Dean for them 'Rats

It’s par for the course for Republican political pundits to be cheering on Howard Dean. If Dean is the nominee, the logic goes, we get four more years. To that extent, I agree. But the law of unintended consequences might cause problems in the long run we don’t like nearly as much as Bush mopping the floor with Howie, and showing the Democrats where they can shove their ‘prescription.’ However, if Dean wins, the Democrats will have the inside track at the White House in 2008.

There are two factors at play here, neither one advantageous to conservatives. As Ramesh Ponnuru argues, the ascension of Dean to the forefront of the Democrat Party will be good for the Republicans in general, as we can then hug the center more and dominate the electorate, but at the same time, the leftward tilt of the nation is bad, bad, oh so very bad for conservatives.

If this were just a one-time thing, conservatives would begrudgingly take it and keep their mouths shut, by and large. The problem is, the political consequences of such a theory are too shortsighted. When a Party goes back to its extreme, it takes care of some house cleaning; it gets its base fired up again. Since the 60’s, both Parties have teetered back and forth, concerning themselves with simply winning for the sake of winning, and on standing for principles. It’s the latter that allows the former to happen. And Howard Dean, frighteningly, might be just the man to take the Democrats back to square one.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater set the Republican Party on fire. He got the ground troops fired up. Not only did he load the bases for Ronal Reagan 16 years later, but he set the stage for Richard Nixon in 1968. George McGovern did the same thing for Carter in 72, and the dynamic duo of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis did it for Bill Clinton in 1984 and 1988.

The scary proposition isn’t so much that Howard Dean might beat President Bush. That’s doubtful for a number of reasons, least of which is the President’s great political ability to set the confines of a debate before the debate ensures, so no matter what the issue he is seen as a centrist. The scary thought is whether this phenomenon will spell doom for the Republicans in 2008. A leftward “lurch” may doom the Democrats now, but will ultimately get the Party’s base back in line. Right now it is difficult to find anything the Party really stands for. They’re FOR winning, and AGAINST losing, so far as anyone can tell. The problem is, an entire Party can’t stand on that alone for too long, or the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry might not give the Dems a snowball’s chance against W, but they surely could spell trouble for Jeb, Bill Owens, Bill Frist or whoever the Republicans run in 2008!


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