Witney, England — On the otherwise sober streets of the English market town of Witney, midday shoppers and bemused pensioners are being bothered by a man wearing an inflatable banana on his head.“If you can’t give us your vote, give us a smile!” he cries. Further down the street a fellow conspirator in a gold lamé top hat and oversized bow tie is haranguing passers by through a megaphone: “Vote for insanity! You know it makes sense!”
Americans wear their allegiances on their bumpers, and along New Hampshire’s Interstate 93 – the main route through this wintry slither of pine forests and frozen rivers – one bumper sticker rivalled those for the Super Bowl-bound Patriots. “Dated Dean, married Kerry” is the slogan that sums up Howard Dean’s plunge from Democrat front runner to electoral also-ran. In Tuesday’s primary, he came a distant second with 26 per cent to John Kerry’s 39 per cent.
The positive, progressive message of Dean’s campaign was buried by the “electability” issue. More than anything he said in New Hampshire, what dominated the final week of campaigning was the infamous howl after his defeat in Iowa. “This thing has permeated pop culture,” the Washington Post commentator Howard Kurtz told a CNN panel that asked whether TV had over-exposed Dean’s scream. Yet CNN itself replayed the clip 673 times, as Dean observed in an interview with the station.