Howard Dean, off message

Politico caught Howard Dean in a moment of candor–instead of spin–at Hofstra University yesterday. Dean has his issues (boy, does he have his issues) but he does seem to have an emotional connection to populist movements in the US. He also understands the basic underlying anger at party establishment that winged its way through the Republican Primaries this summer. While bemoaning Castle’s loss, he seems to have a better understanding of the populist angst motivating many of the grass roots teapartiers than their Astroturfing organizers and donors and the pols who’d like to take advantage of them.

“I actually approve of most of what the tea party is doing… I think it’s great to have individuals reach out to take their own responsibility for their own [future] and lashing out against government that has really forgotten them… but I also believe that there is a fringe of racism in the tea party, which unfortunately for the tea party that is focused on” by the media.

He blamed the “liberal media” for focusing on the “Obama is a Nazi” posters instead of the party’s populist undercurrents but also said “Fox runs these race-baiting programs… aimed at ginning up the racists attitudes that you see.”

Dean, whose forceful, change-Washington appeal propelled him to the front of the pack before his campaign imploded in the Iowa caucuses, lamented the loss of Rep. Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican primary on Tuesday to tea party darling Christine O’Donnell, saying it augurs trouble for other electable GOP moderates like Castle.

“The Delaware election doesn’t show we can elect crazy people — I think that’s a dumb debate — [but] It shows that people are so mad that they don’t care what the facts are,” he added.

There’s been a tendency by the Democratic Party to spin all the Teabots off as angry, bitter racists. I expect they’ll portray O’Donnell as the Republican Party Mascot. She’ll replace the old elephant and probably deflect some of the elitist, sexist, rage against the Palin machine. It’s the same kinds of tactics they used on disgruntled Hillary Voters during the primaries. Make no doubt about it, the racist element is thriving in the Tea Party as well as the religionist right, but how does that completely explain why so many different and varied states are putting through so many questionable candidates?

This seems to be a movement carried not only by the usual Republican wingnuts, but an anger and a strong anti-any-establishment frustration. I said on Wednesday that I believe the idea for the majority of these protest voters is to wipe the entire slate clean and then to sort out the mess later. I think the frustration has gotten to such a high level that they just want to use whatever be-gone-establishment pols concoction they can find. Howard Dean seems to get this too. Maybe it’s because he’s been exiled back to Vermont so he doesn’t have to hang around and be a spin meister all day long. Maybe he gets it because he and the Deaniacs tried to bring something of that to the Democratic Party and were soundly assimilated into the John Kerry/Ted Kennedy we know what’s good for all you little people style that leaves them unable to get elected any where other than a handful of NE states.

I might even go as far to say that the astroturfed Obama and his campaign had the outsider appeal and the look of the same populism. Maybe it’s because I saw Dean go establishment so quickly, that I was less taken in by the less authentic-sounding speeches put into Obama’s mouth. I always thought Dean’s populism was true, just that he never had the backbone to shout once he got to the District.

I do think he nails the underlying bitter knitting going on in so much of the country. Just take a look at the economic demographics released by the census bureau yesterday and you can’t help but be slapped in the face by reality. I was meaning to front page the poverty numbers yesterday but decided to delight in some fun instead. I get some sadistic pleasure these days in jerking the chains of the remaining Obots and they never fail to light up like Christmas trees when I throw them the bait. It beats trapping Louisiana Yard Dogs any day. Besides, gators have a clue about their environment which is why they’ve survived so long. I really don’t think we’ll be able to say the same things about the OFA armies of unicorn riding reality deniers. If you poke a gator with a stick, they bite the stick. Poke an Obot, you get a predictable silly meme. It’s like pulling the string on a Chatty Cathy Doll. Those wacky memes play right into the average Teabot’s angst and the cycle of knee jerk spittle repeats itself. Just wait until November if you thought Delaware was a train wreck. You can’t release the Biden on every state in the union.

