Jewish World Review July 29, 2004 / 11 Menachem-Av, 5764
Why are the wackadoos still dear to Dems' hearts?
The press release hinted at fireworks, what with Michael Moore and Howard Dean scheduled to speak. It was a slow afternoon otherwise, and the event - sponsored by one of the new lefty organizations popping up like crab grass - seemed likely to throw open a window on what has been called the "wackadoo wing" of the Democratic Party.
I wasn't disappointed.
Dean and Moore both delivered slabs of red meat to a hungry crowd that wolfed down every word.
Dean was hot, but didn't overheat. He even stayed on the John Kerry reservation, saying, "We can't call the president a fascist, at least not this week."
Moore was about two hours late. Then, after a rousing reception, he alternately meandered and thundered into what felt like his standard stump speech, complete with numerous advertisements - er, references - to his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
"They're not patriots," he said of those who disagree with him and his movie. "They're hate-riots."
Ha-ha, very clever. But is that all there is?
It was all so, well, ordinary that I kept wondering, where are the nut jobs? Then it hit me: The wackadoo wing has merged with the mother ship. Or maybe it is the mother ship.
It's getting hard to tell them apart.
In truth, what Dean, Moore and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich had to say was not so dramatically different from what's being said from the podium of the Democratic National Convention. That's not a fact the party will admit, but facts are stubborn things.
Voter registration, the environment, gay rights, health care, jobs, trade - take away the identity of the speakers and close your eyes, and you would have a hard time separating the Moore-Dean event's speeches from most of those at the convention.
"Welcome to the alternative Democratic Party convention," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future. But it's not an alternative, it's a subsidiary. Only some of the language was tilted. "Brothers and sisters," another speaker said to the 1,000 people who overflowed a hotel ballroom in Cambridge, Mass.
There was lots of talk about "taking back America." Some of it was in jargon, as in, "We broke the money primary." Nearly everyone avoided using the word "liberal," favoring "progressive." Of course, it means the same thing to those outside the tent, but it doesn't yet have the L-word stain.
"Progressives gave the party its voice in the primaries," another speaker said.
That's certainly true, with Kerry co-opting that movement after his campaign fizzled early and Dean flamed out. That history gives the Deaniacs ample reason to despise Kerry. But they hate Bush more, so Kerry is just fine with them. Every time his name came up, there was applause.
So he's their guy now. And while he's playing a game of footsie with the lefties - he has to appear centrist to be elected - his heart was in that room, even though his body wasn't.
Michael Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News Comment by clicking here.
07/21/04: Kerry couldn't say no: Hillary waffle was just part of a wimpy week
© 2004, New York Daily News.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.