all Democrats (and a better grade than at least half of the Republicans) in the annual Cato Fiscal Report Card on the Governors. We were curious about his views because we had heard that he harbored political ambitions beyond the governorship.

Dean charmed nearly everyone in the boardroom. He came across as erudite, policy savvy, and, believe it or not, a friend of free markets--at least by the standards of the Tom Daschle-Dick Gephardt axis of the Democratic party. Even when challenged on issues like environmentalism, where he favored a large centralized mass of intrusive regulations, Dean remained affable...

...He left--and I will never forget the nearly hypnotic reaction. The charismatic doctor had made believers of several hardened cynics. Nearly everyone agreed that we had finally found a Democrat we could work with. Since then, I've watched Dean's career with more than a little interest and we chat from time to time on the phone...

Stephen Moore is president of the Club for Growth and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

posted by: Stephen Moore on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

Well. just so Dean was affable while proposing to bury the economy under new taxes and regulations, that's alright then . . .

posted by: R C Dean on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

David T, unless the felon-voting study controlled for race and income (which I doubt), it's worthless.

Actually it doesn't matter whether the study controlls for race or income since the only claim being made is the rate at which felons have a preference for Democratic candidates.

posted by: Thorley Winston on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

RC Dean wrote:

Well. just so Dean was affable while proposing to bury the economy under new taxes and regulations, that's alright then . . .

More importantly, read the rest of the article:

Not so fast. This is, after all, the former governor of the state that gave us Ben & Jerry's Rainforest Crunch and the nation's only self-proclaimed socialist congressman, Bernie Sanders. In Vermont, Euro-style tax-and-spend governmental activism is still in vogue and politicians like Senator Jim Jeffords pass as moderates. This is the second-highest taxing-and-spending state in the country, with collections about $600 per person above the national average. The state's regulatory climate, says John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute, Vermont's sole dispenser of free-market views, "almost seems intentionally designed to chase employers away." Dean has boasted that he was "the most fiscally conservative governor in Vermont in decades," but that's like saying you were the most chaste woman in a Texas whorehouse.

Indeed, Dean has taken many positions that should make life easy for the Republicans' opposition research team. As governor, he supported and successfully enacted a whole menu of dimwitted liberal causes: a state-funded universal health care system (which as president he would take nationwide), government-subsidized child care (even for the rich), a higher minimum wage, a mega-generous prescription drug benefit for seniors with incomes up to four times the poverty level, one of the nation's most liberal mandatory family-leave laws, and taxpayer-funded campaigns. It's no wonder the "Almanac of American Politics" calls Dean "one of the four or five most liberal governors in America."

At one time or another, Dean raised just about every tax he could get his hands on. During his 12 years as governor, he upped the corporate income tax rate by 1.5 percentage points, the sales tax by 1 percentage point, the cigarette tax by 50 cents a pack, and the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon. Sure he balanced the budget every year--by digging deeper into Vermonters' wallets.

It should also be pointed out that contrary to his earlier claims about his record in which Dean claims to have held State spending to the rate of growth in Vermont, he actually increased State spending during his time as governor by over 100-176% (1) which at a minimum is an over 9% rate of growth every year.

Moreover I seem to recall that Dean claims to have cut income taxes twice, the first time in 1994/5 and then again in 1999. The problem with this claim though is that the first income tax “cut” actually appears to be allowing a temporary rate hike to expire as planned and allow the rates to return to their previous levels. This was enacted by the previous governor while Dean served as his Lt. Governor in which case it does not seem to be a tax cut.


(1) Part of the increase in State spending was due to Act 60 in which the State assumed the portion of local government school funding previously paid by local property tax dollars. Some people would consider that then to be a wash arguing that the increase in State spending is offset by a decrease in local spending (the lower number reflects that POV). However my own experience in Minnesota in that it rarely works out that way and usually you end up with higher State taxes while local taxes rise to their previous levels so you get the worst of both worlds. I’m giving both numbers until I’ve completed my research to determine the correct number (which is probably somewhere in the middle) but the point remains that even if you use the lower figure, it’s pretty clear that Dean really does not have a record of holding down spending, even though many in his party may want even larger increases then the ones Dean is proposing.

posted by: Thorley Winston on 01.07.04 at 05:05 PM [permalink]

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