Could Dean still be what the Democrats need?

By Monica Groat

What the Democratic National Committee (DNC) needs is a swift kick in the pants from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. Don’t get me wrong. I was as tired and hung-over last November 3, like all of you who did not vote to elect Karl Rove for another four years. But I have never been a fan of Terry McAuliffe, and I think we all agree that the DNC is currently in need of something. Many things, in fact—a platform of which to be proud, candidates and elected office-holders who view their membership in the Democratic party as an asset, and a leader who realizes that the 21st century political landscape is rapidly changing. Despite his shortcomings, Howard Dean will give the DNC the passion and the commitment it so desperately needs.

In the past decade, there has always been an official head of the party’s committee and the de-facto leader of the party, usually holding some other office or working for another figure, who actually sets the message. The Democrats spent a glorious eight years under Bill Clinton’s mesmerizing image without thinking about the future. Though some argue that his charisma was more appealing than his efforts, Clinton managed to hold together a party amidst relentless, baseless accusations from an opposition whose only strength could be found in cheap shots and scare tactics. We went into the 2000 election, however, without any effective leadership, and it cost us dearly.

During the last four years, Rove has essentially usurped Ed Gillespie’s title. We have heard Rove’s message loud and clear, in the form of an illogical and frightening foreign policy, along with an attitude toward domestic issues that serves the few at the cost of us all. We are tired of it. An aggressive, effective DNC chair will help us through the next four years and beyond. We deserve a strong leader to give some us some hope in 2006 and to realize higher goals in 2008.

A fan of Dean early on in the race, I realized the first time I heard him speak in person that he would never be elected President. He is a great stump speaker and masterful at working crowds, but I rightly thought that this summer would introduce a very different nominee at the convention. Polling data have essentially overtaken campaigns and their managers as the only “true” source of information, and Dean never polled particularly well on a national level. Furthermore, his courtship by the media, from their perspective, was simply an easy way to boost ratings during the primaries.

Dean, however, ran one of the most innovative primary campaigns in recent history and, after his defeat, persevered to show his concern for the future of this party. He understands that Democrats are not interested in antiquated, machine politics of any sort. Dean knows that we care about issues and the candidates who share their commitments for the definite realization of much-needed change. His accomplishments as the former governor of Vermont and continued efforts throughout John Kerry’s campaign demonstrate his ability to pursue objectives not simply for the sake of quietly shepherding a media-friendly Democratic party, but for creating an issue-based platform that will strive for goals beyond what is dictated by polls and pundits.

Though Dean is not flawless and perhaps too divisive within the party itself, he has what we need to prepare for 2008: Energy, organization, and a desire not only to reshape this party’s message, but also its success.