The Truth About Dean

Nice to see the common wisdom on Dean challenged in an accurate fashion, in the New York Times:

With his [Howard Deans’] early and intense opposition to the American-led attack on Iraq, his call for universal health insurance and his signing a bill that created civil unions for gay couples in Vermont, Dr. Dean, 54, is seen as the most liberal of the major Democratic candidates. Many of the people donning his “Give ’em hell, Howard” buttons hail from the left wing of the party and beyond.

But in Vermont, whose political center of gravity lands left of the nation’s, one of the secrets to Dr. Dean’s success was keeping the most liberal politicians in check.

Over 11 years, he restrained spending growth to turn a large budget deficit into a surplus, cut taxes, forced many on welfare to go to work, abandoned a sweeping approach to health-care reform in favor of more incremental measures, antagonized environmentalists, won the top rating from the National Rifle Association and consistently embraced business interests.

Opposing the war appears leftist because so many Democrats folded on the issue–a waffling that many now publicly regret. As far as universal healthcare goes, Dean’s plan“First, and most important, in order to extend health coverage to every uninsured child and young adult up to age 25,” which Gore advocated in 2000 (for children, but as I recall, not for the 18-24 group). So that’s not crazy-left, either. Steps 2-4 in Dean’s plan are more amitious and longer term, but they center around the free-market, not socialized medicine, nor even single-payer.

And as for Dean on gay rights, well, ok, that’s pretty liberal (“I will work to expand equal rights to same sex couples and ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, strengthen federal protections against anti-gay violence, give federal employees the right to name same-sex partners as beneficiaries, remove bias from our immigration laws, and end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy”). Fortunately, it’s also the just and moral position. It’s nice to see him take a stand rather than take the easy way out and say that it’s a matter for the states, a la McCain on the Confederate Flag.

Looking at the underlined part of the [accurate] description of Dean’s fiscal and business policies, it’s really hard to see why the DLC fears him so.


UPDATE: Joan Walsh has more in this inanely-titled but otherwise good editorial in Salon.