Tim Grieve wonders if Howard Dean is the man to lead the Democrats back to a position of power.
The once-and-maybe-future presidential candidate has kept a relatively low profile since election night, but that’s going to change Wednesday, when Dean delivers what his aides are calling a “major speech” in Washington. The subject: Dean’s vision for the Democratic Party. The not-so-hidden subtext: his role in it.
On the night after John Kerry lost to George W. Bush, Dean told supporters on a Meetup conference call that the Democratic National Committee is “at a crossroads” and that DNC members “have questions to ask themselves.” But now, as Dean prepares for his Bush II coming out and weighs a bid to replace Terry McAuliffe as the head of the DNC, it’s the DNC members who have questions for Dean: Where does he want the party to go, and is he willing to put aside his own presidential aspirations to help take it there?
Dean will address the first of those questions Wednesday. He’ll argue that the Democratic Party should be rebuilt from the grass roots up, that it should be driven by millions of Americans who make small contributions rather than by a handful of moneyed interests, and that the party should focus not just on presidential politics in swing states like Ohio and Florida but also on down-ballot races even in the reddest of states. On matters of substance, Dean may not resurrect his borrowed line about representing the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” but you can count on him to make it clear he isn’t joining the “go along to get along” wing of the party, either.
“If you want to win, you have to fight, and you have to stand for something,” Dean wrote in a Web column a few days after the election. While centrist Democrats like [incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid were scrambling to find common ground with the president and the red state voters who elected him, Dean used his first sustained election postmortem to proclaim his disagreement with Bush “on almost every direction he takes us in.” [Salon.com]
One thing for sure is that no matter who the Democrats pick to run the DNC, the Rovians will portray him or her as a wild-eyed liberal cheese-eating faggot-marrying surrender monkey, so we might as well go with someone like Dr. Dean. It’s okay to be pissed off, but pretty soon we’re going to have to turn that to positive energy, raise a ton of cash, and get ready to offer more just anti-Bush rhetoric. Dr. Dean proved he can do all of that.