I am growing more disheartened with the Democratic presidential primary as each day wears on. The media is clearly complicit in its support of President Bush -- when Howard Dean was the frontrunner, they ran a relentless campaign of negative reporting to knock him down. Wesley Clark started to the rise, and they turned against him, as well (though not quite as badly as they turned on Dean). Rather then let the Democratic voters pick their candidates in the primaries and caucuses about to begin across the country, the media is attacking its strongest candidates, crippling their ability to defeat Bush in the fall.

I am afraid that we are going to end up with one of the establishment Democrats -- John Kerry or Dick Gephardt -- who were on board with much of the President’s program prior to the election and who do not offer a clear alternative to the President’s policies (Gephardt’s quixotic health plan not withstanding). All that’s needed is a strong finish for either of them in Iowa (which is virtually pre-determined at this point) for the media to declare the “Dean insurgency” over, basically calling the rest of the race in their favor before it even hits most of the other states. You don’t need to be a prognosticator to know that this is the storyline the media desperately wants to play out.

I feel very strongly that Howard Dean presents the clearest, most responsible alternative to the President. He’s accused of flip-flops on a daily basis, but the media has largely forgotten how Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards all flip-flopped on the war, on tax cuts, on “No Child Left Behind,” on all the programs the White House has rammed through the congress. His position is actually quite consistent, but his establishment enemies and their media buddies have done a great job of drumming up old quotes to use against him.

I look at a Gephardt-Bush match-up and I see shades of Dole-Clinton in 1996. Gephardt as an aging relic, a nasty curmudgeon whose rants of the President’s “miserable failure” while a positive President easily trumps his negativity. Kerry-Bush would go along the same lines of Dukakis-Bush or Mondale-Reagan -- Kerry is such an uninspiring public speaker, his rhetoric so vague and academic that Bush will again rise as a sort of “everyman” and trump him with his charisma and folksy charm. Dean has suffered countless McGovern comparisons from his foes and the press, but on the stump he is an electrifying speaker -- I’ve seen him twice now, and both times I was blown away by his deft use of plain English. And the rage people accuse him of isn’t there -- people confuse passion with rage, emotion with fury.

I’m at the point now that I can only accept one of three candidates -- Dean, Edwards or Clark. The others have so sickened me with their negative tactics that I just can’t support them. I am not an “anyone but Bush” Democrat -- I do not believe that all of these guys can win, and I honestly feel that Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have no business leading the Democratic party, much less running for President. This does not mean that I won’t vote for one of the other candidates in the fall -- just as I grudgingly voted for Al Gore in 2000, I will probably cast a vote for one of the other candidates if they are the nominee. But I will not send them money, campaign for them, or see them speak on the stump -- and I think it’s safe to say that I will probably tune out the election entirely.