Clean For the Un-Dean

Old folks (like me) will get a big kick out of Richard Oppel’s report on collegiate supporters for Ron Paul who are flooding into Iowa from around the country to help the creaky, cranky Texan win the caucuses:

[T]hey say they are under strict orders: To look, dress, shave, sound and behave in a way that will not jeopardize Mr. Paul’s chances. Even before flying here on their own nickel, some students said they had been instructed to cover up tattoos and told that their faces should be fresh-shaved or beards neatly trimmed, wearing only nice clothes that one described as “business casual.”

Oppel’s suggests these “clean-up” rules were inspired by the recent experience of Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, whose youthful orange-hatted pierced-and-tatted volunteers allegedly freaked out Iowans. But the best precedent actually goes a lot further back: the “Clean for Gene” slogan of student volunteers for Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire in 1968.

If I were advising the Paul campaign, I’d suggest a few other rules for their kiddie corps, such as hiding their dog-eared copies of Atlas Shrugged and learning to change the subject when voters ask about the candidate’s views on foreign policy. But in any event, it’s interesting, and a bit depressing, too see the experience of yesterday’s youthful lefties being put to the service of a cause in which both McCarthy and Dean would be thought of as among the Slavedrivers of Collectivism.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.