But, the bottom line is that you can’t look at the poverty and economic numbers in this country and be clueless as to where all this frustration comes from. You can’t blame the miserable Obama and congressional numbers and the incredible momentum in the other side’s Populist-du-jour–Sarah Palin–and her I’m-mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-any-more friends from the nation’s hinterland on racism and bitter knitters. It’s not all about racism or bitterness. It’s about looking at your future straight on and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, 1 out of 10 of us are unemployed and 1 out of 7 of us are in poverty. What person in their right mind wants to keep electing people that deliver those kinds of results?

Look at these demographics and weep. There is already very little future for the young in this country. While the elderly got richer, the younger were more likely to depend on their parents or the government for just basic sustenance.

Age is also a factor. Households led by someone 65 or older actually saw their median income rise 5.8 percent to $31,354. That was largely because of Social Security payments. But households maintained by someone aged 15 to 24 saw their income drop 4.4 percent, and those led by someone 35 to 44 fell 2.6 percent.

One of the most striking statistics released Thursday was the number of people aged 25 to 34 who are living with their parents. That number rose 8.4 percent, to 5.5 million from 5.1 million, in the last two years. We knew that recent college graduates were moving back in with their parents, but the fact that even older adults are doing so because they can’t make it on their own is a sign of the difficult economic times.

Had those people not been living with their parents, their poverty rate, officially reported as 8.5 percent, would have been 42.8 percent.

Catch these race-based statistics too. It seems like we’re doing a much better jobs of integrating the nation’s immigrants into our economy than some of our own citizens. That has to lead to simmering resentment among urban communities.

Race continues to play a huge factor in poverty and income inequality. Median per capita income for non-Hispanic whites was $30,941, down 0.8 percent from a year earlier. Among blacks, median per capita income was two-thirds less, at $18,135.

When looking at household income, the widest racial gap is between black and Asian households. Black-led households make less than half the median income that Asian households do.

Yet the bottom line is the bottom line:

Still, at 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008, it represented 43.6 million people, the highest number of people in poverty since the Census Bureau began publishing estimates in 1959.

More people are being disenfranchised in this country, so the anger and bitterness and blowback in elections make perfect sense. What else can they do? Exactly what does it get to make your elected officials realize that they live in a completely different world than most of us.

Severe poverty takes its toll on people and their societies.

That means that over 19 million people in the USA live in households with income less than half the poverty line (severe poverty implies income significantly less than $ 11,000 yr for a family of four).

How does it make people in these desperate situations feel when most elected officials keep telling every one that policies they pass are successful and why don’t you appreciate it? Here’s a good example, from Angry Bear.

It is basically universally agreed that welfare reform was a great success (as argued for example by Barack Obama in “The Audacity of Hope”). I think this conclusion is based on two gross and obvious errors.

First the matter was considered to have been decided by 2000. Only specialists reconsidered the analysis of welfare reform with any data not collected during the amazing boom of the late 90s.

Second a huge amount of attention is focused on the poverty rate and almost no one ever looks at the severe poverty rate. It is as if people think that it doesn’t matter how poor one is once one is under the poverty line. This is more extreme than not caring about income distribution.

But it is accepted as a fact that welfare reform worked like a charm. Evidence which isn’t less than 10 years old and the fact that $11,000 < $21,000 are ignored.

It’s almost as if most people had no clue what it is like to be poor so that they don’t even know that the poor are much poorer than they used to be.

Everything is put out there to make failures sound like moderate success. Problem is, when you’re living reality, it just sounds like one more lie.

Dean went a bit rogue yesterday. Palin goes rogue all the time. Funny thing is that these rogue states are more in line with reality than what any talking head spins on Limbaugh’s OCD, Beck’s mania or Rick’s Lost. Yes, yes, yes, there’s some real crazies that now have a solid shot at some really big jobs. But, what do you expect when you sell Hope and Change then deliver more of the same coupled with a lot more worse stuff. You think you’re not going to generate some blowback?

Desperate times create desperate people.

So, it looks like we may have a Tea Party Caucus in Congress. In the end, I doubt they’ll be able to fight the beast any more than Howard Dean could but then we shall see, won’t we?