HOORAY FOR HOWARD
Credit DNC Chairman Howard Dean's long-range 50-state strategy to rebuild the Democratic Party with a share in the Dems' midterm elections victory. Who can doubt it? But DLC'ers, who have fought Dean from the beginning, are starting to talk about replacing him as DNC Chair. For what? For a strategy payoff long before anyone could have predicted? I'm talking to you, James Carville. So shut up. (I have a huge affection for the Ragin' Cajun, but when you're wrong, you're wrong.)
Some big name Democrats want to oust DNC Chairman Howard Dean, arguing that his stubborn commitment to the 50-state strategy and his stinginess with funds for House races cost the Democrats several pickup opportunities.
The candidate being floated to replace Dean? Harold Ford.
Says James Carville, one of the anti-Deaniacs, "Suppose Harold Ford became chairman of the DNC? How much more money do you think we could raise? Just think of the difference it could make in one day. Now probably Harold Ford wants to stay in Tennessee. I just appointed myself his campaign manager."
Joe Conason makes the case for Dean.
Against the counsel of party professionals, whose long losing streak has done little to diminish their influence, the new chairman began the process of re-creating the Democratic Party in 2005. And contrary to the gossip and subsequent press reports, he succeeded in raising $51 million last year, about 20 percent more than in 2003 and a party record for an off year.
Much of that money was spent in ways that obviously paid off on Tuesday, including the 2005 election of Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine in Virginia -- where Jim Webb's upset victory over incumbent Sen. George Allen overturned Republican control of the Senate. Several million dollars was spent on rebuilding the party's national voter files, yet another essential sector in which the Republicans have enormous technological superiority.
Less obvious but equally significant was the spending on hundreds of organizers and communications specialists -- and their training -- in every state. In some places this meant taking the chains off locked, dusty offices that had seen no real activity in years; in others, it meant bailing the state party out of literal bankruptcy and convening meetings in counties where party activists had given up.
What Dean and his organizers created, however, was an environment that allowed insurgents and outliers as well as the party's chosen challengers to ride the national wave of revulsion against conservative rule. That enterprise, in turn, surprised and overwhelmed the Republican capacity to respond. Faced with many more viable challenges than anticipated, the Republicans made mistakes in allocating resources -- and were forced to defend candidates in districts that are usually safe.
[T]he party chairman has won the argument he started last year. Rebuilding the Democratic Party in every state is as much a matter of pragmatism as principle. There would have been much less for the Democrats to celebrate on Election Night if Howard Dean hadn't been so "crazy" -- and so persistent.
Tags: Howard Dean, James Carville, DNC