Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Deaning the Party into a Concrete Abutment

There are a few fun posts here and here, courtesy of RealClearPolitics about what Howard Dean's chairmanship at the DNC means. While I've been eager to snicker at the suicidal choice for chairman that he is, it really does remain to be seen whether Dean will allow himself to be transformed beyond late 2003 into the leader that the Democrats desperately, desperately need to get off of the ground. If he can keep his head down and work behind the scenes to keep the Democrats well funded, sparing the irresponsible rhetoric, and making inroads towards the center, he'll be a hero.

But I caught a number of apologists this weekend not talking up Dean, but rather trying to leave the impression that he was not going to be the disaster many expect. Rather underwhelming endorsements, I think. Better yet, the recent signal from Harry Reid that he, not Dean, will be setting Democratic policy, should make very clear that even in-house Dean is viewed as a liability.

The biggest key to any Dean success will quite simply be keeping his mouth shut. The CS Monitor article to which I linked has Dean making references to the New Testament, and claiming that the Democrats are living the principles taught in it. A mistake. It would be wise for Dr. Dean to avoid making references to his prior gaffes, where he placed the Book of Job in the New Testament when asked which of the New Testament books was his favorite. Howard forgot that his mouth, including but not limited to the I Have A Scream speech, is what killed him in January 2004. The chairman in supposed to be an operator, not a blowhard; it's about how they can flip red states in 2008, not simply avoiding the need to control damage by the guy who is supposed to be the party's booster in chief.

His first test will be 2006. If the Dems fail to gain seats in the House and Senate, that would mark three straight elections where they failed to gain when every historical indicator favored their victory. It would signal a true erosion of their party, and would speak poorly of their White House prospects for 2008.

So let's raise our glasses to Howard Dean. It will be an interesting few years. May fortune favor the foolish.

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