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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Howard Dean

I have no interest in piling on at this point, given the rather clear consensus that Howard Dean's recent public statements are misguided at best. The significant political fact is that the consensus isn't quite unanimous ... beginning with Dean himself. The former Vermont governor continues to spin his recent tactless (and politically disastrous) utterances as evidence of his commitment to principle, his refusal to be rolled by his opponents, Democrats no longer willing to take abuse, and so forth. "People want us to fight," Dean told the national party's executive committee. "We are here to fight." Addressing Iowa party activists in Des Moines, he added: "We need to be blunt and clear about the things we're going to fight for. I'm tired of lying down in front of the Republican machine. We need to stand up for what we believe in." Close to the top of Dean's "what we believe in" and "things we're going to fight for" list is the right to call Republicans "pretty much a white, Christian party" and to say they "never made an honest living in their lives." Karen Marchioro, a DNC member from Washington state, said of Dean's remarks: "I just think this is the way you win -- you let people know where you stand and you fight." "Way to win" wouldn't have been my phrase, but then maybe the Democrats have a secret long term strategy. The party has lost seven of the past ten presidential elections. The three in the winning column include Clinton's second term, and Carter's bare victory over Gerald Ford during the GOP's post-Watergate hospice period. Democrat Steven Alari of California is thrilled that Dean attended a recent meeting in Helena, Montana. "How many Democratic chairmen have gone out to Montana?" More to the point, how many Democratic chairman have gone to Montana to fire up that state's Democratic "base" by scapegoating white Christians and shiftless Republicans? I'm counting one, and yet maybe I'm not quite getting the point. "When we elected Dean we knew we were getting a leader who would be good at organizing the base and getting the message out to the American people, and that's what he's doing," Alari said. "He's our guy." Well, it kind of goes without saying Democrats who love Dean's strategy are the party's base. The idea that they need to be fed political red meat to encourage them to vote against Republicans is laughable. The more relevant questions: Which 2004 red state is more likely to go blue in 2008 because of Howard Dean's line of rhetoric? Are Dean's remarks likely to help nudge closer to the Democratic column significant numbers suburban independents who may be weary of Bush on Iraq or domestic issues? Is there any political advantage whatever to Dean's strategy? Keep getting that message out, Chairman Dean. Master tactician Karl Rove can use the vacation time.