Less than six weeks ago, Jonathan Chait of The New Republic created a new blog on TNR’s Web site, “Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe.” In the first message of that blog, Chait explained his motivation:
Earlier this year I wrote a piece for TNR that defended hatred of President Bush…. But recently I’m finding that Dean hatred is crowding out Bush hatred in my mental space. It’s not that I think Dean would be a worse president than Bush—he’d probably be better, although that’s extremely faint praise given that Bush is the worst president of the last 80 years. Bush is like the next-door neighbor who lets his dog poop on your lawn and his kid shoot bb’s at your house and who says something irritating to you every day on his way to work. Dean, on the other hand, is like the ne’er-do-well who’s dating your daughter. You realize the neighbor is a worse person than the boyfriend, but the boyfriend (and the frightening prospect that he’ll become your son-in-law) consumes more of your attention.
Now Chait is shutting down the blog. With all the news of Dean’s campaign woes, Chait’s phobia is receding…
…to be replaced by another one:
First, obviously, Dean is finished as a potential nominee. He’s blown all his money, his campaign is in disarray, and he’s turned to an inside-the-Beltway Democrat to run his campaign. Dean may well play a potent spoiler role, but it’s almost impossible to see him winning. Even if he somehow pulls out a [plurality] of delegates and goes to a brokered nomination, the other candidates will pool their delegates and select a non-Dean.
Second, not only is Dean’s nomination dead, Deanism is dead as well. By “Deanism” I don’t mean Dean’s mix of issue positions, or his novel strategy of Internet organizing (which, I hope, will become a model for Democrats in the future). What I mean by Deanism is the belief that some combination of technology and Dean’s charisma can somehow suspend all the known laws of politics, that liberals can wish away unpleasant facts about the American electorate, and that the failure to do so represents cowardice, betrayal, and the absence of principle.
Finally, John Kerry takes all the fun out of Dean-o-phobia. Indeed, if there’s anybody who could make Dean attractive, it’s Kerry. Kerry is a miserable candidate, bereft of political skills, and possessing of a record and a persona tailor-made for Karl Rove. The Republicans will merely have to say about Kerry what they said about Gore—that he wants to be on every side of every issue, that he’s culturally out of touch with mainstream America, that he’s a pompous bore—and this time the sale will be easier, because all these things are far more true of Kerry than of Gore.