It looks like what passes for our Democratic leadership is at long last waking up and realizing that the Democratic prospects are pretty bleak and getting bleaker. Perhaps it is for this reason that erstwhile presidential candidate Howard Dean looks likely to win post of chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
This is an exceptional opportunity for the Democrats. During the 2004 campaign Howard Dean apparently reported to intimates that he really didn’t want to be president. What he wanted to do was to shake up the Democratic Party. He wanted to get it to refocus so it could win elections again. In becoming the Chairman of the DNC Howard will be where he will do the most good for the Democratic Party and the country.
Us Deaniacs know that Howard Dean is one unique and tough dude. I suspect Howard Dean at the DNC makes the Republicans smile. If they were more politically astute they would not smile. Instead they should be very worried. Because Howard Dean is really the only person right now who can revive the Democratic Party. But he’s not just the right person; he’s the perfect person. So beware Republicans. Howard Dean is no ordinary man. He will give a shot of adrenaline directly into the main arteries of the Democratic Party.
He starts with a passionate and committed base of people who were estranged from their own party. These people drive hundreds of miles to come and see him give speeches in the back rooms of hotels to a handful of members of the DNC. He has already moved many of them from the Dean for American website into his reconfigured Democracy for America web site. And many states have formed their own offshoots of his organization. Here in Virginia for example we have Democracy for Virginia. And although there are only a few Dean meetups where there used to be dozens, Democracy for America meetups are still available locally. In my case they are a bit out of easy commuting range: I would have to travel about 30 miles to Occoquan, Virginia. But I expect there will be more Democracy for America meetups coming soon.
The droves of youth who came out to vote for Kerry in 2004 weren’t there because they were passionate for John Kerry. They were there because they believe in Howard Dean. Although he lost the primaries he told them they had to work to elect John Kerry. Love him or hate him his network was new and it was powerful. At the time (mid 2003) I thought I was the only person I knew who liked Howard Dean. Then I found two young friends of my wife who had been to his rallies when I was still checking him out on the Internet.
And it was Dean who was Internet savvy. He showed he could bring new people together online, get significant wads of money and huge amounts of volunteer time from them. One of the more astounding statistics from the 2004 campaign was that Democrats matched Republicans dollar for dollar in campaign spending. Typically Republicans outspend Democrats two or three to one. That new money didn’t come from the old party faithful. It was largely new money from passionate people who were fed up to here and, like Howard Beale, weren’t going to take it anymore. That we Democrats lost was a shame, but in many ways we created a new base. All it needs now is the right person to leverage that base. And Dean is the obvious person to do it.
So Republicans should be scared. Because Dean is focused, he is passionate, he is savvy, and he is very, very shrewd. It’s hard for a Democrat even to get on TV these days but Howard will be in everyone’s faces. He will be so outspoken, so passionate and so full of common sense that the cameras will just naturally focus on him. The story will be the Dean personality but through the personality will come the true ideas that need to get heard and permeate the brains of more ordinary Americans.
And you can bet he will have his eye not just on the presidential race but also on House and Senate races. He’ll leverage the power of his network to bring in the serious money to create competitive Democratic candidates. You’ll see him Sunday after Sunday on the TV talk shows putting out the message. John Kerry thinks he can leverage his mailing list for a run in 2008. Here’s the thing: most of that mailing list consists of Dean voters like me. And we think Kerry is as exciting as milquetoast. It’s not until Howard backs a candidate that it will truly mean anything. An endorsement from Dean will be money in the bank for these candidates.
Of course this means Dean won’t be a presidential candidate in 2008. I’m okay with that. And so is Howard. The presidency is really not his thing. Shaking up the country and changing minds, hearts and votes is what he was meant to do. I don’t think my faith in Dean is misplaced. Democrats lost the presidential race 48% to 51%. What’s amazing is how close we came with a less than stellar candidate who was voted the most liberal senator in the United States Senate. Dean, despite his perception, is a strong centrist who is as politically savvy as Bill Clinton. He will bring together disparate parts of the Democratic Party and unite them. He stands a decent chance of doing what no Democrat has done before: uniting us under one common banner.
Go Howard! Go!