"Do you remember your President Nixon?" sang David Bowie on a record appearing a few month's after Nixon's resignation. The line conveyed the oblivion swiftly subsuming a politician out of camera range. In 2004 it applies to Governor Howard Dean.
At an autumnal street festival in Detroit's Cass Corridor in 2003, a lone John Kerry supporter handed out homemade, photocopied flyers. At that time Howard Dean seemed the Democrat in charge, surely the candidate to beat the fiendish Bush. Senator Gephardt--anti-NAFTA and calling for universal health care--was popular in unionized parts of Michigan, but Gephardt had voted for that damn Iraq war. Dr. Dean's opposition to the war defined him and galvanized his Internet-based campaign, filling his war chest.
Yet Dean's celebrated Internet marketing strategy seemed full of holes. This commentator had evinced liberality by subscribing to the Nation, the New York Review of Books, the Washington Monthly and Mother Jones. My email address is all over the web, in Bad Subjects and on my university website. One would think I would have been deluged with Dean solicitations. It wasn't until I Googled Dean's site for the mailing address and sent in a check that I was put on his national and Michigan email lists.
Dean then proceeded to muck up traditional campaigning, and votes failed to materialize in the early caucuses and primaries. Failing to show up (or send a rep) to a candidates' panel in Detroit, all 11 o'clock News programs gleefuly showed Al Sharpton gesturing to empty chairs marked Kerry, Clark, and Dean. "You should be insulted" counseled Sharpton to the largely black audience in the packed auditorium. The next day Dean cancelled an appearance at the University of Michigan. Antiwar signs grace every other front lawn in Ann Arbor, and 2,500 had marched against the war in March, 2003 to form a giant peace sign, so he blew off a supportive crowd. In the Michigan Democratic Caucus Dean came in second after Kerry...but almost twenty points behind. A poor showing in Wisconsin saw Dean "suspending" his campaign, then formally dropping out of the race. That didn't stop my Vermont relatives for voting for him a month later.
Dean and his loyalists turned their website into www.democracyforamerica.org and issued recommendations for congressional candidates and exhortations to vote. Like a medicine show pitchman, the good doctor now enthusiastically stumps for John Kerry. Despite Kerry's disturbing equivocations about the War in Iraq to Keep From Pursuing Osama, he will have my vote. Yet I won't forget the rise and fall of that quirky Doctor Might-Have-Been.