A Deaniac No More

This isn't easy for me to write. I got my start in politics 10 years ago in the presidential campaign of Gov. Howard Dean. It was a campaign that I joined not just because of Gov. Dean's bold opposition to the Iraq war but also his pragmatic record as the governor of Vermont. I slugged through the snow in New Hampshire, knocked on doors in Phoenix, and spent more nights organizing in my home state of California than I can count.

When Howard Dean didn't make it to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, I was a founding member of our local DFA chapter, known as the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley. I was in San Francisco for DFA's launch. When he ran for party chair in 2005, we lobbied our DNC members. I served on the Board of the local DFA chapter for a few years, and as a Co-Chair for two years, determined to spread Gov. Dean's vision of fiscal responsibility and social progress. I adopted the monkier 'Deaniac83' proudly and early on.

I can no longer call myself a Deaniac in good conscience. Not any more. Not after this:
Gov. Dean is really ticked off because the president's budget restores most of the Pentagon cuts sequestration imposes. Obama's budget offers $100 billion in defense cuts, replacing the $500 billion in cuts from the sequester. That the president does that in his budget while also saving about the same amount through adjusting Social Security's cost-of-living adjustments to a more accurate inflation measure has the former Chairman of the DNC thinking about leaving the party.

Never mind, of course, that the president's budget actually also spares the domestic discretionary budget by the same measure, and concentrates the cuts instead on giveaways to agribusiness (guess Dean might not like it so much; Vermont is, after all, a farm state) and cracking down on Medicare abuse and reforming the Medicare payment system. Never mind that the same budget proposes to fund universal preschool (something as I recall from the 2004 campaign, Howard Dean used to be pretty fond of). Never mind that it raises $580 billion in additional revenues from the rich. Also, never mind that the president is the Commander in Chief, and every budget and defense expert has said the dumb sequester cuts will harm the actual military readiness.

No, never mind any of that. Let's all lament how the status quo is great and preferable to the Obama budget (actually, he said as much). Why would you want every child in America to be able to get an pre-K when you can cut defense? Why would you want to raise more than a half trillion in revenue from the rich when you can cut defense? Why would you want to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour and peg it to inflation when you can pontificate about defense cuts not being big enough?

Since the election of Barack Obama, I have noticed instances which the Dean has taken as an opportunity to bash away at Obama as the president has tried to move this country forward over withering right wing opposition. I have seen him stake out the "not-good-enough"-ism that so often afflicts the Professional Left. From his call to kill the Senate health reform bill in late 2009, to his recent calls keep the sequester that he admits will hurt people because it extracts big defense cuts, I have had misgivings about the man who inspired me to enter the debate about our country's future. He still mostly stayed away from attacking the president personally, and I could chalk up a lot of it to policy disagreements.

But it's not policy disagreements anymore. It's personal attacks. I am not going stand by the antics of how "no real Democrat" would tinker with Social Security even to save it, even if those antics come from Howard Dean. And "No real Democrat" would touch Social Security, of course, Except for Jimmy Carter, Tip O'Neil and Bill Clinton. Never mind that FDR himself never put an automatic COLA in the Social Security bill he signed. But if Barack Obama wants to adjust it a little in order to extract all these other promises? He's suddenly a traitor.

Give me a break, Governor. The irony of it all is that Dean was himself berated by the Left during his tenure as governor for being too pragmatic and wanting to be fiscally responsible, even at the cost of some pain. And now, he's the one attacking the president for actually wanting to restore services for the poor and the needy by replacing the sequester, simply because he wants his defense cuts. Now Howard Dean is the one threatening to leave the party over a president who has more deeply and more broadly expanded the social safety net of any president at least since LBJ, and probably since FDR.

Well, you know what, Governor?
I am sad about this. But this is not the Howard Dean I poured my heart out in 2003 and 2004 for. This is not the Howard Dean I worked so hard to get elected as the Chair of the DNC. This is not the Howard Dean that I came to know as a pragmatic progressive leader. This Howard Dean has time and again concentrated his fire on a president who has done more for the poor and the middle class of this country than Howard Dean can dream of. This Howard Dean is becoming part of the problem by pursuing rigid ideology rather than pragmatic compromise.

And so, here I am. A Deaniac, no more.

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