Home / Dumpster Busting It Real Politik: Krugman, Dean, & The Fighting Moderates

Dumpster Busting It Real Politik: Krugman, Dean, & The Fighting Moderates

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An outstanding editorial from outstanding New York Times columnist Paul Krugman may help to frame Howard Dean’s term as DNC, and more than that, it may set the Democrats’ course out of the woods and back to power.

Think two words: Fighting Moderates.

”The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there,” Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. “But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe.”

Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn’t represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean’s political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House.

I disagree with the premise that the Democratic Party must move rightward to survive. It’s been lurching right for years and has seen steady losses in recent years for it. Everyone says that the Dems must “stand for something.” Moving rightward seems more like a capitulation than a stand.

It was always absurd to call Mr. Dean a left-winger. Just ask the real left-wingers. During his presidential campaign, an article in the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch denounced him as a “Clintonesque Republicrat,” someone who, as governor, tried “to balance the budget, even though Vermont is a state in which a balanced budget is not required.”

Even on Iraq, many moderates, including moderate Republicans, quietly shared Mr. Dean’s misgivings – which have been fully vindicated – about the march to war.

Finally, we have someone who can bolster Dean’s right as a politician and U.S. citizen to take a rational position without being shouted down with inane – and untruthful – labels.

For a while, Mr. Dean will be the public face of the Democrats, and the Republicans will try to portray him as the leftist he isn’t. But Deanism isn’t about turning to the left: it’s about making a stand.

This is a point that I have been making for weeks, though not as eloquently as Mr. Krugman does here. Dean’s legacy for the Democrats will be that he revived his party’s voice and backbone. He did this in the dark days of 2003 and he will do so again in 2005 and 2006.

That’s why Dean is perfect as DNC, better than anyone else at this moment in time. He’s a fighting moderate in a neocon / social conservative age, and he has the gumption and smarts to lead his party – and the perhaps the nation – to a better, more rational, and stronger place.

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  • Eric, was the apostrophized “Democrat’s” in the first paragraph intentional, as in referring purely to Dr Dean, or did it synecdochally refer to the entire Party?

    Interesting article – another good one today by Mr Krugman

  • Krugman seems to be on a roll. Maybe they got him some Zoloft to move him away from his endless depressing articles of doom and despair.


  • Aaman – Great catch. No, it was a typo but it could strangely work. More a product of a late night writing session after four hours in the car coming from work, heading to airport, picking up moms on first trip to SoCal. Will fix…

    Dave – We can agree on this one: Krugman had me depressed as hell for a while (not that I disagreed with him on many points). I actually find him a fresh breath of reason most of the time, though I’m sure many of our conservative friends here at BC would tend to disagree.

  • If I’m one of those conservative friends, Eric, my tendency is rather to agree. Krugman is one of the few columnists in my local ultra-blue newspaper that I can read without an extra dose of hypertension medication.

  • I’m encouraged by Dean as DNC, and I’m encouraged that Krugman is encouraged.

    I love the term Fighting Moderate, and I really think it can become a backlash/rallying cry against the far right social/religious/neocon tilt that the country has taken over the last several years.

  • Hawksan

    I think Krugman’s on track. Dean gets it, and is willing and able to go the distance with the grassroots and stand his ground and push back against the oppostion, and he’ll do this while uniting Democrats around our bedrock values. — Values we share with the vast majority of Americans.

  • Hawksan — I agree that it’s not a matter of values or issues for the Dems, but of message and standing up strongly for beliefs.

  • RJ

    Dean is an honest extremist. Krugman is a dishonest shill.

  • RJ – What’s the reasoning behind both of your statements?

  • RJ

    Dean seems to honestly believe what he says. Agree or disagree, he seems to be honest about it.

    Krugman is called out as a liar quite often at the Krugman Truth Squad. He’s an overt shill for Democrats, posing as an “expert” and a “journalist”…

  • RJ – Okay, we agree Dean is honest. What makes him an “extremist”?

    On Krugman: He was (and perhaps is) a professor of economics at Yale (I believe). During the latter Clinton years, he was quite critical of some of the economic policy of the booming 90s. Over the years, he has spread out to many areas of public policy, but I see in no way how he is a “shill.”

    While he’s not a traditional journalist, he writes about areas in which he is an expert (economics) and has a perceptive and illuminating eye when he turns his considerable mind upon other topics as well.

    I don’t always agree with him, but I respect what Krugman has to say.