Howard Dean's "Common Sense"

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‘Tis the season, not for jollity, but for election primaries and politicians’ writings. All six of the remaining Democratic contenders have penned books, listed below with links to’s website. (To give equal time, I will mention that Bush has a book under his byline, “A Charge to Keep,” and a few compilations of his speeches. A list of potential Libertarian party candidates can be found at politics1; lists those from the Green Party.)

Wesley Clark “Winning Modern Wars”

Howard Dean “Winning Back America”

John Edwards “Four Trials”

John Kerry “A Call to Service”

Dennis Kucinich “A Prayer for America”

Al Sharpton “Al on America”

As voraciously as I read, however, none of these books has made it to the top of my reading list. I’d like to take a moment to look at Howard Dean’s “Common Sense for a New Century” pamphlet, which stakes out the middle ground by being both more substantial than the ubiquitous position statements and more concise than the books. Although he’s no longer the front-runner, “Common Sense” is the kind of political writing which could inspire voters of every political stripe. Not surprisingly, I have a few observations:

Dean’s estimate of the national debt at $26K per American family is, believe it or not, low. According to the U.S. National Debt Clock, the deficit is now $7,015,039,176,441.88 and each citizen’s share is $23,922.32 (based on an estimated population of 293,242,417).

His observation that voting is our “most fundamental duty” is indisputably correct, and makes me wonder why Election Day isn’t a national holiday.

As in many other recent instances, Congress did indeed abdicate their responsibility to declare war (Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) against Iraq, instead cravenly deferring to the administration’s imperial wishes.

After the typo on page three, Dean quotes JFK’s statement that, “The United States…will never start a war,” but that was untrue long before Bush II, and even before the Gulf of Tonkin fabrications that dragged us into Vietnam.

Teddy Roosevelt’s quote that special interests are “not…entitled to a vote” may strike some as hyperbole, but the court decision creating corporate personhood (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company) was still recent history at the time. Despite the possibility of campaign finance reform limiting free speech, the devolution of the political process from “one person, one vote” into “one dollar, one vote” seems nearly inevitable.

Dean mentions our “founding ideals” of justice and equality, but somehow manages to omit freedom. (See the "Quote of the Day" below for a fuller explanation.)

I’m not ready to take a public stand for any presidential candidate, but I urge everyone toward an exercise of civil rights (or civic responsibilities, if you prefer) by registering to vote and – after some research – stepping behind the curtain to cast a secret ballot. Not everyone is willing to escalate their political opinions to the button/bumper sticker/yard sign/meetup level, but a trip to the polling place isn’t too much to ask of any adult citizen.

Thanks for reading…are you registered?

Quote of the day:

"The conflict, not between liberty and equality, but between extremist exponents of these values, cannot be resolved without correcting the errors that lead to the extremisms respectively espoused by the libertarian and by the egalitarian. These errors can be corrected only by understanding that neither liberty nor equality is the prime value, that neither is an unlimited good, and that both can be maximized harmoniously only when the maximization is regulated by justice."

Mortimer Adler (Six Great Ideas, p. 138)

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on February 9, 2004 10:10 PM.

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