January 23, 2005


Now Playing: 'Anybody But Dean, Part 2': While the GOP danced, the Dems once again found themselves looking for a leader who's not from Vermont. (Howard Fineman, 1/23/05, Newsweek)

Within hours of George Bush's Inauguration, everyone was playing his assigned role. Republicans, happily united, were dancing the night away at glittering balls in downtown Washington. Democrats, meanwhile, divided into familiar warring camps: for and against Howard Dean. In Burlington, Vt., Dean and hundreds of fans gathered for an "un-Inauguration"—and in support of the former governor's quest to become the new chairman of the Democratic Party. In Georgetown that same evening, hordes of insiders partied at the stately home of Mark Penn, the Clinton family pollster, where they gripped and grinned with Bill and Hill, cheered each other up—and fretted about Dean's assault on party headquarters. "There was a ton of positive energy at the house," a guest said later, "except for the fear and loathing of Dean."

If you think you have seen this movie before—"Dean Against the Machine"—you have. Ever since the early days of the 2004 presidential campaign, the country doctor from the State of Ben & Jerry has been the agitating principal of a confused, fratricidal and essentially leaderless party. Then, as now, Dean inspired an outside-the-Beltway, Net-based crusade whose shock troops adored his social progressivism and his fearless opposition to war in Iraq. Then, as now, a party establishment—based in Congress, governors' mansions and Georgetown salons—viewed him as a loudmouthed lefty whose visibility would ruin the Democratic brand in Red States. Back then, insiders coalesced around Sen. John Kerry, who was stodgy but, Washington wise guys thought, a safe alternative. They trapped Dean in a crossfire in Iowa; his caucus-night Scream sealed his fate.

But the 477 DNC members who choose the party chair haven't settled on a leader of the 2005 version of the Anybody But Dean movement.

What more do we need to know about the state of the Democratric Party than that they think they need to find another John Kerry to save themselves?

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 23, 2005 8:08 PM

Cause Bubba is a pumphead.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 23, 2005 9:06 PM

With the DNC in a shambles, where are those voices crying in the wilderness like Ed Asner, Susan Sarandon and Forest Gump?

You'd think they would be scrambling to take charge, seeing how they think they have all the money, ideas and photo-ops.

Posted by: Randall Voth at January 24, 2005 4:50 AM

Warren Beatty sent up some smoke signals about it about a year ago, but the smoke smelled too funny for the professional political class.

Posted by: Bart at January 24, 2005 6:55 AM