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Man of the people

Yes, he’s a long shot, but no other independent “candidate” has Lou Dobbs’s potential, platform, or populist appeal
By STEVEN STARK  |  November 14, 2007


This past week, CNN’s Lou Dobbs posted an online commentary in which he predicted the victory next year of a surprise presidential candidate not yet in the race — an “independent populist . . . who understands [that] the genius of this country lies in the hearts and minds of its people and not in the prerogatives and power of its elites.”

After extensive but completely speculative investigative reporting, the candidate Dobbs may well have in mind can now be revealed:

It’s Lou Dobbs.

In fact, Dobbs, the popular host of Lou Dobbs Tonight, is right on the money that 2008 is a perfect year for an independent populist candidacy. And of all the “independent” figures currently the subject of presidential speculation, he — not Michael Bloomberg or Ron Paul — has the most potential, by far.

Despite the difficulty of getting on 50 state ballots, it’s easier to put together an independent candidacy than it once was. Both parties are likely to have their nominees picked by the end of winter. That will give voters ample time to feel buyer’s remorse and political reporters six long months to do nothing but speculate about who might launch an independent candidacy — thus giving the new entrant a ton of free coverage, just as H. Ross Perot received in 1992.

Then there’s this year’s field. Though the press seldom points it out, the two Democratic front-runners have less significant political experience than any two front-runners have had since Thomas Dewey and Wendell Willkie squared off for the Republican nomination in 1940. Meanwhile, the Republican candidates all have considerable flaws — not the least of which is that no incumbent party in modern times has managed to succeed itself following a president as unpopular as this one.

More important, of course, is the public’s mood and its disconnect with the current campaign. Confidence in both parties is near record lows. The economy may be tanking. Illegal immigration is the hot topic of the moment. Yet the major candidates are all running on platforms and platitudes geared to a nation satisfied with the two major parties. No one, seemingly, is listening to the average-but-angry voter.

So an independent populist-style candidacy could fill a huge vacuum, much as Perot did in ’92 (before he self-destructed). Perot actually fit into a long American tradition: going back to William Jennings Bryan a century ago, populism tends to characterize politics as a struggle between ordinary people and a self-serving, undemocratic elite.

But the usual talked-about suspects can’t fill the gap. Ron Paul’s problem is that, as an experienced congressman, he’s too much of a politician with too long a record to pose as an outraged outsider. Besides, his 1988 national run as a libertarian, when he pulled a whopping 0.5 percent of the vote, wasn’t exactly promising.

Then there’s New York mayor Mike Bloomberg. His considerable assets are that he’s very rich and his office is in Manhattan — meaning any member of the New York–centric media who wants to do a puff piece doesn’t have to do a lot of legwork. (You can meet over lunch!)

But Rudy Giuliani notwithstanding, being mayor of New York is a huge liability — particularly for a self-styled independent seeking national office. In fact, because of his background and current job, Bloomberg’s real appeal is to East Coast elites — exactly the kind of people a successful independent candidate needs to repel rather than inspire, the better to run against the media and the establishment. Bloomberg, really, is just another John Anderson.

As seen on TV
That’s where Dobbs comes in. Like Perot and Pat Buchanan before him, Dobbs pushes the right populist buttons with the right rhetoric. Economic nationalism. Corporate greed. The government’s “war on the middle class.” Politicians who are “viciously partisan and contemptuous of their constituencies.” Though he’s often lambasted for his over-the-top rants on immigration, he’s struck a considerable chord with his recognition that the average voter’s problem with illegal immigration isn’t that it’s immigration, but that it’s illegal. It’s a law-and-order issue that both Democrats and Republicans have managed to dismiss, much to their detriment.

Dobbs also has the perfect platform from which to launch a candidacy against the establishment. If Virginia was once the mother of presidents, CNN is now the mother of populist presidential candidacies. Buchanan, of course, went straight from the studio to the campaign trail, even bragging when he announced, “No other American has spent as many hundreds of hours debating the great questions of our day on national television.”

Perot, of course, did something similar, as Larry King essentially allowed him to hijack his show in the early ’90s to help promote his prospects.

Any Dobbs effort would, of course, be a long shot; everyone knows independents don’t win (everyone, that is, but the prognosticating Mr. Dobbs). And, perhaps, a presidential run is the furthest thing from his mind. But if you were positioning yourself to run as an outsider, you’d find yourself a media forum, write books, work the lecture circuit, and bide your time. Just like Lou.

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  Topics: News Features , Lou Dobbs , Michael Bloomberg , Ross Perot ,  More more >
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Man of the people
I wish I still lived in Boston! Those who experienced the joy and wonder of seeing Stevie return to the stage after 13 years are beyond blessed. If you were there, please tell me about it... In Harmony, Aura Lee Lafayette, Indiana (Far, Far from Boston)
By Aura Lee on 09/25/2007 at 11:46:52
Man of the people
Aura Lee and others, I was lucky enough to see Stevie in Boston last week and I still feel annointed, blessed, and in his words, overjoyed!!! The whole show I felt like I couldn't even believe I was seeing him and hearing him and being blessed with his beautiful sounds and his soul and his heart. I can die , I don't want to but if I had to I can die in peace!!!
By chrissyinboston on 09/28/2007 at 3:05:17
Man of the people
Lou Dobbs has dedicated entire hour shows about how badly the economy was doing...this when unemployment was less than 5 percent, the deficit was cut in half, the stock market was a record highs, and when tax revenue was a historical highs....he is a LIAR. very simple. a LIAR....either that, or he's completely ignorant of the fiscal foundation of the nation. -but I find it more plausible that he's just a partisan democrat bush hater willing to try and fool the ignorant viewers of cnn
By dev rios on 11/15/2007 at 8:53:19
Man of the people
There is no reason why an eccentric billionaire should not run for President. Our form of government depends on candidates for office, something the political parties try to limit and discourage. The people would do better to support ordinary Americans as candidates for office. People in thenews media would like for a billionaire to run for office because such a candidate might spend almost as much as a party candidate. What I do not understand is why being able to spend large amounts of money qualifies a person for public office.
By rbwinn on 11/15/2007 at 10:37:18
Man of the people
dev rios actually believes the official unemployment numbers! Ironic he calls others ignorant. Real unemployment is over 12%. See at "Unemployment: Official, Effective, Real" at // and at Shadow Government Statistics, // The "trade deficit" is exploding exponentially ... explosions do not end well. See "The Death of the Middle Class" at // Dobbs is absolutely correct. Plus, Bush got hatred the old-fashioned way; he earned it.
By scubafox on 11/16/2007 at 12:10:48
Man of the people
Lou Dobbs being being called a candidate in 2008 or is he just a hype for new time slot ratings. Dobbs positions make clssifying him as a liberal or conservative difficult. He says that he is an independent populist and criticizes both parties. His nightly tirade against attacks on the middle class, defective imports, loss of middle class american jobs,special interest campaign contributions,the mortgage crisis, and demise of true public education would make him an attractive candidate. However, his views on illegal immigrants that he calls illegal aliens has hit the major juglar artery for his popularity. Dobbs debates this issue with the utmost passion that appears to be a lightening rod for the proponents of open borders. Only time will tell if Dobbs or New York billionaire Mayor Bloomberg decide to do a Ross perot or Ralph Nader in 2008. Or are thes two guys doing coffee shop talking for attention and ego boosts?
By john Gatti Jr. on 11/25/2007 at 11:36:06
Man of the people Seriously! He's the man people want and need.
By CheshireCat on 01/26/2008 at 9:10:07

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