Howard’s End

Howard Dean just officially announced the end of his presidential campaign. It aired on CSPAN2; the networks kept showing their soap operas. Though he didn’t get into the details, he said that Dean for America would continue on as a grassroots organization dedicated to the principles of his campaign. (It might have been nice for something more concrete about those principles, instead of the usual talk about ordinary people, some bitterness toward the “Democratic establishment,” and a mixed metaphor concerning “change.”) He didn’t endorse another candidate, and he encouraged his supporters to vote Democratic in the election: “The bottom line is we must beat George Bush, whatever it takes.”

All these things speak very highly of Dr. Dean. Heading up a scrappy grassroots movement after having once been the favored presidential candidate is the act of a man of principle, not an egomaniac. I was a little worried after some of his recent comments that he’d come out for Edwards, which, after all his bashing of “Washington insiders,” would make him come off as little more than a sore loser. Ironically, his bottom line — “we must beat George Bush” — is the very reason that many people ended up not voting for him. In one sense that’s nonsense, because Dean _could_ have beat Bush, but _something_ happened in his campaign to evaporate all that money and support and result in such a disappointing finish in Iowa. As a fellow proponent of the “beat Bush” philosophy, I do feel a bit safer with Kerry.

Of course, the race isn’t over yet. And dang, can Edwards give a speech. Especially with all those Dean voters as new wildcards, he definitely has a medium-to-long shot. I still think (as I “did before”: that a longer primary race ultimately benefits the Democrats, as long as they don’t get too vicious with each other — which Kerry and Edwards haven’t been doing. For that reason I find myself pleased by Edwards’ strong second place finish in Wisconsin, and I hope he picks up a few actual wins to keep things interesting. Kerry edges ahead in my personal estimation because his positions are closer to mine in the one issue the two of them disagree on (free trade), and because (unlike Dean) I see his long experience inside the Beltway as an advantage, not a curse.

Then again, there’s a strong argument to be made that Edwards is a bit more electable than Kerry. So what to do? Since my primary’s come and gone, it’s a question I can safely leave unanswered for now. In any case, things between the two of them are going to be a bit more complicated than they were in “my dream”: