Be careful! Read ahead at your own risk! No, that’s not what people are saying about my column – although they probably are, given that I’m the token conservative here – it’s what I am telling you about my column this week. I warn you in advance of shocking statements that will probably damage your psyche. Are you ready, dear reader, to take the fateful plunge?

Today I announce my support for Howard Dean as the Democratic Presidential nominee. Now, while I let MERT respond to coronaries and aneurysms that statement just caused, I’ll move on to why I made this announcement.

Let us first note that I am NOT supporting Howard Dean as President – for those of you who are still suffering from my first statement, try repeating that while breathing into a paper bag, it might help. I am supporting him as the best of the best in this DNC sponsored showing of -“Snow White House and the 9 Silly Candidates” for two reasons.

First, just to be honest, I believe if Howard Dean becomes the Democratic nominee, short of a disastrous turn for George Bush, he will lose. Right now, Dean is pulling ahead of the pack of Democratic candidates – which even my Democratic friends will admit isn’t that much of a feat.

Seriously, out of the crowd that we’ve seen, could you see any of the other candidates being slightly more of a caricature of themselves? About the only claim Dennis Kucinich can make right now is that he makes Howard Dean look like a centrist. Joe Lieberman has flipped positions so many times I swear he’s a spokesman for a burger joint. I don’t think highly of the candidates, nor even much of Dean or his positions, but I do think there is a second, and better, reason why he should be given the nod. Howard Dean could give voters a choice. What I mean by this can only be explained through the tortured path of the GOP.

After the Great Depression, the only thing the Republicans could look forward to in the national arena was to challenge the Democratic Party for the Presidency. For most practical Republicans, the idea of actually recapturing the Senate and the House was a pipe dream whispered by naive new candidates.

Accepting reality, Republicans during this long stretch simply established what was later known as “Me Too-ism.” This was the idea that a member of the GOP would agree with the Democrats – “Me Too!” – but would be more fiscal about doing the same thing. Needless to say, with a rallying cry like that it’s no wonder that they languished as a perpetual minority.

It wasn’t until 1994 that Republicans gained back control through the simple idea of giving the voters a choice. No longer would the GOP simply go “Me Too,” but would stand up for positions and principles and wouldn’t care if they lost a part of a constituency since they were fighting for something. Up til this point, why would any moderate want to vote Republican? If the parties wanted the same things, why not vote for the true believer rather than the interloper? In 1994 the GOP finally offered voters a choice – which was so badly needed.

Right now Dean is riding a wave of this sentiment. Democrats have a feeling that their party is slowly starting to slip down their own path of “Me Too-ism” on defense, on taxes, and a host of other issues. That does no one any good. I might think it’s great for the GOP, but it does our country no good. Without two parties actively striving for positions and fighting out their differences, where can true compromises be found? If we reach a point where we simply agree on the same things and just differ over cost – let’s just turn the government over to accountants and go home.

I think the Dean candidacy will spark something in the Democrats that hopefully will bring that out – stand by your principles, fight for them, and let’s let government truly work. If Dean presents a stark choice, hopefully we can bring out the same in the Republicans, and we can truly have a good fight on issues and not simply talking points. Let’s get back to a representative government in which our elected officials truly represent strong positions.

So I say bring on Howard Dean. Bring on the rhetoric, bring on the rancor, bring on the choice – and let the good old republican – small r – times roll!

Clemm can be reached at

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