Will Dean Destroy the Democratic Party?

Full disclaimer. I never cared for Howard Dean. Not in the 2004 presidential primaries. Not as DNC chair. And no one has ever logically explained to me why they support his 50 State Strategy beyond the predictable “because it’s Howard Dean’s idea” response. At my local county party meetings, the chair of our organization stands and speaks glowingly of the plan, but doesn’t explain why he believes it is a good thing. On the internets, Democrats who believe winning this fall is more important than rebuilding the party in Alaska are attacked as party heretics for daring to defy the Dean.

Now I don’t discount the inherent value in planning for the long haul, but it should not take priority over the best shot we’ve had in 12 year to regain the House or Senate or both. And it should be obvious to anyone who has followed electoral politics for any reasonable amount of time that the tentacles of the majority party spread further and quicker than that of the minority party.

In other words, if we win in November, a 50 State Strategy will be all the more easy.

So why are some Democrats (die hard Howard Dean supporters) so gung ho to push ahead with his plan at the possible expense of losing in November? Because, as I said above, Howard Dean wants it. Can you imagine, though, how shrill the cries from the left would be if Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman implied losing an election would be acceptable if it meant we might win in 20 years?

The title of this post, while an attention grabber, is not meant to be taken literally. Of course Dean doesn’t want to destroy the party. He’d be out of a job if he did. But it isn’t to far fetched to believe he definitely has plans to remake the party, a prospect the New York Times will explore Sunday in a cover story by Matt Bai titled: “Is Howard Dean willing to destroy the Democratic Party in order to save it?”

In question is the contentious relationship Dean has had with DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel over allocating money to House races the Democrats have a chance at winning this November. Emanuel pressed for it and won. Dean didn’t want to, but gave in. Even with the cash infusion from Dean’s DNC, the GOP is planning to spend much more on these same races to prevent a Democratic takeover.

According to Sunday’s Times piece, Democrats in Washington are wondering just what Dean could be thinking. Does he really care about winning in November, or is he after something else? Some theorize Dean wants to preside over another failed Democratic run for the White House in 2008, setting him up for his own “grassroots” run in 2012, but Bai discounts that.

On the other side, of course, is Congressman Emanuel and Senator Charles Schumer – charged with winning the House and Senate for the Democrats in November. Great piece on them today in the WSJ. Here is an excerpt:

At midsummer, when House Republicans announced nationwide hearings to showcase their hard line against illegal immigration, the chairmen of the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees quickly took up the gauntlet. They assembled reporters and news cameras to promote a report documenting a decline in border enforcement actions under the Bush administration.

“If congressional Republicans want to make immigration the centerpiece of their 2006 campaign,” said New York Sen. Charles Schumer, alongside Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, “we’ve got three words for them: Make our day!”

Such bring-it-on bravado from the Democratic duo has been making for bad days for the beleaguered Republican majority in this midterm-election year. These two high-energy partisans with their sharp elbows and tongues, and no apparent need to be loved, are just what Democrats need to end their exile from power. “We haven’t had that kind of Rove-ian ruthlessness in the party — to do or say anything to win — in a long time,” says party consultant Jenny Backus.

That suggests just how Democrats have come to see them: As a counter, finally, to President Bush’s so-called architect, Karl Rove, melding policies and politics for electoral gain. On the party’s election-year message, Mr. Schumer has worked closely with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tapped Mr. Emanuel for his job, their relationship has been more strained given his assertiveness and her liberal instincts. For more than a year, Democrats debated what platform to have for 2006, or whether to have one at all. Mr. Schumer was among those mostly content to bash Mr. Bush. “For us to put out a big range of ideas gives Republicans a target and gets the message off George Bush,” he said in an interview as deliberations progressed.

But Mr. Emanuel, a former adviser to President Clinton, wanted an agenda. Paul Begala, a friend from their White House days, says, “We all learned under Clinton, it’s just not enough to indict — you have to offer an alternative.” (Mr. Clinton has told audiences Mr. Emanuel was “my Karl Rove.”)

When Mr. Emanuel appeared last October on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Tim Russert challenged him, “What are the Democratic ideas?” Mr. Emanuel rattled off five — college aid, health care, a bipartisan budget summit, energy alternatives and a national technology institute. The “New Direction” agenda that Democrats announced last month roughly mirrors those points.


One Response to Will Dean Destroy the Democratic Party?

  1. Gary Sartori says:

    I have never trusted Dean with the mantle of Democratic leader. I don’t feel comfortable with him in that position. And I also don’t like it that he has his brother actively campaigning for one Democrat in Ned Lamont, while trying to undermine the other Democrat in Joe Lieberman. Dean hates Lieberman, and would just about do anything to see him defeated.

    I think if the Democrats are to move forward, Howard Dean needs to go. He has been an ineffective leader, who basically is only interested in making sure his position is safe. I much rather prefer someone like Rahm Emanuel, who would look out for the interest of the party, rather than himself. Emanuel is young, and full of fire. Dean is old, and should be out to pasture.

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