Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 8, 2003
POLITICS: Steyn on Dean
As a New Hampshirite, Mark Steyn has had the opportunity to watch Howard Dean up close for the past decade. To no one's surprise, he's unimpressed:
Vermont . . . was colonised in the Sixties by ponytailed granola progressivism and summed up by a remarkably prescient 1972 article in Playboy, headlined 'Take Over Vermont': 'Get 225,000 counterculturalists to settle in the Green Mountain State and exercise their franchise -- and you've begun a unique social experiment.' Or more to the point: just because these ideas are a surefire vote-loser everywhere across the country doesn't mean they won't catch on if enough of the tiny minority that believes in them moves to one small underpopulated jurisdiction.
So 30 years on, the unique social experiment is almost complete, and Howard Dean's state is not terribly friendly to any kind of business other than folksy boutique capitalism as represented by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company and Ben & Jerry's, the hippy-dippy ice-cream-makers who sell 'Peace Pops' in flavours like 'Cherry Garcia'. And even these most famous exemplars of the Green Mountain State's caring capitalism flopped out. A couple of years ago, Ben & Jerry's got taken over by Unilever, even though one of them - Ben or possibly Jerry - wasn't too happy about it. But the one who was - Jerry or maybe Ben - insists that UniBen or Jerrylever or whatever it's called now is still just the same bunch of committed activists raging at the greed of multinational globalised capitalism, even though they're now a wholly owned subsidiary thereof. . . . In other words, Ben & Jerry's are full of it. And so's Howard Dean. In Ben & Jerry terms, he's a thousand pints of Lite, a masterful Clintonian triangulator who's taken the but-I-didn't-inhale approach to political viability into far more ambitious territory. Although he did part of his medical training at an abortion clinic, he's always claimed he never actually performed one himself: he may have dilated, but he never extracted. Hardcore Vermont liberals - especially the environmentalists - got sick of Dean's slipperiness long before he decided to run for president.
But out of state the activists don't know that, and in a field split between five lacklustre Congressional compromisers . . . and three fringe wackos . . . , Dean's done a superb job at positioning himself as the heart of the party. . . . The reason he's piling up all the big money from out of state boils down to two words: civil unions. Three years ago, Vermont became the first state in the nation to recognise a form of legal union for same-sex couples, and that puts Dean on the cutting edge of the issue du jour. . . . Dean now says bringing civil unions to Vermont was 'the most important event in my political life'. At the time, he was going round the state telling folks he was only doing it because the Vermont Supreme Court made him, and, instead of the usual showboating public ceremony, he signed the legislation behind closed doors. But out in Hollywood all Barbra Streisand and the other high rollers know is that, if gay marriage is your big priority rather than Iraq and national security and all the other peripheral junk, then Dean's your man. In a way, he's the first gay candidate, the first beneficiary of a prominent, organisationally effective, big-money gay bloc in the Democratic party. This year, gay is the new black.
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