By Diane E. Dees
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In the 1998 black comedy, Bulworth, Warren Beatty
plays a presidential candidate who takes out both a big insurance
policy and a hit contract on himself. Senator Bulworth is
consequently set free of all restraints, and says everything
he wants to say instead saying what he should say.
He goes to war against racism, economic inequity and the corruption
of the political system itself.
It's hard to see this film and not want to immediately elect
Jay Bulworth president. The in-your-face honesty of the protagonist
would appeal to anyone, political values aside.
In real life, there is no Bulworth, but until now, there
has never even been anyone Bulworth-like. Now we have
Howard Dean, who comes the closest to this ideal that I have
ever witnessed in my lifetime, and that is why he is in trouble.
How frightening it must be to every established entity-from
the White House to the National Democratic Party-to see this
shirt-sleeved New Englander doing everything short of sky-writing
about the stark nakedness of the emperor. Dean has not only
refused to say the "right" things about the issues-he has
refused to say and do the "right" things about his campaign.
Raising money through the Internet and saying he doesn't need
his wife for a campaign prop would be throwaway statements
in a healthier culture, but this is the United States of America.
We are obsessed with coloring inside the lines, no matter
how ugly the picture is. And we are even more obsessed with
"how things look." A president's wife or lack of wife, and
his religious affiliation, have nothing to do with anything,
but the unspoken rule in America is that we always judge someone
by superficial standards. Anyone who doubts this has only
to look at the current occupant of the White House, a person
with next to no job training, little intellectual curiosity,
and an abundance of morality problems. However, his constant
promotion of God, the flag, and ethnic-based fear-mongering
has gained him thousands of followers.
My purpose here is not to push Howard Dean forward as the
best candidate, though I certainly think he is a good one.
Rather, I am concerned with a greater issue-the fact that
honesty and independence in campaigning will always be punished.
It happened to John McCain, and it is happening to Howard
Dean. The Dean campaign has enemies, and they are formidable.
There is no doubt that the Democratic Party establishment
is turned off by Howard Dean. He will not play by their rules
any more than he will play by anyone else's. However, the
news media is his greatest enemy. Indeed, it is currently
a significant enemy of democracy as we thought we knew it.
According to the major print and broadcast outlets, Dean is
"angry" (as though that were a bad thing, given the current
administration's rape of the nation), he is vague, and he
is "unelectable." Add to that the general criticisms that
he is a New Englander, he doesn't talk about his very personal
beliefs, and he is married to a woman who has a life.
I am angry. I am so angry I just about can't see straight.
Why aren't my senators and representatives angry? Why aren't
my Congressional leaders angry? It isn't Howard Dean who is
acting strange-it's everyone else. But in this Lewis Carroll
scenario of denial, everything is backwards, and Dean is the
scapegoat, left to stand alone while ridicule is slung at
That "Dean is vague" or "Dean has no message other than his
opposition to the war" is absurd. He has set forth detailed
programs on healthcare, education, civil rights, and the environment.
The majority of Americans do go out of their way to avoid
fact-finding. Iowans, on the other hand, give us the impression
that they seriously study the issues. But consider this: Right
after the television talking heads announced that Dean's message
was vague, Iowa caucus members started telling reporters they
couldn't vote for him because "his message is vague."
Dean, of course, isn't the wild "leftist" enemy of society
portrayed by the media, either. He is a proven fiscal conservative.
He has supported the gun lobby. He has repeatedly interrupted
his own campaign so he could fly to Vermont to attend his
son's ball games. But when it comes to discussing these
characteristics of the candidate, it's as though Tom Ridge's
duct tape has been plastered across the mouths of every anchorperson,
reporter and commentator in America.
The result of all of this labeling, selective reporting,
and consumer ignorance is that the media-and the Democratic
Party-can now call Howard Dean "unelectable." If he is unelectable,
it is only because the establishment media made him that way,
knowing that Democratic voters-like Republican voters-have
little interest in learning the facts.
Bulworth, by the way, doesn't die. He is saved at the last
minute by his own will to live, and by his hitwoman's compassion.
But that's only a movie.