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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Dean Democrats need to break un-Cola habit

By defining itself with reference to Republicans, the Democratic Party risks stranding itself on an island of irrelevance.

A recent example of the party's penchant for self-destruction came from Chairman Howard Dean in Washington, D.C.

Advocating expanded polling hours for future elections, Mr. Dean said Republicans don't need after-work polling hours "because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."

Nastiness makes headlines. It also alienates voters.

The rut that threatens to swallow Mr. Dean and his fiery Democratic colleagues is a belief that their party must present a dramatic foil to Republican-guided federal policy.

Defining oneself by another is not novel, of course. In the political landscape, such self-definition has been a favorite of splinter groups like the Green Party with no realistic chance of political power.

Closer to home, Mr. Dean's strategy looks more like the path of adolescents. The stereotypical "preacher's kid" is so determined to set himself apart from his father that he clings to the lifestyle opposed by the preacher.

Most children survive adolescence and develop an ability to accept their parents' positive values. We can only hope that the national Democratic Party matures as well.

Recent poll results suggest that U.S. voters want a nation secure from terrorists; we want a healthy Social Security system; we want a thriving economy and affordable energy.

Fortunately for Democrats, there are many rational paths to each of these objectives.

By defining itself as the political version of the "the un-Cola," however, the party risks an increasing rift with voters. Overlapping goals are acceptable, and maybe even necessary, if prudent voters generally support those goals.

The Democratic Party has a proud tradition. It will remain a powerful force in shaping our nation if it doesn't define itself by its opposition to Republican objectives.

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