It’s always surprising when DonkeyDigest gets noticed by a blogger with the superb credentials that Dana Blankenhorn has. But like many bloggers, Mr. Blankenhorn veers off the beaten path of rational thought when it comes to Howard Dean. In his response to a couple of my posts (here and here), his bias is clear. Blankenhorn admits that Dean’s 50 state strategy puts Democratic wins this year at risk. But, he contends, “he’s also making the party apparatus ready for 2016. In that year he will be ‘just’ 66 years old, and ready to become the Ronald Reagan of our childrens’ time.”
I’m a firm believer in keeping party squabbles in the family, but consider what is being stated here. The Democrats have been out of power for 12 years. 2006 offers us our best opportunity in that time period to regain control over one or both houses of Congress, a majority party is in a much better position to spread their influence far and wide, but Dana Blankenhorn finds losing again to be an acceptable risk if Howard Dean can reshape the Democratic party in his image in time to run for President in 2016 and become the Ronald Reagan of Democrats.
Anyone else see a problem there? All the platitudes concerning Howard Dean, the banal hero worship, the emotionally motivated adoration, and the factually-challenged historical view of things, won’t change one simple fact. Howard Dean missed his opportunity to be the George McGovern of our generation, but his 50 state strategy might very well earn him that distinction without him ever becoming the Democratic presidential nominee. Explanation forthcoming.
Like Dean, McGovern himself set out to rebuild the Democratic party when he was named chairman of a Reform Commission that significantly reduced the role of party officials in the Presidential nomination process and mandated quotas for proportional black, women, and youth delegate representation. Then, by catering to these and other groups, McGovern set himself up to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972 – a race he lost in an electoral landslide. But the precedent had been set and each Democratic nominee after McGovern (Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis) pandered to an ever growing list of special interests to garner enough approval to win the party’s nomination. In fact, it’s said that Walter Mondale couldn’t tie his shoes without checking in with his interest groups.
Bill Clinton, attempting to deviate from that method, echoed Harry Truman’s and JFK’s sentiments and ran a campaign of the nation’s interests over special interests in 1992 – and caught hell for it. Clinton, being the most gifted politician of our generation, surely had seen the polls. In 1964, when asked, “Would you say the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves or that it is run for the benefit of all people,” nearly 40 percent more people agreed with the latter than with the former. In 1992 that sentiment had reversed itself, with 60 percent more people believing that the government was run for the benefit of special interests than those who believed it was run for the benefit of all. (Stanley and Niemi: 169).
Now here comes Howard Dean or, rather, his supporters, who put him before the welfare of the party and the country and who see electoral losses as pefectly acceptable if that is what it takes to propel him to the highest office in the land on the backs of another artificially manufactured “people powered” movement. Or as Blankenhorn refers to them in his piece, “a jungle telegraph of activists and bloggers” who will purport to speak for the very rank and file Democrats who have continuously rejected their chosen candidates at the polls – Dean included.
Blankenhorn waves off Nicholas Confessore’s piece on the myth of the Democratic establishment as “specious” because to embrace the fact of how dysfunctional and impotent the Democratic power base has become 12 years out of power would negate the motivating factor behind the latest “progressive” move to remake the party. And while the GOP’s symbol is the elephant, it’s old Democrats that will never forget each time the party’s “liberal wing” has gotten on it’s high horse and tried to change the rules to give them a better outcome.
1946 – “progressives” splintered from the party and ran Henry Wallace against moderate Harry Truman. Wallace got 2% of the popular vote.
1972 – “Progressive” McGovern lost in an electoral landslide after changing the way the Democrats selected their nominee.
1980 – “Progressive” Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter, his own party’s sitting President, for the Democratic nomination. Kennedy brought his fight to the convention, tried to alter the accepted method and get delegates released from their voting commitment, and did not pull out until that second night at New York. He refused to hold Carter’s hand in the air, much as Carter tried, and the result was that on all networks you saw this image of Carter almost chasing Kennedy around the podium trying to get him to hold up his arm, and Kennedy politely shaking hands and trying to leave. Carter was nominated for re-election, but the party’s divisions brought on by Kennedy contributed to the victory won by Reagan.
2000 – “Progressive” Ralph Nader gets 2.7% of the popular vote, tips Florida to Bush.
Finally, Howard Dean did not “sacrifice his own political ambitions to a four-year stint building a new Democratic Party from the ground-up.” Dean’s political ambition was shattered on a cold night in Iowa when he was the voter’s third choice behind John Edwards and John Kerry. Second and third place finishes in New Hampshire and Wisconsin sealed the deal.
Would I bet against Dean having any political resurgence? Yes I would, especially if his apathy concerning the upcoming midterm elections, and his obsession with rebuilding the party in his image dooms the Democrats to another electoral failure in November.
Democrats lead Republicans in 11 of 15 crucial races in the November 7 election to decide which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives. More…
… and the Senate is close, too!