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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Dean for DNC chair?

The next DNC chair?

Whose party is it anyway?

And then there's Howard Dean.

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 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."

Dean's unequivocal anti-Bushness is red meat for progressive Democrats hungry for something beyond the empty calories of "Fuck the South." The liberal blogosphere -- which played both father and son to Dean's presidential run -- has all but demanded that Dean be chosen to lead the Democratic Party when the DNC meets in February. In Oregon, the race for a spot in the state's DNC delegation turned into a blog battle over which candidate would offer the strongest support for Dean's as-yet-undeclared candidacy. In Washington, DNC member Donna Brazile said Monday that she has received so many e-mails from Dean supporters that her Blackberry has died from the abuse.

There's no question that Dean can inspire the Democratic base. And as a former governor -- albeit of a tiny state -- and a presidential candidate who helped revolutionize political campaigns, Dean has a track record that suggests he has the organizational skills necessary to make the Democratic Party work. But a good résumé and the impassioned pleas of a thousand dailykossacks does not a DNC majority make. Brazile -- who may or may not have been in the race but is out now -- says Dean has only "lukewarm" support from party insiders. If Dean decides to run, she says, "You'll see the same forces that tried to derail his campaign reconstitute themselves as an anti-Dean bandwagon."

Brazile is right, except for one thing: we tried it their way and it didn't work.

The DNC is facing a new playing field. They can't just shove another time server in there and say " like it or lump it." And while Harry Reid has to be a pragmatist, he should expect a lot of pressure to oppose Bush.

Dean's candidacy is only possible because the grassroots are demanding change. It isn't just in the hands of the party regulars any more. If he declares, any anti-Dean candidacy will be swamped. Kerry can't get his man in, in fact, Kos pretty much killed that dead. Which is amazing on it's own. Dean has some disavantages, but his advantages, include a visible profile and independent support, makes him a very strong candidate as the insiders will find out if he declares. It isn't that Dean is the only choice, but the anti-Dean forces have no one with his charisma or popularity to counter him. Now, if Wes Clark jumped in, yeah, they might have a point, but there's an old adage in politics, you can't beat someone with no one

posted by Steve @ 1:10:00 PM

1:10:00 PM

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