Karl Rove vs. Howard Dean debate disappoints 

Rove dominates as Dean wimpers, proves Democratic fears true

Rove dominates as Dean wimpers, proves Democratic fears true. Illustration by Joanelle Cobos.

Click image to enlarge.

I looked forward to last week’s Barrick Lecture Series debate with great anticipation. Two highly compelling and polarizing figures duking out politics at UNLV? Yes, please!

The famed “architect” Karl Rove and the once-presidential hopeful Howard Dean were to debate health care, economics and foreign policy.

While Rove may be glorified as “Bush’s Brain,” Dean is not to be underestimated either. His brilliancy enabled the Democratic victories of 2006 and 2008.

But as the debate progressed, I was left wondering if Dean left that brilliancy at home.

This confusion turned into sheer annoyance, as Rove continued to talk in circles, evade the questions, spin statistics and reframe the arguments. But Dean did not call him out on it or just dismissed it all.

When the moderator would ask for Dean’s response, the latter would respond by scoffing: “Who would believe him anyway?”

Dean’s performance during the debate exemplified the complacency that is pervasive in the Democratic Party and could very well prove to be the debilitating factor for the 2010 elections.

After Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, a lot of Democrats couldn’t help but ride those high waves and let the good feelings soak in.

Obama is president. Mission accomplished. Let’s go back to sitting on our hands.

The problem is that they constantly underestimate the opposition and their incredible ability to turn dissatisfaction into mobilization.

I had once dismissed Sarah Palin as a showboat upstart, but we should note the powerhouse she has now become. A good number of people positively fawn over her and hang on to her every, albeit mostly misguided, word.

I had once dismissed the Tea Party as a loose collection of lunatics that would disband soon enough. That was last year.

I was wrong again. The Tea Party has proved to become a force of its own. Whether they hold true leverage has yet to be seen, but there is no doubt that they are taken seriously these days.

The opposition is extremely vocal and many of them swarm like angry hornets. The angrier they are, the more active they seem to get as they resort to name-calling, vandalism and violent threats.

They deride liberals for likening Bush to Hitler but caricature Obama in the same manner themselves and with great aplomb.

Through their sheer ability to capture media attention for such antics, they give off the illusion that their opinions are representative of the entire nation when that is not necessarily the case.

I am not in any way suggesting for Democrats to sink to the same fear mongering and aggressive tactics some Republicans have been using.

But it would be nice if they could mobilize to show support and make their presence strong enough to provide a counterweight to the vocal opposition.

Democrats as a whole, and not just the representatives or leaders, have a worrisome tradition of taking the sidelines.  While many may support health care reform, they aren’t taking the time to go to the town hall meetings.

While they may support Democratic candidates, they may not necessarily support their elections through volunteering or monetary donations. Heck, they may not even go to the polls and just sit at home and watch TV.

Either they don’t truly understand the precarious positions Democrats have going into the elections or they are apathetic to it.

Rove harked back to the gubernatorial elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as indicative of a referendum on Democrats.

And Republicans love to cite the Massachusetts special election in which the underdog Scott Brown won the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, as the manifestation of public backlash to health care reform.

But the explanation that was more plausible was that the democratic candidate led an altogether passive campaign that signified her complete (and premature) confidence in a total victory.

Dean could have taken the time to address this during the debate. Instead, he made a passing remark and then moved on.

Sure, Mr. Dean, I know that Mr. Rove is a spinmaster. I know that he has a knack for throwing a whole bunch of statistics in order to side-step the real issues at hand.

But did everyone in the audience know that?

Did the audience want to see you roll your eyes and dismiss Rove altogether without providing substantive counter-arguments?

I’m willing to bet that not everyone in the audience was a Democrat or a Republican. There were probably a good number of independents who might have been turned off by Dean’s rebuttals, or lack thereof.

This is not the kind of attitude Democrats and especially their party leaders need to have right now, considering just how imperative the 2010 elections are.

If Democrats keep up this complacent attitude toward their opponents, they could very well see themselves get burned.