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Aussie Mark Latham and the U.S. Howard Dean have lots in common

By Tim Grau - posted Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Could this month's US presidential primaries provide an insight into whether Bush-bashing Labor leader Mark Latham will move into The Lodge later this year?

The similarities between Latham and leading Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean are remarkable.

No one is suggesting that voters in the Iowa caucus (held on January 19) and the New Hampshire primary poll (held on January 27) are the same as Australians. But the style, messages and background of the equally Bush-bashing Dean bear an interesting comparison with Labor's would-be prime minister.


Should Dean secure strong wins in the early primaries to decide the Democrats' candidate, US presidential critic Latham might strangely find himself closer to his American counterparts than he realised.

Consider this: like Dean, Latham has risen from relative obscurity to the leadership, surprising his opponents, the media and pundits. In doing so, both men have turned what looked like being easy election wins for their opponents into interesting contests at least.

Latham and Dean have grabbed voters' attention with their "straight-talking" style often using aggressive and even offensive language to get their message across.

They both have been vocal critics of US foreign policy, opposing the Iraq war and condemning George W. Bush as unfit to serve.

While Latham and Dean have little or no national security experience in the post-September 11 and Bali era, both have sought to neutralise the issue and are seen as having strong credentials on domestic policy with positive innovative ideas.

Like Dean, Latham's internal party critics worry that he is unelectable and an accident waiting to happen.


Critically, however, both have significantly energised the Left of their parties and begun to excite socially aware and disfranchised voters.

Yet, while being seen as left wing, an examination of their records suggests they are more centrist than they are characterised and generally socially liberal but economically conservative or moderate.

Their economic conservatism does not stop them from engaging in populist big-business bashing, rallying against corporate greed, executive salaries and declaring the need to limit excesses.

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This article was previously published by The Australia on 14 January 2004.

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About the Author

Tim Grau is a one-time adviser to former Queensland Labor premier Wayne Goss and ex-federal attorney-general Michael Lavarch. He is the founding director of the public affairs firm, Springboard Australia.

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Australian Labor Party
Howard Dean's web page
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