November 26, 2004


Can Howard Dean Save the Democrats?: The Vermont firebrand is essentially a centrist—with conviction and passion. He's an obvious choice to lead the fractured party (Eleanor Clift, Nov. 26, 2004, Newsweek)

The struggle to be Democratic National Committee chair is round one of the battle for the soul of the party. The obvious choice is Howard Dean, who has the clarity of conviction and the passion that voters hunger for even if they don’t always agree with him.

Party activists around the country are furious at the Washington Democrats for blowing the election. Wresting control away from the entrenched establishment is their goal. Dean would spark a Red State rebellion within the party, but the Heartland’s leading contender, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, withdrew his name from contention after being shown numbers suggesting Dean would win.

Dean is talking to a lot of people, and what he’s telling them is that if a consensus African-American or minority candidate emerged, he would not seek the job. Clinton Labor Secretary Alexis Herman’s name surfaced, but she said she wasn’t interested, and so far nobody else has assumed the mantle. A Web site has sprung up, and a Democratic source says Dean is planning a series of speeches “to position himself as a centrist.” A campaign aide with close ties to the governor protests that he “wouldn’t be positioning himself. Remember in Iowa, the nicks came from the left.” Rival campaigns attacked Dean for once agreeing with Newt Gingrich that Social Security’s growth rate should be slowed, and for winning the endorsement of the National Rifle Association as Vermont’s governor.

Dean is essentially a New Democrat who happened to be against the war.

Ms Clift is correct that Howard Dean when he was governor of Vermont had the temperament, if not necessarily the policies, of a New Democrat. Had he run as that man he'd have won the nomination and been a better candidate than John Kerry, though not have fared any better. The problem though is that he seemed to take seriously the Internet activists who gathered around his campaign and allowed their odd politics to drive his candidacy. If he's acknowledged since that this was disastrous, and pushed him out of the mainstream of even the Democratic Party, we missed it. Indeed, all the stories suggest that he's selling himself as Party Chair on the basis of being able to tap into that "new force." If that's the direction the Democrats head in they're going to be even more marginalized than they are now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2004 5:00 PM

I believe Mark Steyn made the point throughout the campaign that Howard Dean was merely posing as a far left Democrat because he thought that was his ticket to the nomintion. If it is an act, Dean seems inclined to keep it up for a while, which he'll have to do if he does happen to win the DNC chairmanship, since his supporters are expecting a fiery liberal to be in charge of the party and not a hot-headed Joe Lieberman.

Posted by: John at November 26, 2004 5:43 PM

"a hot-headed Joe Lieberman." The policical equivalent of a mild jalpeño. In both cases, what's the point?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 26, 2004 10:23 PM

They need someone who is a manager with centrist inclinations like Al From, but there is no way the Pelosi Democrats could ever pick someone like him. As our success in Iraq becomes more plain, and we become more circumspect about future Iraqs, the future of Howard Dean seems more limited. Don't lose the stethoscope, Howie.

Posted by: Bart at November 27, 2004 3:19 AM

Howard Dean for DNC Chairman? Yeeeaaaaggghhh, baby!

Posted by: Mike Morley at November 27, 2004 6:18 AM